Raise your hand if you want to grow all the things! I'm guilty. I read gardening blogs, online threads, and get sucked into Facebook gardening groups that tease and torment my restraint. I can't help but think how pretty this is or how much I would like to grow that.
A few years ago, things got really out of hand when I moved into my first owned home and even though I didn't move that often before, I had been a renter. So, until the spring of 2015, I always had to keep in mind that anything I planted would be left behind someday. I couldn't make drastic changes to the landscape either.
Then, I finally had a permanent place. A gardening magazine arrived with a picture of a gorgeous hydrangea on the cover... off to the garden center I went. Red Hot Poker Flower? Ohh, that's cool. I need one of those. Wait, I can plant these leftover mums in the garden once they're finished blooming? Done!
Before long, I had what Margaret Roach (A Way to Garden) calls a polka-dot landscape. I looked around and while I had done a lot, my garden lacked cohesion and purpose. My wallet was also feeling the pinch.
I knew I needed to get control of the chaos - and leave myself a little dough at the end of the month - but where should I begin?
I decided to evaluate what I really wanted to grow and set some priorities. Vegetable gardening was my first love, and regardless of what else I did or didn't grow, vegetables would be the top priority.
The process of setting guidelines continued that way. I walked through my yard and thought hard about the things that I absolutely must have and was honest about what I didn't need.
Through this process, I landed on the acronym BENS, which stands for Beneficial, Edible, Native, Special.
Beneficial means plants needed to either feed or attract beneficial insects or organisms. Edible, of course, stood for the vegetables and herbs that I loved so much. Natives is pretty straightforward. Native plants were a growing interest and I knew they were probably the only things that stood a chance when planted directly into my heavy clay soil. Special includes things like my great-great-grandmother's daffodils or pansies that remind me of a thoughtful aunt.
Does it work? Mostly. BENS keeps me from running off to buy every plant that I fall in love with. Instead, I'm buying with intent.
Yes, there are lots of special plants, more natives than I could ever find space to grow, and tons more veggies I wish I had in my garden. That was on purpose because I knew if my guidelines were too limiting, I wouldn't stick with it.
BENS fits just right. It gives me wiggle room and helps me stay focused on my priority plants instead of trying to grow all the things!
If BENS works for you, I hope you'll adopt it. If not, do an assessment of your own priorities and decide on the musts for your garden. Keeping a focus on certain types of plants will not only help hone your skills as a gardener it will leave a little something in your wallet too.