Gardening with Micki: "How to Cheat at Gardening and Yard Work" worth the read

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One of the surprise Christmas gifts I received was a book — “How to Cheat at Gardening and Yard Work.” I have no idea who sent it. There was no gift card. It arrived in a plain brown wrapper — always suspicious. No return address. A mystery gift.

So I had to do some sleuthing. The author, Jeff Bredenberg, was a revered gardener and writer of 20 “How To Books.” He was born Nov. 26, 1953, and lived in Raleigh, North Carolina. His mission in writing was “helping people get things done faster and better.“ I’ll spare you my frustration at trying to reach him via Google, number please and the Raleigh newspaper. Then I learned of his death, March 2, 2010. I would have loved to interview him.

I have to admit the word, “Cheating” was a bit of a turnoff in the title. The cover teasers also touted “shameless tricks for growing radically simple flowers, veggies, lawns, landscaping and more.” I turned the pages anyway — all 355.

Bredenberg didn’t depend on his own garden experiences. He cited advice from 41 sources from 18 states and Canada as well as the Texas and Chicago Botanical Gardens and the National Garden Association. The credentials were enough to keep me turning pages.

He opens the book with 10 tips — great, easy advice for any gardener.

Gardening has no end point. It will always be an unfinished masterpiece.

It all starts with the earth. Soil quality is the key to success.

Mother Nature is more powerful than you. Use natural forces (good or bad) to achieve your goals.

Feel free to make mistakes and learn. Gardening is more complex than cooking. Pay attention to climate, soil conditions, your plants’ health, and your maintenance traditions.

Take a risk and make gardening fun. Experiment. Try a little whimsy. Go a little crazy. Do the unexpected.

Use your garden as a place of therapy. Stop and smell the roses.

Know where you’re going. Have a garden plan.

Work hard to make gardening easy. Are there steps you can eliminate?

Know when to call a pro. If the task seems impossible, reach for the phone.

Award yourself for shortcuts to success.

“Cheating” in the garden is a good read. 

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