May 6th, 2019

Gardeners, Liberate!

The ground warms. Buds swell, and perennials reappear. Spring announces to gardeners that gardening season is near!

Though green-thumb hobbies reap satisfaction—as well as fresh veggies and lush landscapes—there are costs. Long hours, constant chores, backaches and bills await most gardeners.

Head shot of Frank Hyman, a garden consultant who provides gardeners with tips on how to garden on a budget.

Meet gardener Frank Hyman.

Meet Frank Hyman.

Frank Hyman, a garden consultant and writer from Durham, N.C., advocates for gardeners and himself. He encourages all to free themselves from garden enslavement.

“I want people to be liberated from the burdens of the conventional ways of gardening,” Hyman said. “I like having lots of gardens, but I don’t want to be worked to death.”

He also yearns to protect the planet, as well as his wallet. Hyman’s method is simple yet effective.

“I think before I act,” he said. “You may say, ‘But this has always been the way I’ve gardened.’ Instead, stop and ask, ‘What is the smart way to do this?’”

For the past 27 years, Hyman has created and collected practical gardening tips to help gardeners and landscapers work less yet reap more. At Lewis Ginter’s 2019 Winter Symposium, Hyman shared some helpful information.

Frank’s tips:

Leaf mulch: Forget bending over time and again to pick up and bag fallen leaves. Instead, rake them onto a tarp and drag it to an out-of-sight area. Dump the leaves and run over them with a lawnmower. Then, scatter the shredded leaves onto landscape beds as organic mulch. Bonus: Backache prevented, money saved.

Weedless paths: Ask coffee roasters for leftover coffee-bean bags. Spread the burlap on the ground between raised garden beds or wherever walkways are desired. Then, the repurposed burlap will suppress annual weeds. When the organic material decomposes, redress with new bags to keep the walkways weed-free. Bonus: Environmental stewardship, no chemicals, less in landfills

Gardeners can use wine corks as a mulch “topping” in potted plants lessen water loss from the soil surface.

Gardeners can use wine corks as a mulch “topping” in potted plants lessen water loss from the soil surface.

Water-retention corks (pictured)Collect wine corks or ask your favorite restaurant to save them for you. Snugly place the corks upright, side by side, across the topsoil of container plants. The corks will reduce airflow and slow moisture loss from the soil surface. Bonus: Throwaways repurposed, watering reduced, plant sitter not needed

Perennials multiplied: Plant perennial bulbs that typically return year after year. Better yet, select those that seed in and multiply, but are not invasive. Examples include the Tommy crocus and woodland hyacinth. Bonus: Money saved, big impact, little effort

Garden hoses: Connections eventually leak between hoses and at the spigot. Keep rubber gaskets handy to replace old ones and as a result, help stop water loss. Bonus: Precious resource preserved, old hoses revitalized, mosquito breeding prevented

Chicken fertilizer: Gardeners know chickens provide a natural fertilizer: composted manure (never at full strength). However, the hobby can be labor intensive. Easy-setup, easy-care tips—including a self-watering system for hens—are noted in Hyman’s newly released book, “Hentopia.” Bonus: Free organic fertilizer, fresh eggs, family fun

This article first published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. 

About Lynn Kirk

Lynn Kirk, a freelance writer and marketing consultant, has collaborated with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden since 2002. She considers it a joy and privilege to write newspaper articles and member newsletters for such a top-rated (and utterly gorgeous!) public garden.

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