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20 Tips for Gardeners on the Go

Theres no getting around itcultivating a beautiful landscape is a lot of work. But you can labor more efficiently (and joyously) when you master a few shortcuts. These time-saving tips cover everything from tilling and tending to plant choices and pruning, letting you make the most of your minutes in the garden.

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Start with good soil

Work in compost, manure or dried peat moss for nutrient-rich planting beds. Amended soil is lighter, drains well, makes for easy weeding and allows roots to establish themselves more quickly. What’s square foot gardening? Find out here.

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Keep tools handy

Stash a spare set of hand tools and garden twine in a waterproof container in your garden. When you spot weeds, broken rose canes or a stem that needs tying up, you wont have to run to the garage or potting shed for supplies. We’ve got even more great tips for gardening here.

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shutterstock_37267939 mowing the lawn checker pattern grassPRESNIAKOV OLEKSANDR/Shutterstock

Mow less


Limit grassy areas to reduce time spent on lawn chores. Combine trees, shrubs, boulders and decorative mulches to fashion eye-catching, maintenance-free island beds in your front and back yards.

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rain/CHOKCHAI POOMICHAIYA/shutterstock

Play in the rain


Theres no better time to visit a garden center than during a cloudburst. Nurseries are less crowded, lines are shorter, and staff members are more available to answer your questions. Once the rain eases, go out and pull weedseven clumps of crabgrass and deep-rooted dandelions pull easily out of wet soil.

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potDel Boy/shutterstock

Dont wear yourself out planting in shaded sites with poor soil

When you cant get anything to grow beneath trees or along fences, set up a multitiered container garden in the shady location. Plant shade-loving perennials and compact shrubs in appropriately sized containers; set the containers on stands in varying heights. Or use simple green pots that blend into the background, and wont compete with the flowering show.

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walk Nares Suklap/shutterstock

Look around


When walking or driving, take note of interesting plants and plant combinations. Write them down and take the list with you to the nurseryhaving an itemized list will speed up your shopping trips and reduce the urge to impulse-buy. Check out some incredible gift ideas for gardeners here.

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HH Handy Hint How to fertilize dense plants PVCFamily Handyman

Fertilize less often


Nourish gardens and containers with time-release fertilizers that continue feeding for long periods of time.

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mulch and perennialsFamily Handyman

Avoid invaders


Choose well-behaved perennials that dont send out runnersyoull have more time for enjoying your gardens if you dont have to keep your borders runner-free.

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Prune wisely


Wait to prune evergreens, such as yews and box-wood, until theyve produced most of their new growth. As a result, you wont have to prune them again until next year.

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garden path mulch

Take preventive measures


Add fresh mulch to your gardens every year. A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch keeps weeds from sprouting and helps the soil retain water, so youll be weeding and watering less often.

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Hosta shrubSDeming/Shutterstock

Get an early start


Divide and transplant hosta as soon as you see leaf tips breaking through the groundsince the stems and leaves have yet to unfurl, itll be easy to cut the root-ball with a serrated knife. The planted divisions will leaf out beautifully in their new sites. You can divide and move fully leafed-out hosta, but youre likely to break off leaves and stems in the process, which results in ragged-looking plants. These are the 10 gardening myths you need to stop believing ASAP.

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Consider color


Dont waste a second searching for misplaced hand tools. Buy trowels, cultivators, forks and pruners with bright red or orange handles so you can quickly spot them amid the greenery.

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shutterstock_527880916 raised garden beds vegetables plantsDel Boy/Shutterstock

Place them in sight

Plant vegetables and herbs in large containers placed near your back or front door. Since youll see them often, youll remember to keep them watered. Andtheyll be nearby when you need dinner fixings!

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pad mihalec/shutterstock

Work smarter

Make sure your tools are clean and sharp theyll last longer and work better in the garden. Use ergonomically designed tools, knee pads, or kneeling mats to lessen stress on your jointspain-free bodies also work moreefficiently in the garden. Plus: Check out some other tips for avoiding knee pain while gardening.

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Take inventory

Make a running list of newly added plants and their locationsthis will help you remember what you planted where, which will prevent the inadvertent weeding (and replacing) of a good plant. Save perennial-plant tags and store them near your favorite how-to gardening bookyoull haveall your planting information in one spot.

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plant Alexander Raths/shutterstock

Go native

Buy improved varieties of plants that are native to your region. Theyll thrive with very little care and arelikely to be the best-looking plants in your garden.

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digOlegDoroshin/Shutterstock

Dig once; plant many

When youve got a bag of tulip or lily bulbs to plant, or when using annuals to edge a border, dig a large, single planting hole instead of many smaller holes. Make sure its large enough for all the bulbs or plants to preventovercrowding.

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glovesRichard Peterson/shutterstock

Be prepared

At the beginning of the season, stock up on supplies like garden twine, twist ties, garden gloves, plant supports, plant markers and bags of compost to eliminategarden-center runs and the long lines on busy gardening days.

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purple larkspur red poppiesZeljko Radojko/Shutterstock

Let them do their thing

Choose plant varieties that readily self-seed, such as corydalis, larkspur and purple coneflower, or that quickly naturalize, such as daffodils and daylilies,to ll out borders inexpensively. Next, check out tips for the frugal gardener here.

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Take a tour

Walk around your gardens every day and check plants for pests and diseasesthe sooner you spot a problem, the sooner you can take curative measures,which means less work later.