Getting Help in the Garden
Gone are the days of barn raisings and community grain harvests, which is unfortunate. But that doesn’t mean you have to do all your garden work by yourself.
Let’s face it - gardening is work. It’s work that we enjoy, certainly, but sometimes we need a little help. Knowing where to look and how to ask for help doesn’t come naturally to everyone. This should help.
For the big jobs, like irrigation systems and tree work, you are better off calling in the professionals. Tree work can be very dangerous. It requires special training and equipment. As a bonus, after an arborist works on your trees, be sure to ask them for a free load of wood chips. Arborist chips make an excellent mulch that retains moisture, reduces weeds, stabilizes soil temperatures, and ultimately feeds the soil and improves soil structure. Installing irrigation systems, ponds, and similar big projects require skills that many of us do not have. Ask friends and neighbors for local referrals.
If all you need is information, the Internet and your local library can be very helpful. Librarians are trained professionals who are very good at finding information and they can help you track down the books you need to become a better gardener. Most libraries currently offer drive-by book exchanges.
When conducting an online search for gardening assistance, it helps to be as specific as possible. “What’s wrong with my tomatoes” is too generic. Instead, try typing “tomato leaf black spots” and you are sure to get helpful information about the fungal disease, Septoria leaf spot, and its prevention: remove infected leaves, provide good air flow, and avoid overhead watering. Just be sure to avoid the sensationalists and track down science-based information.
Master Gardeners are another excellent resource. Many chapters offer helplines, by phone or online, to answer gardening questions. Master Gardeners are familiar with and knowledgeable about local plant pests, diseases, and other issues. Contact your local County Extension Office for more information.
When you need more than information and less than a project manager, don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends, and neighbors for help. All too often, we convince ourselves that no one wants to help us when, in fact, no one knows we need help. Simply by asking for a hand moving a heavy stone, digging a hole for a bare root tree, or figuring out a better way to trellis a grape vine, we might discover that that casual [masked] neighbor has shared interests and provides good conversation, along with help in the garden. Scouts, 4H, and other organizations may be able to help, as well. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Finally, there are literally billions of helpers just waiting to be invited to your garden. They are ready, willing, and able to eat aphids, parasitize hornworms, and pollinate your crops. They are the insects. And you generally do not have to buy anything to coax these autonomous helpers to your garden.
Planting flowers, leaving wild spaces, and minimizing garden clean-up is all it takes. If your landscape provides pollen, nectar, prey, water, and shelter, beneficial insects will find your yard and get right to work, without any future effort on your part.
Who are you inviting to be part of your garden?
Kate Russell, writer, gardener, and so much more.