"Nothing is certain but change," goes the old saying. So when circumstances change, it may be necessary to change our approach to gardening, as well.
It may be a change in your job status. It could be a medical issue, either temporary or permanent. Perhaps aging has been sneaking up on you, and you realize you can't do it all anymore. Maybe you have a new baby or a new dog.
Whatever the reason, there are ways to make gardening easier.
Start with the landscape. As a general rule, annuals take the most time and care. We have to start them from seed or shop for them, set them in the ground and baby them a bit until they're established.
Perennials, however, may need to be divided, staked, deadheaded or cut back. Consider these points when choosing plants. Would replacing some of those annuals with bulbs, shrubs and vining plants lighten your workload? Also keep in mind that the greater variety of plants you have, the more individual care will be needed.
Using native plants will make gardening easier because they are more tolerant of our weather. On the other hand, make use of any shady areas you have. Shade-loving plants grow more slowly and use less water. Weeds are sun-lovers, so they're easier to control in shady areas. And don't assume you are limited to ferns in the shade. For example, look at some of the lovely hellebores (Lenten or Christmas rose) and hostas now available.
Container gardening is another thing to think about. While many of us think of large pots when that phrase is used, it also can include raised beds, window or wall boxes, whiskey barrels and makeshift containers of all sorts. Plant breeders have developed vegetable and flower varieties specifically for containers, so choices are less limited than they once were.
A real advantage of containers, especially pots, is that they are moveable. So put them front and center when they're at their best, but when their season is over, move them to a less noticeable place. I have seen lovely patio displays where the owner looks at it almost like designing a stage set for the theater. Container gardening requires a fraction of the physical work required by in-ground gardens, especially if you have some little platforms on wheels to move the pots around.
Try to accept a bit more imperfection. Mother Nature doesn't pick up every leaf, and you don't need to, either. In fact, instead of raking the leaves from under your shrubs in the fall, put more under them. Make good use of mulch and compost around all your plants. It keeps down the weeds and feeds the plants in the bargain. For a wonderful book on this idea, read Ruth Stout's classic, "How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back."
Keeping a calendar, making lists of seasonal jobs, and referring to your copy of "Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley," available at the Southern Oregon Reseach and Extension Center in Central Point or most garden stores, also will make your job a bit easier. Don't give up. Gardening nourishes the soul.
Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.