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Guest Blog Post: Sustainable Gardens Start Small

Gardening expert Melinda Myers is a TV/radio host, author and columnist with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She’s published more than 20 gardening books and hosts the nationally syndicated radio segment “Melinda’s Garden Moment,” which airs on more than 130 TV and radio stations. She was the 2013 recipient of the national American Horticultural Society’s B.Y. Morrison Communication Award and sits on the board of directors for the International Society of Arboriculture.
Winter is the time gardeners dream and plan for the season ahead. We’ve certainly had plenty, perhaps too much, planning time this winter.

And after a long winter, our must-have plants, garden expansions and new project lists tend to be longer than usual. Take some time during the spring thaw to evaluate how realistic your plans are given your time, budget and energy level.

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That goes for green initiatives, as well. I believe we all want to do the right thing for our gardens, family, community and the environment. But work, busy schedules and life can sometimes get in the way.

Instead, try phasing in some of your green initiatives gradually. For some of you, it may take just a bit of fine-tuning your garden style and maintenance. For others, it may require a bit more effort and a few seasons to accomplish all your goals. But don’t give up—every change creates a positive gain for you and the environment.

Rain barrels are a great example. Start with just one or two—disconnecting all your downspouts and filling your landscape with rain barrels can be overwhelming and lead to frustration and failure. Starting small allows you to gradually introduce this functional feature in an aesthetically pleasing and convenient way. You’ll have time to master the way you utilize the water, manage excess water and drought and overwinter them.

Chicago09 015I started with a rain barrel off the corner of my garage in my small city lot where I hid it behind my containers. There, it was easy to access the water to use on the nearby containers and the overflow was directed into nearby gardens. I could easily move the overflow hose during heavy rains, which helped me avoid flooding my gardens by sending the overflow down the storm sewer.

I now have more space to include not only rain barrels but also a cistern or two. Unlike my wiser friends of equal age, I decided to upsize instead of scale down my landscape but I’m taking advantage of this long winter to develop a master plan because I don’t want to waste any time redoing large projects due to poor planning on my part.

So grab a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine!) and start planning for a fun, successful growing season ahead—spring really is on the way.
Be sure to catch Melinda as she presents “Green and Easy Gardening” at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 18 at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. Get your tickets online and save $2!

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