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The Weed-Free Sanctuary Garden

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For too long gardeners have thought of nature as something to prune, control, mow and trim. To our detriment, we've overlooked nature's ability to soothe, renew and nurture humans as she does the rest of the living creatures on earth. Nature's ability to work her magic on us is dependent on our slowing down and looking closely, not on our constant efforts to improve upon her.

Garden as sanctuary is an ancient concept, newly rediscovered as an antidote to our busy, overcrowded, techie world. Outdoor spaces offer a dose of stress relief, as well as providing a place to relax with friends and family, and for quiet contemplation of weather, beauty, the passing of the seasons. You needn't pay outrageous gas prices nor waste hours commuting when your destination is right outside your back door. Our gardens are all too often the feast of which we forget to partake.

How is it possible to achieve a feeling of peace and relaxation if we're always digging, weeding, fussing, working? How can we create something beautiful and rewarding yet not spend more energy and time than we have available?

We need to come to terms with our own time and energy versus the garden of our dreams. I suggest that a simplified, new low maintenance is the route to truly enjoying your garden again, now and in the future. A simplified garden, thoughtfully planned, can be every bit as rewarding as a more complicated, labor-intensive one.

New low maintenance gardens are comfortable in size and scale. They have places to relax, to play, to eat and nap. Most are neither manicured nor scruffy, but maintained at a state somewhere in-between that might be called lived-in, relaxed, or better yet, inviting. They appeal to the senses with fragrance, color, water, and art.

New low maintenance gardens are especially reflective of the gardeners who make them, because they're made with such care and attention. Due to careful, considered choices and editing, every inch of ground and hour of work is as rewarding as possible. Most of all, they don't awaken dread in their owners at the thought of caring for them.

Weeds are the number one complaint of gardeners, and no wonder, for they seem to possess the pent up life force of the universe in their vigorous stems and seeds. They'll outlive us all with their daunting vigor. But wouldn't it be nice if we could just subdue weeds enough so we can enjoy our gardens in the meantime?
It's possible, with know-how and persistence, to tame weeds to the point that it's a pleasure to go out and pull a few because it's such a rare task. Honest. And withoutusing toxic chemicals.

Use the following strategies to fight the good fight and win the war against weeds so you can spend time relaxing in your sanctuary garden.

Weed birth control - weed easy, weed early (like shifting a bike before going up a hill). Pull weeds before they mature and disperse their seeds.

Start Right: The number one tip is to buy a weed-free property to begin with. When you're house shopping, check out the garden carefully for any sign of horsetails, bindweed, or other pesky perennial weeds. Then keep these plagues at bay by thoroughly vetting any soil, compost or mulch you import, as well as the soil around the roots of plants you acquire.

Enrich the soil: Improving your soil boosts the health of the plants you're cultivating, while eliminating conditions encouraging to weeds. Adding organic matter, compost and aged manure is good for the plants you want, and discourages the ones you don't.

Mulch: A 3-4 inch thick layer of mulch, applied between and around plants spring and fall, breaks down to improve the soil, smothering weeds in the meantime.

Groundcovers: Nature loves a vacuum, so leave no bit of soil bare. Plant carpeting groundcovers, or lay down gravel, stones, pavers or black Japanese stone to cover the ground.

Just Pull the Suckers: Like any other plant, weeds need light and air to thrive. So if you pull them, and pull them again, they'll decline in vigor. Persist, and don't be discouraged.

Fry Them: Earth-friendly, non-chemical aids to weed control include spraying with vinegar, pouring boiling water on weeds, or my personal favorite, incinerating the interlopers with a blast from a flame torch.