We love our lists when it comes to the soft news universe – whether it’s home & garden, beauty & fashion or food & dining, lists of ten best, ten worst, what to buy and what not to buy, or what to do and what not to do abound.

I was always a fan of the Dos and Don’t columns. Glamour magazine used to have a great one (is it still there?).

While I may have stopped paying as much attention to the beauty and fashion lists, I still love the food, home and garden ones.  With gardening, I like the Dos and Don’t, rather than top ten.

I find that my preferences here lie with Dos that are really Don’ts.  My two favorites are “Do no harm,” and “Do as little as possible.” The second was the reason why, decades ago,  I immediately ignored the advice on how to take care of the roses I had inherited at our new (old) house. I actually did buy the products I was advised to use, but once I unfolded the long accordions of instructions stuck to the various sprays, I decided it looked like too much trouble. It helps that this stuff usually smells awful. I still have roses and they seem fine.

“Do as little as possible” applies to most of my garden practice, but especially in fall, when everyone gets busy with cleaning and neatening operations. I do nothing because I know winter will eradicate anything I might want to clean up.

But then “Do no harm” steps in. I can’t leave heavy mats of leaves covering my perennials beds because they’ll smother whatever is trying to come back to life in the spring. I’ve often found sad little greenish white bulb stems prone on the ground, after clearing away big wet clumps of leaves. The leaves must go, donated to the municipal compost operation.

Fortunately, after that, I can go back to “Do as little as possible.” Until all 1200 of the bulbs I ordered come in. Then I have to figure out the “as little as possible” way of planting them. 

Image: This Japanese maple/strobilanthes combo will be left alone as long as possible.