Lifestyle Outdoors

The Observant Gardener: Tending to Daily Garden Chores

Garden essentials. Photo by Judith Canty Graves

By Judith Canty Graves

Now that fall has begun, I have been reflecting on this year’s growing season. One thing I learned is that daily garden chores matter. Weeding, pruning overgrown plants, cleaning out beds, watering when conditions are dry—the list goes on and on. All of these chores add up to a garden that is tended to and functioning well.

By October every year, I start to dismantle my garden to prepare for winter. I remove dead plants from their beds and put them into the compost bin. I cut back perennials such as peonies and hostas to remove the dead foliage. Fall is also the time for me to consider what plants did well during the growing season and make notes about them in my journal. Then I plant bulbs, such as daffodils, for next spring. Each season has its own chores to prepare for the upcoming season.

I first learned about the cycle of garden chores when I had a plot in a community garden several years ago. During my time there, I saw varying results. One woman in particular started in the spring with great energy and attention, but after a short time, she lost interest. By August, she was not visiting her plot and her mature vegetables began to rot because she wasn’t picking them.

Other gardeners paid meticulous attention to their plots with thoughtfully planned rows and handsome plants that they carefully watered. Over the summer these gardeners harvested abundant flowers and vegetables because they were there consistently tending to their plants. These plots were a pleasure to see.

This past summer I was away on vacation for 11 days, but after this short period of time I returned to see tremendous changes in my yard. The weeds had taken over in every area. I never knew that crabgrass could get so big, but there it was, sprawling everywhere! Tomato plants that were beginning to get tall when I left were enormous and tipping over their cages with the weight of the green tomatoes and foliage. Some sunflowers were bent over, in need of staking, because they had grown so much.

As I worked on the garden after my vacation, I realized that I work at many garden chores almost every day throughout the year without much effort. It takes only a few minutes to weed one small area or to pick squashes that are ripe. On a dry day, it might take twenty minutes to pick up the hose or watering can and water some plants. For these chores, I rely on my garden tools, gloves and sturdy boots. Having the right tool for the job is essential in order to work quickly and effectively.

Successful gardening amounts to paying attention and following through with what needs to be done at any one time. Whatever we put our attention on will flourish, and a flourishing garden can give us much enjoyment.

Judith Canty Graves is a home gardener with a background in photojournalism. She lives in Asheville. To see more of her garden photography, visit

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