It seems so unfair -- your next-door neighbor can apparently conjure up a lush, beautiful garden out of thin air with no effort at all, while you make a spectacle of yourself sprinkling, spraying, sweating and straining just to keep your plant life alive. If you're tired of the sheer effort you're forced to expend (and the amusement, pity or irritation it evokes in onlookers), here are some subtler, less visible methods to help you keep both your garden and your thumb looking that much greener.
"Invisible" Method #1: A Drip Irrigation System
Constantly subjecting your garden to high-pressure water sprayers and sprinklers can make your garden resemble a water park, inviting the community to gawk at your struggle to keep your plants and flowers alive through a hot, dry spell. Indiscriminate water usage can also turn public opinion against you, especially if you find it necessary to violate local watering restrictions just to deliver the water your vegetation needs to survive. But you can lower both your profile and your utility bill by installing a simple drip irrigation system.
A drip irrigation system is a branched network of hoses that have tiny holes punched in them at regular intervals. The holes (which may or may not have devices called emitters attached to them) leak water directly into the ground, right next to plant stems and roots, instead of spraying the stuff wastefully in all directions. Your local drip irrigation service can install such a system quickly, easily and affordably -- giving you an "invisible" watering technique that'll have the neighbors wondering how you magically keep your greenery so green.
"Invisible" Method #2: Companion Planting
There's nothing sadder than seeing a vegetable garden eaten alive by pests, except possibly the sight of a flustered gardener spraying poison on his own future foodstuffs in an effort to solve the problem -- only to kill the beneficial creatures along with the harmful ones. If you'd rather not fight such a public battle against destructive insects, why not let your vegetation do the fighting for you? An ingenious technique called companion planting can do just that.
Companion planting involves creating a balanced ecosystem in your garden through strategic plant placement. Some plants have natural pest-deterrent properties that can keep unwanted guests away from other plants. For example, French marigolds produce a substance that can help drive certain nematodes away from neighboring tomato plants, while chives will keep aphids and carrot rust flies away from your carrot crop. You can also plant two species with natural pest antagonists side by side so that beneficial predatory insects can keep the destructive ones under control. These and other benefits all occur behind the scenes (or rather, behind the leaves), leaving the neighbors to marvel at the fact that you never need to mess with insecticides.
"Invisible" Method #3: Electric Fencing
Six-legged pests aren't the only creatures that can lead to a gardener's frequent frustration and public embarrassment. Animals can and will feast on your beloved plants and flowers unless you put up some sort of physical barrier against them. But that doesn't mean you have to erect a solid fence or other potential eyesore in your yard. Instead, you can show off your garden without making your plants vulnerable to intruders by installing an electric fence.
Electric fences have long been used by commercial farmers and ranchers, but these days even a small garden plot can benefit from their protective effects. They aren't entirely invisible, of course; a truly "invisible" fence relies on radio signals that deter a family pet wearing a special collar. But a basic electric fence may consist of just one or two strands of wire suspended by a string of short, lightweight posts. The results are both visually discreet and highly effective against raccoons, rabbits, cats and other potential scavengers.
From drip irrigation and companion planting to a discreet electric fence for deterring small animals, you can create a garden that apparently manages itself. Contact your local drip irrigation service, gardening expert or fence installer today -- and become the garden owner on your block who never seems to break a sweat!