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Budgeting your time and money:

The latest cost-saving theory in bed preparation

Meribeth Wulff is the lead designer for The Country Gardener Ltd. She has lectured throughout the Midwest on gardens and gardening. She writes the following tip for weekend gardeners in Harbor Country.

Though unconventional, the latest in gardening practice is to avoid tilling your soil before planting a perennial bed, to minimize soil disruption. This is welcome labor-saving news! Tilling the soil introduces oxygen which increases microbial activity, often resulting in a wasted release of energy. Disturbing only the immediate planting hole conserves this valuable soil component.

Protect the soil surface as nature does - create soil from the top down. Apply compost directly to the surface; it will percolate through. If you are gardening without compost, you are fighting an uphill battle to keep your budget in bounds. You will be spending your money on other types of mulch which have comparatively little nutrient value. Your plant material will need supplemental fertilizer, especially in sandy soils.

Compost, purchased by the truckload, is an economical soil-builder as well as mulch.

Do not walk in planted area - avoid soil compaction.

If you feel irrigation is essential, utilize drip irrigation, this obviously conserves water and cuts down on weeds because only the plants themselves are watered, rather than the area surrounding them.