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Gardening Hacks to Make Outdoor Chores a Little Easier

Gardening is fun for many people, but when it feels like there is a lot of work to do and the weather is hot, it’s not what you want to be doing.  What can you do to make working in the yard a bit easier and maybe even fun? Polk County Master Gardeners have some “gardening hacks” to share.

Reduce Stress on your Body

  1. Do you have plants to divide? We suggest setting up a card table near the landscape bed. Put an old cutting board and the tool you use to divide your plants on the table. That way, when you are ready to divide, you can do your work standing up at table height, rather than bending or kneeling on the ground.  This is helpful if you have trouble with your knees and/or want to reduce strain on your back.

    Potting bench

    Potting bench.  Photo credit Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension

  2. Similarly, if you have plants you want to propagate in other ways (such as a pile of cuttings from the shrub (and re-pot) plants, find a place in your yard for a potting table. A potting table does not have to be elaborate or expensive.  You can get creative with concrete blocks, wood boards and a little paint.  Your back will thank you and you can have a fun place to work. Consider placing your potting table in the shade.3.  When working in your yard, try to finish up before you are too tired! Build in time at the end to clean and put away tools and tidy up your yard. That way you can protect and preserve tools, not leave another job for another day, and you can take a few minutes to view the results of all your hard work.

Garden Tools

  1. Do you often lose tools if you are doing a lot of work around your yard? Instead of setting them down in the grass, consider using a bucket. Use a bucket to carry your tools around the yard with you and then as you use various tools, place the tools back into the bucket.  This will keep the tools clean and you will be less likely to set them down somewhere and forget about them.
  2. After working in the yard, take time to clean your tools (sharpen and oil if needed). If you keep your cutting edges sharp it will make gardening tasks a lot easier.  You can purchase small pocket pruner sharpeners for under $20.  Maintaining your tools will help them last longer and save you money!
  3. Many Master Gardeners find that bending down to pull weeds can really be a pain and suggest using a “scuffle” or “strap” hoe. This is a type of hoe that has a loop on the end to push and pull out weeds. Dr. Eric Brennan with the USDA shares a free tutorial to make a hoe out of materials that are typically thrown away, check it out here: https://youtu.be/woHNgHkbWzA.
  4. If you are digging up an established plant with large roots that are difficult to cut with a shovel, you may want to try using garden loppers or a small reciprocal saw to cut the roots and make removal a bit easier.
  5. Planting annuals and perennials and feel that a garden shovel is too big for the task? Consider purchasing a short-handled kneeling shovel. The dig holes bigger than a garden spade, but smaller than a garden shovel—perfect for the job!

Make Tedious Garden Work Fun!

  1. If you have a lot of work to do in the yard that isn’t so fun (pulling weeds, anyone?) try to make it fun by listening to an audiobook or podcast while you work. A wireless speaker or wireless headphones make it easy. You can also listen using your cell phone speaker. Consider protecting your phone in a waterproof bag and keep the volume low if using headphones or earbuds so you can stay aware of what’s going on around you. Save your favorite podcasts and only listen when you have garden work to do, that may help you look forward to weeding!
  2. If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of garden chores on your to-do list, it can be easy to get distracted and jump from one thing to another without accomplishing much. Try dividing your yard like a clock and work around the clock, staying in area 12:00-2:00 until you are finished. Then move around the yard clockwise, until you get back to 12:00.  If this takes you multiple days, it can help you remember where you stopped when you are ready to get back to work again.  Each day as you complete a section of the clock, you can view the completed areas with a sense of accomplishment.

    Two friends mulching and pruning in the garden together

    Make garden work fun by working with a friend. Photo credit, Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extensino

  3. Work with a friend! Consider finding a friend and doing a garden work day “swap”. Work one day at your house, one day at your friend’s house.  A garden swap has so many benefits! Not only do you divide your chores, you gain inspiration from the friend’s yard and they may have some fun design ideas for your yard as they work in a new space.  Work near each other so you can use this time to chat and catch up, like you might have otherwise done over coffee.  Consider throwing a picnic lunch afterward (maybe, using herbs from your garden) and you have a recipe for a great day in the garden.
  4. Spending a day doing yard work? Try to vary the amount of time you spend on each chore. Long-term repetition can stress your muscles. Alternate chores and tools to give your muscles a break and to reduce fatigue.


    Simple Hacks for Garden Up-Keep

  1. Certain times of year can be more “chore-heavy” in a Florida-Friendly landscape. If you anticipate this and set aside time in your calendar for weeding, pruning and mulching it may make this clean-up effort easier to anticipate and you can make sure you have the time to complete what needs to be done. A few days of concentrated effort in the spring and early fall can set up your planting beds for months of less maintenance and more of enjoyment!

    Let the leaves fall in this self-mulching garden bed.

    Let the leaves fall in this self-mulching garden bed. Photo credit, Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension.

  2. Is it mulching time again? In the spring, we get eager to mulch and “dress up” our garden beds, but if you have planting beds in or around large pine or oak trees, refrain from mulching until all the pollen and leaves have fallen so that your new layer of mulch is not covered. Bonus: you can even use the fallen leaves and needles as mulch!
  3. While it is fun to plant beautiful new plants, try and remember that plants that are expected to grow to a large mature size should be planted with enough space to allow for that future growth. Small plants can often be relocated if your landscape plans change, but large shrubs, palms or trees require planning and often a lot of work to relocate or remove.
  4. Save identification tags from the nursery and mark plants as you plant them in the ground (particularly for plants you are not familiar with). If you learn to love that plant (or not) you will know the genus, species, and variety of the plant to purchase more. You can even write these names down in a gardening journal.

Stay Cool

  1.  Yard work in the summer? Try to get outside work done early in the day, wear sunscreen and protective clothing and use insect repellant. If the sun is beating down and you need more than a hat to cover up, consider using your beach umbrella and moving it around the yard with you as you work.  You could even use a pop-up canopy or tent for more coverage.
  2. Stay hydrated! Before you head outside, prepare two bottles of ice water. You may even want to have one bottle with an electrolyte mix just in case the heat becomes too much for you. Keep one water bottle with you as you move around the yard and drink often. Switch out bottles when you finish one, always keeping an ice-cold bottle waiting for you in the refrigerator.  Many times we work outside and it’s “too much work” to go inside and get water or we want to complete just one more task before getting a drink.  By keeping water with you as you work, you can continually sip and stay ahead of dehydration.

 

There are many gardening hacks that can make yard maintenance a bit easier and perhaps a bit more enjoyable.  Remember, our growing conditions in central Florida are different than other locations and UF/IFAS Extension Polk County and the Polk County Master Gardeners can help guide you and answer questions you have about landscape maintenance.

For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk.  The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Visit us in person, give us a call, or email us at polkmg@ifas.ufl.edu.

The Florida Master Gardener Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida.  The program  extends the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

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