Simple tasks/tips for un-helpful helpers?

margarete(Edinburgh)March 21, 2006

Does anyone have any ideas on ways to include non-gardners in the garden?

I have roommates who, despite my best efforts to include them, are completely uninterested in gardening for months and months, and then, with no warning and always when I am not around, decide to "clean up" or "trim" something. There are many lost plants and ruined projects (and wasted money) that are casualties of their "help".

Unfortunatly, my roommates are stubborn adults who have never had a garden before and don't know what they are doing. It's very frustrating - I don't want to tell them not to touch anything ever, but they are simply not interested in learning how to garden! Perhaps they think they already know how, as I have always somewhat fixed their mistakes and they have never seen the consequences of their actions.

I have a theory that they simply want to spend time outside and "clean" and "trim" just to keep busy.

Any thoughts? Does anyone have any favourite tasks or tips or psyc 101 tricks to keep my roommates busy and involved, but the damage down?

Thanks!

Margarete

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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Is there lawn? The only other adult in this household knows he is always welcome to edge and mow.

Maybe showing the mistakes instead of covering them up would be a kinder thing to do for yourself and for the plants. I'm sure I couldn't keep quiet if inexperienced hands found their way into my garden :)

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 1:34PM
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booberry85(5)

Are you a veggie gardener? flower gardener? both? The easiest way to get them involved is to let them pick the fruits of your labor when the flowers or veggies are ready. Just give them a couple of tips on how to pick so they don't wind up ripping the whole plant out by its roots. Hopefully this will get them more interested in the whole process.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2006 at 9:22AM
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margarete(Edinburgh)

Thanks for the good advice!

Yes, there is a big lawn. There is also a dog, and mowing one means cleaning up after the other, so neither gets done. :) Edging is a great idea - the edgers are dinged up anyways and there are not too many ways to mess up edging a lawn (knock on wood).

Booberry85, I grow both flowers and veggies (mostly flowers now because the dog had worms recently, but there are a few snow peas, peppers, bush beans and some strawberries in pots). I never thought about encouraging the roomies to pick veggies and flowers and I will definitely try this!

A few weeks ago I sketched out my plans for the yard, including a diagram, tasks and plant lists, and posted them in the kitchen. Then I went over them with everyone and told them to feel free to do anything or ask for my help with anything they want to do but donÂt know how. Then guess what happened - on Monday someone tidied up the patio and threw away a bag of 40 or so healthy hosta I had just divided because Âthey were weedsÂ! Even though it doesnÂt help my roomies understand how to identify weeds, it felt good to be able to point at the rectangle on the plan that said Âhosta bed right where the hosta had been sitting (not on the patio, btw).

I can sense a crash course in plant identification coming soon . . .

I too find it hard to keep quite when inexperienced hands are in the garden.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2006 at 12:46PM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

Every spring, DH goes out and "helps" me by pulling weeds. One year he ripped out all my moonbeam coreopsis by mistake. Oh,well, at least the damage he causes gives me an excuse to buy more plants.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 9:23AM
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booberry85(5)

I think there might be "helpers" in a lot of peoples lives. The DH weed wacked my black-eyed susans last year. I was upset at the time, but they came back with a vengence! DH also weed wacked some gourd vines that escaped the garden fence. Those did not recover.

Margarete, you may also want to leave a note on the frig or the front door, letting your roommates know "Just separated Hostas on Patio. Will tend to later. Do not toss," or leave a note on your work that says "Margarete's, do not toss." I tend to leave the DH a LOT of notes to prevent confusion.

Boo

    Bookmark   March 24, 2006 at 12:59PM
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dancingmoons

My DH decided to weed one side of the backyard while i was working in the front yeard...Much to my dismay, he pulled out all of my Stargazer lillies...about 7 or 8 of them
:(
(Dont have a clue what he did with them)
I didnt tell him until about 2 weeks later cause i felt bad, as he was only trying to help, i should have shown him what NOT to pull out!
Now he basically edges, cuts grass, and trims hedges & trees...We are both happy campers LOL!!
Trish

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 3:45PM
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pjintheozarks(6A)

A few weeks ago I sketched out my plans for the yard, including a diagram, tasks and plant lists, and posted them in the kitchen. Then I went over them with everyone and told them to feel free to do anything or ask for my help with anything they want to do but donÂt know how. Then guess what happened - on Monday someone tidied up the patio and threw away a bag of 40 or so healthy hosta I had just divided because Âthey were weedsÂ! Even though it doesnÂt help my roomies understand how to identify weeds, it felt good to be able to point at the rectangle on the plan that said Âhosta bed right where the hosta had been sitting (not on the patio, btw).

I dunno man. I'd be thinking "lasagna gardening... about 4 foot by 6-7 foot... composting in place, deep down." ;-)

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 12:24PM
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sylviatexas1

appealing idea, pj.

It doesn't sound to me like they're trying to be "helpful" at all;
it sounds passive-aggressive.

"Oh, those were your expensive hostas? Sorry. Nobody told me."

& so, knowing that you didn't know, you took it upon yourself to throw away something that did not belong to you....why?

I'd declare my garden off-limits & enforce it by withholding damages from my share of the rent (or by adding damages to the guilty party's share of the rent, depending on the arrangement).

or by booting these people out & advertising for some nicer roomies.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 1:23PM
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dorisl(5)

Im with Sylvia you cant change them and they dont want to learn.

tell them DONT TOUCH ANYTHING EVER!!!!!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 11:55PM
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trowelgal(Kansas Zone 5)

I agree that you shouldn't let any of those people in your flower or veggie gardens. Let them clean and cook and you garden. A way to divide up the labor and keep all happy, no?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 10:35PM
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Happy2BeeME(4a NH)

Why not give them a section all of their own then they can do what they want and demand they leave your's alone.

I would be thinking...oh sorry I didn't know you still wanted the left over pizza or what ever and I tossed it out for you....just trying to help :) This worked with my children they learned real quick.

May I ask what the dog having worms has to do with vegie garden? Probably a stupid question I know but have to ask?

Karyn

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 5:29PM
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joelke(5)

These people have no way of knowing they are messing up if you do not tell them. How would they? If they really truly want to help garden, and you are willing, tell them to come out when you are working there and let you show them how to be helpful.
If they never come out while you're there, I'd be suspicious of their motives.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 11:34PM
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homesteadmommy

Yes I agree, you have to make it clear that they are mucking up. Nicely at first and if that doesn't work grrr LOL.
I've had garden helpers that thought they were really helping, but were just pulling out my flowers.
Dh also has accidentally mowed down a few of my flowers or fruit bushes. He replaces them and relly doesn't mean to do it. But reminding him were everything is planted helps. Especially if its a small mail order shrub in the lawn...

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 10:04PM
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medontdo(8)

if they don't want to help dont ask them to BUT if they do, then "I" would give them containers to work on, that's what i do with talla, who is 6 (almost) and she also has her own fairy garden. but that is besides the point!! LOL i would do the container for them only!! they are not nearly experienced enough for that!! and get plants from lowes!! LOL in fact id' take them to lowes to show them what plants are what, but only if they are interested, otherwise its a good way to make a good situation bad, i know, hubs and i don't get along sometimes over plants. if ya want them to be interested, what i did, was i got tabor (my 12 yr old son) into plants, by slyly showing him some flowers, HEE HEE and found out he likes cosmos' and zinnia's. but it was very sly!! almost like not even caring that he liked them. then i got them. LOL Medo

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 10:12PM
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javasmom(4)

First of all, take their interest as a compliment to your commitment to the garden -- and also understand that during the nicer times of summer the itch to garden can overcome any lack of experience!

So think of it like a bunch of toddlers in your kitchen who want to "help." Instead of letting them help you make dinner, let them play with the pots and pans! If you are worried about telling someone to "not to touch anything ever" you could try posting a list of (non-worrisome) things that need to be done. For the incorrigible "helpers" you could find something that they like to do, and set them up on a schedule for one or two tasks. For instance, edging every other week on Tuesdays, watering every other day, pulling weeds every Saturday, etc.

For the truly helpless-but-helpful, how about deadheading? Show them what to look for and how to pull off the deadheads, and they could wander through the garden every day feeling helpful. Later in the season you could direct this energy into saving seeds for next year.

Also keep in mind that, unless one of you is the landowner, none of you has sole rights to the garden. So, unfortunately, it falls to the most committed gardener (that would be you) to work hard to communicate to the others what needs to be happening. (Or not happening, as the case may be.)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 7:28PM
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