Labor-Saving Garden Tips Contest Winner

Flower Carpet Scarlet contest winner

Last month we ran a contest, asking for your favorite “Labor-Saving Garden Tips”.  With all the great tips we received, choosing a winner was quite difficult and we appreciate everyone’s time in sending along favorite tips.

The winning tip is from Melissa Macker.  The team selected this tip because we’ve all learned the hard way that proper soil preparation is essential and key to labor-saving in the garden.   If you plant in poor soil, you’ll spend loads of time and effort for rest of the plant’s life just trying to get it to perform.  Here’s what she suggested:

Soil prep can be very labor-intensive at first, but it saves a lot of time in the long run. In my new home I ripped out some old shrubs, hand tilled the top 6 inches of the bed (it was very compacted), pulled out a bunch of rocks, and tilled in some store-bought compost last fall. I planted pansies in it this winter, and planted some of the same pansies in a different bed without all the soil prep. I water them the same, I fertilize them the same. The pansies in the prepped bed are twice as large as the pansies in the regular bed with twice as many blooms–and the prepped bed is in full shade! The moral of the story–spend an afternoon giving your soil some extra TLC, and you’ll be rewarded with large, healthy, low-maintenance plants.  

Other soil improving amendments could include home-made compost, peat moss, shredded leaves, well aged cow or horse manure and other organic matter (watch for an upcoming Your Easy Garden post on improving your soil).

You may want to visit Melissa’s blog- Garden on the Boulevard –  for more inspiration. Melissa will be receiving 3 “Next Generation” Flower Carpet roses.

All of the other great tips and ideas will be included in two new posts later this week and we have another contest coming up, so stay tuned!


3  Labor-Saving Garden Tips


1) Mulch to Eliminate Weeds

One of the most obvious but oft-forgotten labor saving garden tips is MULCH!  If you pull your weeds when they’re young (and small) and then mulch, mulch, mulch.

It’s best to make certain the ground is wet before applying mulch. Store -purchased mulch is great, but you can also other organic materials such as a thick layer of grass clippings; chopped up leaves; peat moss; straw; and pine needles around acid-loving plants like azaleas.  A very thick layer of newspaper, wet down and covered with leaves, grass clippings or straw also works well.  We even know one person who regularly collects the used coffee grounds from her local coffee shop on and uses those to mulch large portions of her garden.

Also, the more closely you place your plants together, the less likelihood you’ll have of weed infestations. And best of all, mulching also conserves water which means you have to water less!

labor saving garden

Heavy layers of mulch, well-selected plants and tight inter-planting makes this a true labor-saving garden.

 2) Plant Your Vegetables close to the house

Vegetable gardens are often placed the furthest from the house to allow flower beds to be more easily enjoyed. However, if you plant a kitchen garden closer to your back door, you can just step out and pick your fresh salad greens, herbs, or even cucumbers and peppers. If you don’t have room for a full kitchen garden, you can easily add some of your vegetables to your flower beds. For instance, garlic planted around roses helps to keep beetles at bay while adding a bit of texture to the garden. Swiss Chard is available in a wide range of colors and looks lovely planted amongst perennials or annuals such as marigolds or cosmos.

Mulched Veggie and Flower Garden

This combination Flower and Veggie garden is heavily mulched with straw, grass clippings and cedar chips.

3) Select Your Plants Wisely

Grow low-maintenance plants such as naturalized bulbs (daffodils,crocus, muscari, snowdrops); slow-growing shrubs that add color and texture but don’t need to be pruned often (spiraea, butterfly bush, viburnum, boxwood, Flower Carpet roses); perennials that don’t require a lot of deadheading (echinacea, phlox, lady’s mantel, agapanthus, rudbeckia, lireope), “plant and forget” annuals such as marigolds, alyssum, angelonia, and celosia). Select native plants because they’re more adapted to your environment and therefore take less effort to grow.

Ground-cover plants such as ajuga and English ivy take a while to establish, but once they do, they are an easy-care replacement for grassy areas – particularly areas that are hard to mow or reach with trimmers. Once established, the do not need much maintenance.


