LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
The trees need to be pruned, the lawn needs to be cut, weeds need to be pulled and new mulch needs to be put out. The blueberries need to be picked, the aphids have ambushed the aster and you need to side dress the vegetables.
So your garden is a mess, and you just don’t know where to start. We’ve all been in this predicament at some time or another. Mark Twain said it best when he said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Don’t be overwhelmed. Just get started. The whole landscape does not to be overhauled in one day. You can break the work into smaller pieces to help to get the bigger job done without totally burning yourself out. Here are some tips on getting your garden or landscape whipped back into shape without getting overwhelmed.
Start by creating an inventory of things that need to be done, then begin tackling tasks one by one. You can start with the most daunting task and get it out of the way, or you can strategically complete tasks depending on their seasonal priority. Put pen to paper and plan. Today, there are many products and sites that can help you be more organized, efficient and manage your time. A good, old-fashioned timer can be invaluable to keep you on track.
My suggestion is to tackle the most tedious job first. That job is typically dealing with weeds. Whether you hand pull, use covers to exclude sunlight, use a chemical herbicide or till the area, be sure to remove all weeds. If you want to prevent weeds from reemerging soon after cleanup, apply a preemergent herbicide over the entire area. Preemergent herbicides prevent weed seeds from germinating by creating a chemical barrier. There are both organic and synthetic, chemical options for homeowners. One of the most used preemergent herbicides has the active ingredient trifluralin.
Next, cover any cleaned areas with a two-to-four-inch layer of mulch to help prevent weeds in the future. For the most part, I really like pine straw, especially in vegetable and ornamental landscape beds. However, there are several types of mulch to choose from. Pine bark mulches are another readily available and affordable mulch.
Next would be to remove dead branches and wood on shrubs and trees and ornamental grasses that died back in the wintertime. After that, remove other old plant materials and decide what you will replace them with. Don’t forget the task of fertilizing spring- and summer-blooming plants.
Want to increase your productivity, stay motivated and reduce fatigue? Start early, focus on one small area at a time, take breaks, set a time limit for the day and stop when time’s up.
Starting early with a fresh mind may help you keep on task and get less distracted. We become less efficient when we are tired and as it grows later in the day. Additionally, it will become hotter later in the day, so you can preserve more energy and work more safely in the morning.
Next, pick one area to work in at a time. Many home landscapes are a series of distinct beds across the foundation of the home. Focusing on smaller landscape beds will make the job more digestible. Pick one bed at a time to work in, and this will break the work up into easier-to-complete tasks.
Be sure to take breaks. Studies have shown that short breaks can enhance your performance and productivity. Additionally, walking away from a frustrating project and coming back can provide time to make a creative solution to the problem and refresh your energy.
Lastly, be sure to put a time limit on your work to prevent burnout and reduce fatigue. You can set a stopping time and decide to finish your task by 3 p.m., or give yourself a time limit of no more than two to three hours of work at a time. Either way, be resolved to stop work at your committed time.
Some gardening projects are just daunting. You can get your landscape back in shape one task at a time and move that proverbial mountain one rock at a time.
Start with the most tedious tasks first and start early to keep motivation up. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Remove dead branches from shrubs and trees. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
After removing weeds from landscape beds, consider putting down a preemergent herbicide and cover the area with mulch. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter