Installing a garden

If I’m So Laidback, Why Don’t I Have More Time?

It’s been 10 years now since I finally dared to admit what had been obvious for a very long time: I’m a laidback gardener. Ten years that I’ve not only been living my laziness in full view of everyone, but even deliberately digging myself in as deep as possible, in order to fully experiment with this gardening technique. There’s just one hitch: why, despite all these efforts to do as little as possible, do I have so little free time?

It doesn’t make sense! I never water my flower beds. I can’t even remember the last time I weeded. Most of my plants, both flowers and vegetables, reseed spontaneously or spread on their own without any intervention on my part. All I do for my lawn is mow it… and not too often at that. So I should have hours and hours to sleep peacefully in my hammock (stored for four years in the cedar closet) and do nothing but lounge around. As someone who loves watching movies on TV (but not at the cinema: looking for parking is too exhausting), I can’t remember the last time I had time to see one.

What’s Going On?

There’s something very sneaky about being a laidback gardener. I say to myself, “Here, from now on, I’ll let nature take care of it all!” Then follows the bizarre concept that, since this gives me more time, I could finally do such-and-such other thing. Then, all of a sudden, I find myself fully occupied doing work I’d never have undertaken if I weren’t a laidback gardener.

Take, for example, the backyard of my house. When I got here, I discovered, after the snow had completely melted, that it was more than half asphalted. It seems to me that, as a laidback gardener, I could have said, “Perfect, no lawn to mow… where on earth am I going to put my hammock!” But instead, I came up with the idea of “installing” “maintenance-free” flowerbeds and leaving a small patch of lawn in the middle. It was a laudable idea, but it had to be done, those flowerbeds and that laidback lawn.

So I embarked on a grueling project to get it done as quickly as possible, which took me two years to complete… and that was just for part of the yard (you’d be surprised how much asphalt is still left!).

Some Laidback Projects…

Another year, I thought it would be a good time to make the path around the sod so I could mow it without having to get out the edger. Another great idea for a laidback gardener, at least at first glance, especially since the path would be maintenance-free… but I spent another summer lugging around 23-kilo bags of sand and rock dust and sometimes even heavier stones. I started in spring and finished just in time for autumn… not because I was worried about the approaching frost, but rather because, as the summer progressed, my back was less willing to cooperate. The day after the last shovelful of rock dust, I found myself bent in half, unable to unfold. Two weeks of forced rest… in pain: is that being laidback?

An Easier-to-Maintain Slope

And last year, fed up with having to mow the sloping lawn in front of the house, which required far too much effort on the part of a laidback gardener, I decided to convert a section of it into a low-maintenance bed. Not the whole slope, but just the worst corner, where the mower tended to tip over, and which ended up against a concrete wall where it couldn’t get through at all.

After climbing the mound, one wheelbarrow at a time, one trip of soil and one trip of mulch, after hours of planting (and yet another small section of asphalt removed with a jackhammer – I’m starting to get the hang of that one!), I finally finished the new bed… in November, when the ground was already frozen on the surface. So I had to break through the icy crust to plant the 5,000 bulbs I’d ordered. Obviously, I’ll have a whole section less of sloping lawn to mow in the future… but you should see the sloping lawn I’ve got left!

… and Still More Laidback Projects

Of course, I’ve got lots of plans for years to come to make my yard easier to maintain: “flower-bedding” more sections of lawn, planting a free-standing and therefore “maintenance-free” hedge to separate my yard from the neighbor’s (an urgent new project since my neighbor cut down the old spruce hedge that separated us), making real stairs between the street and the house, the asphalt slope (yes, again!) being dangerously slippery in winter, etc., etc., etc… Just thinking about it makes my back spasm!

It’s so tiring being a laidback gardener! I’d like to take a few weeks off to recuperate, if only I had the time!

Larry Hodgson published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings accessible to the public. This text was originally published in Fleurs, plantes et jardins magazine in May 1999.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

5 comments on “If I’m So Laidback, Why Don’t I Have More Time?

  1. My husband and I have started down this path and I too keep telling myself that some day it will be less work and so much better for the bugs and birds. All the garden guides say that, I just hope I continue to have enough energy to get through this phase. Several years in it is looking that way but still there are days that just hiring a lawn care company seems like it would have been easier

  2. Leslie Frick

    Thank you so much for continuing to make you father’s writing available, Mathieu! I learn some thing new, and it always brings me joy to hear his perspective on gardening!

  3. Christine Lemieux

    So true! It is a lot of working setting up for laidback gardening!

  4. Sorry, you’re supposed to read a heart not a question mark

  5. Love you, Larry Hodgson! ?

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