Anthony Waterer Spirea from Monrovia is a great labor-saving plant while still providing color and a bit of height to the garden for much of the season


Win 3 Flower Carpet® roses!

Post a comment with your favorite “Labor-Saving” Garden Tip for a chance to win 3 easy-care Flower Carpet® roses (1 each of Flower Carpet ‘Amber’, Flower Carpet ‘Scarlet’ and Flower Carpet ‘Pink Supreme’). All entries must be received by February 28, 2013. The winner will be notified via email and bare-root plants will be shipped at a time that’s appropriate for your growing zone. Please note: apologies to our international friends, but we are not able to ship roses beyond the Continental US.

 We look forward to hearing from you!



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64 Responses to Labor-Saving Garden Tips Contest Winner

  1. Graciebelle February 17, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Thanks for these ideas. I’ve been using old worn out carpet, cut in strips, as mulch at the back of my flower beds, particularly in areas that are hard to get to by mid-summer. I put the underside up so it’s generally brown or beige and blends in easily but I also cover it with a layer of grass clippings. It breaks down over time but usually lasts for a few years and eliminates the need to mulch and re-mulch those hard-to reach places.

  2. Your Easy Garden Team February 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Good Tip Graciebelle – keep ’em coming folks!

  3. barbara roan February 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    When I know a rain is coming I make my Peony bloom time last longer by putting beach umbrellas over each plant.

  4. Your Easy Garden Team February 18, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

    Great Tip Barbara. Our team has never heard that one but it certainly makes sense! thanks for submitting your Labor Saving Tip!

  5. anna February 21, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    Automate watering (e.g. drip-hose) for containers, rather than carrying a watering can around.

  6. anna February 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Make your raised beds tall enough and wide enough (I use 4×4″ fence posts stacked) so that you can sit on them to work!

  7. anna February 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Contain aggressive perennial herbs by planting in buried pots. Smart!

  8. anna February 21, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    Have your hubby help you???

  9. anna February 21, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    Always use good quality seeds, soil and mulch. Don’t go cheap cheap as they won’t look as good and your hard work will be for nothing. I have learnt this tip over the years. I have grown beautiful dahlias that I bought from your shop in Silvan and they are beautiful! I know I couldn’t have had the same result with store bought potted varieties! Thanks.

  10. Your Easy Garden Team February 24, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Hi Anna – thanks for all these great Labor Saving Tips – keep ’em coming!

  11. Tracy Beauchamp February 24, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    I use the water produced by the central air unit to water flowers automatically. I placed a clear tube from Lowe’s inside the air conditioner discharge hose and direct it to the pots that need it. It’s handy that the hotter and dryer it is the more the a/c runs!

  12. Your Easy Garden Team February 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Thanks Tracy. This is a really great tip!

  13. Melanie At February 26, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    I put paper coffee filters in the bottom of my pots to prevent the dirt from falling out the bottom when potting up a plant.

  14. Barb. February 26, 2013 at 1:30 am #

    I love to use my chopped leaves for mulch to keep moisture in and weeds out!

  15. Connie French February 26, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    I love to garden, and roses are my favorite flower. I love your ideas. Thank you

  16. Connie French February 26, 2013 at 3:04 am #

    I do not have much room for a garden, so last year I grew sweet potatoes in huge buckets. They are a couple of feet high and about 30 inches across. I planted three plants per bucket and had a real nice crop of sweet potatoes with no weeding. This year I an gonna try red potatoes too.

  17. Paula Douglas February 26, 2013 at 5:12 am #

    The best thing to put on your flowers and gardens is rabbit poop! It is amazing how much better the flowers grow and live longer!

  18. MARILYN KOHEL February 26, 2013 at 11:49 am #


  19. Sue Ellen Mageli February 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    Thank you for the tips. Here in NW Michigan I’ve been enjoying beautiful blooms all winter long. My geraniums, amarylis, and hibiscus just love my 4 season room. Spring is almost here.

  20. Monika Seeger February 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Love roses, mine do great here in Florida

  21. carmen Monnin February 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    i put out a bucket or two and catch water when it rains and then i used that water to water some of my plants in thwe porch, specially those that didn’t get as much rain.

