Between gardening and yard work, I seem to careen from one DIY backyard project to the next. Along the way, I’ve managed to learn a few tricks. Some of them were project specific — for example, always wear a hat when painting overheard because flecks of pink paint are blatantly obvious in brunette curls. Yet many of my backyard lessons are the kind of strikingly simple truths that come in handy no matter where you put them to work.
Work smarter, not harder
As a farm kid who grew up picking dinner a few feet from my backyard, I know that fresh produce just tastes better. Unfortunately, my wooded yard is full of shade and tree roots, neither of which will ever be mistaken for a gardener’s best friend. Trying to start a traditional garden would have been difficult.
We chose to work smarter, not harder. Instead of fighting the tree roots, we filled safe plastic containers with soil and grew our garden in them. We moved the containers around, experimenting with locations until we found the best spot. Then we spread stones to keep the grass away and put up some bigger raised beds alongside our trusty plastic containers.
Bigger isn’t always better
A wooded yard means lots of leaves. Each fall, we rake them up and hoss them off to a compost pile. Tired of making so many trips, I got the bright idea to rake the leaves onto a tarp and take them back in big loads.
Unfortunately, the tarp was so heavy I couldn’t budge it. I ended up reloading the wheelbarrow and make my normal multiple trips. Bigger isn’t always better, especially if it becomes too much to handle.
Use the right tools
After spending hours reloading my wheelbarrow with leaves, I got smart about using the right tool. Part of my frustration with making so many trips was that my wheelbarrow often tipped while crossing the uneven ground to reach the compost pile.
Investing in a dumpcart and a two-wheeled wheelbarrow made the trip much easier. They were smart purchases that I’ve used again and again. Each time I do, it reminds me that the right tools make any job go more smoothly.
One year, we spent weeks tending seeds before transferring the tender plants to the garden. Two days later, we lost them all to a late frost. In gardening, and in life, timing matters. Doing something too soon or too late can result in more work or outright failure. Now, I try to time things to give me the best chance of success. I don’t paint when it’s humid or cut grass when it’s wet. And I always check the predictions for the final frost before planting.
What you learn in the backyard doesn’t have to stay in the backyard. Sometimes tackling a do-it- -yourself project gives you the chance to uncover wisdom that will serve you virtually anywhere.