Helping people become better gardeners since 1999!

Garden Tips May 2015

Garden Tips May 2015

Sometimes life seems so complicated that it is hard to move forward.  So much to do, so much we have done, so much to learn that we can be overwhelmed with the options.  We have to plan for a vacation, or camp or summer school or the next event or party.  Work is always there and reading and then there is the family the friends the kids to take care of.  What can we do?  This is the time to go out and pull some weeds.  Weeds aren’t going anywhere soon and are always there for us.  Steady, reliable, ever present and needing to be pulled.  Think of the opportunity awaiting  just outside your door.  This is the chance to slow down for a few minutes, to get a grip, to contemplate the present moment and no more.  Every thing else can wait while you are still doing something you know needs to be done.  This month I will make yet another list of tasks or techniques so you can call yourself a genuine gardener.  Here are the tips.

  1. I am reading a book by a surgeon named Atul Gawande  called “The checklist Manifesto”.  I highly recommend it.  I have talked to several doctors recently who have said that Gawandes suggestions are brought up in seminars in hospitals all the time.  Making checklists saves lives in medicine.  It can really help in the garden as well.
  2. Think out of the box.  How can i support my tomato plants with something right here in my home?  What can I use from the recycle to mulch that will stimulate growth, save water, look amazing and inspire poetry?  How can a visit from a friend help me with my next flower arrangement?  What story can I tell to my Uncle in the assisted care facility that will lift his spirits and inspire his desire to do his physical therapy?
  3. Often when I have a problem with my computer or tablet or smart phone I have to do a work around in order to get where I need to be.  I have to put a file on a flash drive and bring it to the printer because my printer is on the blink or I loaned it to the kid next door for a thesis she was writing.  We can do work arounds in our gardens too.  If there is not enough time during our day to garden, we can put solar path lights out and go out between dinner and our bed time.  If we need to communicate with the gardener about how we want the hedges pruned we can cut out photos from magazines, paste them on a board and write “Just like this!” on it with a bold felt pen.  If this doesn’t help, there is always another work around to try.
  4. Don’t think black and white.  Life is really colorful, use the whole palate to grow your dreams. When we get caught up in Past / Future thinking or “it has to be my way or the highway” thinking we are in a rut.  And a rut is like a grave, just not quite as deep. Try planting species of plants you are not familiar with.  Research them if you want or just take a chance. If you find them in a nursery the likely hood they will last for a few months is pretty good.  Who knows, you may fall in love.
  5. I was forwarded a link by another Garden Coach in Berkeley recently and it is great.  Check it out   Annie grows and hybridizes wonderful plants.  She is smart, concerned about the water situation and really wants gardens to be exciting.  This blog gave me new hope for ornamental horticulture everywhere.
  6. Recycle everything.  I finally spent some time thinking how to recycle everything.  It wasn’t hard.  I just had to think a little bit.
  7. Community gardens really do mean community.  So often I see plots that aren’t flourishing right next to plots that are.  This tells me that people aren’t talking.  Talk to your neighbors.  If they don’t want to talk to you, give them a copy of this column and tell them I said they should talk to you.
  8. Grow more than you need.  Flowers can go to cheer up assisted care facilities, hospital rooms, senior centers and day cares.  Fruit, veggies, herbs and grains (especially unique species and new hybrids you grow) can be shared.  If every body that is growing their own garden shares with everyone else there will still be plenty of business for the markets, farmers markets and the Costco’s of the world.  It will just be higher quality.
  9. Make a gourmet picnic.  I am reading a recipe / art book on “Impressionist picnics” and am inspired to pack my own lunches.  A real picnic with table cloth, flowers, salad, bread, wine, cheese and all the accoutrement is not only fun, but memorable.
  10. Take a bio break.  For mental and emotional health there are few things more rewarding than a casual walk in a park or garden.  Walk slower than usual, stop and look at a shrub or view that is particularly appealing.  Be quiet and listen (leave the ear buds home) and notice sounds .  Even a few minutes a day can make a big difference.  The kids, your friends, family, everybody will notice something new and refreshing about you.

Good Gardening

Garden coach Jack McKinnon can be reached at 650-455-0687650-455-0687 (cell), by email at  Visit his website at

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