  22. Shirley White February 26, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Be very aggressive on removing grass & weeds from your gardening spots because small weeds are much easier to eliminate than large ones.

  23. Cathy Kerscher February 26, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    I buy annuals that have low watering needs. They won’t suffer if a scheduled watering is missed.

  24. sam frazier February 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    Repurpose old yogurt containers for seedling starts – they’re free and reusable! Keeps them out of landfills! I do the same with old coffee containers (and I have a lot of them), and the lids to the coffee containers make great saucers!

  25. Your Easy Garden Team February 26, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Thanks to everyone for their timely tips!
    Most of us northern tier gardeners are patiently waiting for Spring to arrive so we can get back to our gardens.
    In the meantime it’s fun to be able to at least talk about our passion.

  26. Heidy Walsh February 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    A super fun way to water plants if you’re going on vacation (or have a habit of forgetting to water your beautiful blooms) is by filling up an old wine or beer bottle with water and inverting it into your potted plant or straight into the ground by your plants roots. An even cuter idea for the craftier type, painting your wine and beer bottles and sealing them with a high gloss spray paint to keep your beautiful artwork from being washed away by the rain. I used my favorite “flowery” scrapbook paper and modgepodged it to decorate my wine bottles and sealed them with spray paint. I have a habit of under watering so not only do my potted plants stay healthy but they look super cute too!!

  27. nancy parker February 26, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    Snip off all dead or dry flowers from rose bushes after they blossom. If you have left over coffee grounds after brewing dig a small hole about 6inches away from bush and pour into hole for a boost for young bushes.

  28. kendra February 26, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    In larger planters where some people use up extra space with rocks, I use packing peanuts! It makes the planters lighter weight and easier to move.

  29. Cheryll February 26, 2013 at 10:36 pm #

    I have planned several “whole yard” gardens over the years. My favorite began with a rose arbor (paint your favorite saying over the arbor with an artists paintbrush and black acrylic paint)Give your garden an entrance a middle with a place to sit and enjoy who’s blooming and let the path you make lead you through. A circle garden with a bird bath in the middle can be the loop to bring you back to the beginning. You should not be able to see the whole garden at once at ground level. Use specimen trees and shrubs to break up the flower beds. Always keep in mind the mature size they will achieve.

  30. Rhonda Bonham February 26, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    Plant perennials and ground cover. Use annuals for color in your perennial garden.

  31. Barb McClain February 26, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

    Buy tea roses and use good soil keep lose soil around roses and keep in shady area of yard.

  32. Corinne February 26, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    I weed early, place preen down then mulch, also mixing in your mulch or soil, gel water pellets works too for less watering and less weeds!!

  33. sandee rybacki February 27, 2013 at 12:04 am #

    When planting a tree. Place a PVC pipe in ground beside tree to roots. That way when you water, water down pipe straight to root. Less water waste, more water to tree. Especially in summer.

  34. Marie Simpson February 27, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    Pine straw makes great mulch and since I live in a town called “Pineville”, it is easy to come by and free if you’re willing to collect it. But collecting it doesn’t come without hazards. Last year, my free pine straw came with free slugs that wreaked havoc on my delicate flowers. I got rid of most of them with beer (the cheap stuff) that I poured into small cups that I buried to the rims. Hundreds of slugs died each night in the beer (but they died happy)!

  35. Mitzi Crawford February 27, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    I’d love these carpet roses. I have a bank that has a few roses on it, but the cable company ran a line right thru my bank of 12 year old roses. My heart was broken cause 7 of my 13 plants were murdered by their machine. 🙁 I got the power company to dump a big load of tree choppings on the end of my property right where I had a massive weed problem. That took care of those weeds. And 1 year later I had wonderfully aged mulch for all over my yard.

  36. Maria February 27, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    Have a compost pile,Use rabbit manure to save on fertilizer and coffee grounds and roses love banana peels.

  37. Your Easy Garden Team February 27, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    Thanks Maria, great tips.

  38. Adriana Hernandez - Arcoiris Design Gerdening February 27, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    Like bananas? Roses do as well! I fertilize my roses with banana peelings! And it really works! I do not have to use any other fertilizer!
    Slugs? Place a cup with beer in the ground. Slugs love beer, will come to drink it and will die at the bottom of the cup happily drunk!

