07/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Paula Deen of Landscaping

I was on a radio show today in LA, Home Wizards with Cindy Dole KFWB 980, and we talked about how many baby boomers at least in Southern California don't garden any more. We discussed why that is. Many people don't have the time, or in many cases are intimidated by gardening. As I have talked with people at my classes and at home shows etc. I have found that many people have "fear of gardening" syndrome. In my classes some folks have a hard time believing that growing tomatoes is very easy. There are a few rules, like pick the right variety, use a good soil mix and water regularly when first planted. But it isn't too complicated. I have been told by some of the students that you need to pinch off leaves, plant so that you bury 75% of the plant- all kinds of things. My response is "Gee I never have done any of that and I get lots of great tomatoes". This got me thinking that maybe there are two kinds of gardening just like there are two kinds of cooking. In cooking you have haute cuisine; Thomas Keller type of cooking, and then you have the simple everyday cooking that Paula Deen and Rachel Ray do. Both give you great food, just different types and tastes. I have concluded that I am more of the Paula Deen of landscaping not the Thomas Keller. In all honesty I just don't have the time in my life right now for that type of gardening. I have found easy "recipes" if you will for plants that work and have, if you pardon the pun, weeded out the ones that don't.

The more I was thinking about it the more I realized that a lot of landscapers I know are more of the Thomas Keller type. I get intimidated by them a lot of the time myself and their use of Latin names of plants. Even the Catholic church stopped saying masses in Latin forty plus years ago, so why does the landscaping industry insist on Latin names? As a homeowner that wants to do their own gardening I can see where they can be made to feel that this is way over their heads. I run into landscapers all the time that turn their noses up at day lilies and agapanthas, two plants that I use regularly and if combined with other easy care plants create a beautiful, interesting garden that is extremely stress free.

Two weeks ago I was on a panel where the topic was drought tolerant gardens that homeowners attended. One of the panelists said that the best way to get rid of your lawn was to cover it with horse manure. Horse manure? If I was someone sitting in the audience looking for some simple practical tips for gardening and someone told me the best way to get rid of a lawn was to cover with horse manure I think I would just say this it too tough I will keep the lawn. Where does one get horse manure in the Los Angeles? Certainly there are simpler ways of doing this and less messy. What happens when the dogs needs to go out and use the lawn, and then more importantly wants to come back in? Do I need to wash his paws off each time? No way. The answer to this question is a lot simpler and although I won't go into detail here, my website will have more details, you can remove a lawn just by removing it using a shovel, cover with a heavy duty weed block and cutting holes in it for your drought tolerant plants. Cover the weed block with decomposed granite or mulch. No horse manure required.

Another landscaper I know that specializes in vegetable gardens recently suggested that homeowners plant a crop of buckwheat in between plantings. I am sure this is excellent advice for the "haute cuisine" of vegetable gardening. But for a practical, easy care vegetable garden - a Paula Deen style garden - no need to do a cover crop of buckwheat between plantings, just add in new soil amendment when planting your new crop.

A few simple tips, pick healthy plants, keep them watered well for the first few months after planting even if drought tolerant until they are established, and feed once a month with a good organic fertilizer such as Dr Earth. With vegetables it is important to harvest often. The plant wants to go to seed so the more you pick the fruit or harvest the leaves so that it doesn't send up a flower stalk the more harvest you will have.

More tips and plant suggestions on my website

I think that one of the things you see when watching Paula Deen on the Food Network is how much fun she is having in the kitchen. She is laughing through much of the show. That is not bad advice in gardening. So take your pruners, your shovel and go out and have some fun y'all!