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Commentary: Taking 'work' out of yardwork

Love of gardening transforms work into a pleasant pastime. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service1 / 4
Don Kinzler2 / 4
Shallowly cultivating the light soil crust that forms following a rain reduces weeds as the sprout. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service3 / 4
A quick walk through each day can eliminate many weeds while young. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service4 / 4

FARGO — We're all friends here, so please feel free to talk openly. How do you view yardwork? Does caring for lawn, landscape and garden bring you happiness, or is there a hint of negativity, as in, "That sounds like a lot of work?"

The fruits of our labor are usually appreciated, as most people prefer their home yards neat, nicely planted and well-weeded instead of barren or overgrown. But what about the process itself, the "work?" Is it enjoyable, or is the process a chore?

OK, I'll go first. To me, golfing sounds like a lot of work; I've never golfed and it just doesn't interest me. Others may view gardening or yardwork the same way. But put me in the garden and I can till, plant and weed for countless hours and be happy as a rhubarb plant in well-composted manure.

If gardening isn't one's cup of tea, even tea with homegrown mint, there's no need for guilt. But for those who find gardening irresistible, the "work" becomes a pleasant pastime.

Tips for taking the work out of yardwork

• It's attitude. A positive outlook can turn an apparent chore into an interesting hobby. It's not just the end product; getting there is rewarding, too.

• View gardening as a challenge to be mastered, like climbing Mount Everest, except warmer.

• Take time to observe plants, how they grow and how quickly they change as we work close by.

• Tackling weeds is by far the most labor-intensive yard task. Forget video gaming — this war is more intense and intriguing.

• Gardening labor is most enjoyable if we stay a step ahead. Weeding the vegetable garden is simpler when a sharp hoe glides crisply through the soil while tiny weeds are just barely breaking the soil surface.

• After rain or sprinkling, when the garden's soil surface has dried to a slight crust, cultivate the top inch of soil. It stymies germinating weeds and conserves moisture as it prevents cracked, crusted soil.

• Take a few minutes each day for a quick yard and garden walk-through, hoe in hand. While you're enjoying the plants, garden and landscape, obliterate a few weeds. Much can be accomplished in a short time.

• Other than hard-to-kill spreading weeds like creeping Charlie, quackgrass and thistle, many weeds are best simply pulled or dug. It's often easier than looking for a chemical answer. Weeds are always easiest to pull after rain or watering.

• Water deeply and less often. Gardens, landscapes, and lawns grow beautifully with 1 inch of moisture per week, in one or two waterings.

• Mulches reduce weeds and conserve moisture. Wood product mulch should be about 5 inches thick to smother weeds, unless a fabric barrier is used, which reduces the needed mulch depth to 2 or 3 inches.

• Cardboard or multiple sheets of newspaper can be used under a layer of mulch for a low-cost, handy weed reducer.

• Raise the lawn mower's height to 3 inches. The higher mowing height shades grass roots, reduces evaporation and lessens weed competition, easing lawn labor.

• Be forewarned: A mild case of gardening interest can develop into full-blown, lifelong relaxation at its finest.

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