  39. nantucketdaffodil February 27, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    We have raised beds, but where we grow pumpkins and squash, we lay that thick, tyvek like weedblock between the rows….then we don’t worry about trying to keep up with the weeds under all those crazy vines (and there are a lot of them). It also prevents rot from pumpkins and squash laying in moist soil.

  40. nantucketdaffodil February 27, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

    To spend less money, seed save from the previous season for most pure plants. For others, plant seeds. instead of buying seedlings at garden centers…and plant a few extras. We plant hundreds of heirloom tomatoes, keep about 100 for ourselves, and this spring plan on selling off the extras to help support our gardening costs. A Nantucket State of Mind blog

  41. nantucketdaffodil February 27, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    Direct sow vibrant bloomers like zinnias as you walk into your garden. They make a delightful entrance. Zinnias love to be directly sown. Also, plant weekly for 3 weeks to prolong your blooming season. A Nantucket State of Mind blog

  42. nantucketdaffodil February 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    Have a neighborhood pick your own CSA with clear guidelines…then you earn extra $$$ and do less of the labor! A Nantucket State of Mind Blog

  43. Sarah February 27, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    I’m new to gardening but the biggest labor saving tip I’ve “used” this season is Winter Sowing! If you don’t know what it is, please, please Google it! I use repurposed materials (milk jugs, takeout containers and paper towel/toilet paper tubes) to make mini greenhouses and compostable “plugs.” I can then recycle them when I’m done. I’m in zone 4b so I started Winter Sowing in late January and am finishing a lot of my veggie seeds tonight. I think it’s lovely to save energy and money (no expensive setups, seed trays or electricity needed!). 🙂 Roots and Shoots Garden blog

  44. Nancy February 28, 2013 at 12:56 am #

    I plant potatoes in laundry baskets lined with newspaper. When it is time to harvest just. Dump them out and collect the potatoes.

  45. Cintia Pendleton February 28, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    Recycle your plastic containers and cans from de kitchen to make beds for new seeds, and even beautiful ‘planters’! Bulbs likes can and you can make the cans look good with ‘some art’! And you can have a lot of beautiful samples in beautiful planters to gift somebody in the bloom time! 😉

  46. Charlee Curtis February 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    If you are by the ocean, use seaweed for fertilizer.
    Compost food scraps, shredded newspapers, paper towels, tissues.
    Use banana peels for fertilizer. Just drop them in the hole dug for planting.

  47. Shelley Button February 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Every fall after winterizing my flowers, roses and vegetable garden I fertilize with the ground with composted manure. What a great use for the waste we get from our horses! Every year our garden and flowers look amazing. Since we are abundant with manure we help others by saving our horse feed bags throughout the year and filling the bags with manure for others to have for their plants. This year, I am hoping to deliver the bags to a local garden spot in town. Providing this free manure will help those who are in food assistance needs with a better production in their plot as well as help those with their flower beds.

  48. Susanna Griffin February 28, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    Weeding is my ultimate enemy!
    I’ve been implementing raised beds since before they became popular. My clients biggest headache is trying to keep the bermuda/witch grass from encroaching into the beds once they are fully functional.
    I lay a very thick layer of shredded paper before any other amendments. It is readily available at local offices, schools, and they are thankful to get rid of it. The shredded paper allows for excellent drainage, decomposes so is environmentally friendly, and after 5 years the wild grasses are still not invasive. This is due in part to the fact that the paper acts as a natural weed barrier. If any perennial weeds make it to the top the roots systems are so weak they just pop right out and eventually give up. Keeping a thick layer of mulch on top not only helps with moisture retention, but also gives those pesky weeds something else to fight through.

  49. Donna DeVane February 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    I use leaves from the trees in my yard to mulch. We have quite a few trees and the leaves have to been cleaned up.. so.. why not use them to mulch the garden & flower beds? It also adds natural fertilizers to my soil. I don’t use chemicals and am always looking for natural ways to enhance my veggie & flower gardens. I also partner plant in my garden, getting more food in the same same.

  50. Melissa Macker February 28, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    Soil prep can be very labor-intensive at first, but it saves a lot of time in the long run. In my new home I ripped out some old shrubs, hand tilled the top 6 inches of the bed (it was very compacted), pulled out a bunch of rocks, and tilled in some store-bought compost last fall. I planted pansies in it this winter, and planted some of the same pansies in a different bed without all the soil prep. I water them the same, I fertilize them the same. The pansies in the prepped bed are twice as large as the pansies in the regular bed with twice as many blooms–and the prepped bed is in full shade! The moral of the story–spend an afternoon giving your soil some extra TLC, and you’ll be rewarded with large, healthy, low-maintenance plants. Garden On The Boulevard Blog

  51. Kelly Houston February 28, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    Practice companion planting! (Give your plants compatible neighbors!)
    Make use of trellises
    Try to use all natural methods for insect repellents and animal detergents. For example, plant marigolds around the boarder of your gardens! Expect some of your produce to “go to the birds!”
    When gardening with kiddos, label rows of newly planted seeds with Popsicle sticks that have the plant name on them.

  52. Amelia Ball February 28, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    Labor saving tip…My kiddos! They learn about which plants are weeds and which are the plants to keep. They get exercise, fresh air and quality time with Mom! Plus those little hands are very helpful and save me a ton of extra work!

  53. Cathy Nance February 28, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Be thoughtful of where you plant your roses in the landscape. Attention to how your roses grow, size, width will save time or the plant later. When we moved into our house the previous owners planted a climbing rose right next to out door when it should have been planted elsewhere. They also planted a rose bush that as it grows in the season covers our walkway. I have to over trim this bush every year. As I do this what is left looks really bad and always feels like I am going to kill the rose bush. I am at the point of digging them up to attempt to transplant in order for them to flourish.

  54. Lori C February 28, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    My tip is to do little bits of garden work when you can. This way you can stay on top of it without seeming so overwhelmed. Deadhead, weed, water, mulch, pick & enjoy!

  55. Your Easy Garden Team February 28, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Thanks to everyone who’s sent these really fabulous tips!

  56. holly fleming February 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

    Early winter is a depressing time for a lot of people. But not if you are waiting on new bulbs. In late fall you can find 50% off of spring flowering bulbs at many garden centers. I buy a bunch; usually the ground is still workable. The more you plant, the better. Daffodils are my favorite since they multiply every year. Crocus are great for early blooms while its still wintertime. I plants lots of bulbs and im never depressed in the colder months. Just excited for whats to come.

  57. Your Easy Garden Team March 1, 2013 at 1:25 am #

    Great idea – would love to see photos!

  58. Nicky @dirtandmartinis March 1, 2013 at 1:37 am #

    My favorite money saving tip is to trade seeds! Once you get started you’ll never have to buy seeds again.

    Also, another fun money saving tip is to plant the root tips you cut off green onions. Just stick them back in the dirt and watch them grow new green onions.
    Dirt and Martinis blog

  59. Your Easy Garden Team March 1, 2013 at 2:10 am #

    Thanks for these tips Nicky. We’ve heard you could do the same with celery (cutting the top of and sticking them in the ground) and our team of testers hopes to give that a try this summer too!

  60. Anne@DesignDreams March 10, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    I have a large yard and I’m always leaving tools scattered here and there. I picked up a golf bag on wheels at a yard sale & it holds rakes, a spade, trowels, twine, tags and anything else I want. Super easy to pull around the yard and all the tools at my disposal whenever I want them!

    Roll on Spring!!!

  61. Your Easy Garden Team March 11, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Great idea Anne. Now I know what to do with my old golf bag in the garage!

  62. Graciebelle March 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    What a great idea – think I’ll start on this project now when it’s still too cold to be outside in New England!

  63. Graciebelle March 14, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    I’ve learned that the cheaper the beer, the more they love it! Slugs are indeed “cheap drunks”!

  64. Derek Dewitt January 15, 2018 at 1:57 pm #

    My wife is wanting to start a garden this spring, so thanks for these helpful tips! I like that you suggest using mulch with other organic materials like grass clippings to help the garden. We’ll be sure to lay down some compost and fertilizer first so the plants get enough nutrients.

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