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Creating a Low-Maintenance Garden25 June 2013
Then by mid to late summer, you realize your energy isn't quite the same and there are certain areas of your garden that, well, just don't look as tidy as you'd like. (At least in my case that's true!) Surely there are some ways to create the garden of your dreams that does not take as much time and effort...right?
Maybe there are.
Pick the Right Plants
1. First off, let's make certain you have selected the right plants for your area. The more you try to test the boundaries of garden zones and climates, the more difficult of a time you'll have in getting your plants to thrive. We've heard of zone 5 gardeners who can successfully overwinter perennials meant for zone 7 but be forewarned, they probably have to take extra precautions (read: extra work!) to help them survive.
2. If using perennials, choose plants that are slower growing so there is less of a need for dividing or thinning them. Your local garden center can help you make those choices.
3. When planting annuals, choose varieties that don't require a lot of dead-heading to stay tidy and clean. True of both annuals and perennials, the closer you space them, the more they'll starve out the weeds from growing and requires you to use less need mulch.
4. You might want to consider natives, which by their very name defines that they are hardy in your area and have already adapted to your climatic conditions.
5. Make good choices for companion plantings; for example, I interplant my hostas with spring bulbs so I get tulips and daffodils blooming before the hostas get very tall. Then, as the foliage of the bulbs begins to die back, the hosta leaves will grow up and over the yellowing foliage. No need to trim!
6. A well-planted mixed container is not only attractive, and easy to plant, but can require less maintenance since fewer weeds grow in fresh potting mix, especially if the plants are packed tightly in the container and drown out the weeds. Container gardens can certainly reward you with season-long color and about the only maintenance is watering.
7. Creating raised beds can reduce maintenance for a number of reasons but my favorite is because soil won't get as compacted so there is less need for tilling or digging when you're ready to plant.
Define Your [Relaxed] Style
8. If "relaxed style" gives you the chills, maybe it's because you prefer more formal, French-style gardens. And that's great but is certainly more labor-intensive to keep prim and proper. A cottage style garden of wildflowers or sweeping mixed borders with casual shapes and flowing lines tolerates a lot less pruning and fussing. If you have a lot of shade, try to mimic a naturalized woodland and let nature takes its course.
Use the Right Tools
9. I am so guilty of NOT taking this advice. Just like in the kitchen, I forget that a dull knife is not only dangerous, but it makes your work much more difficult than it should be. A sharp spade cuts deeper and cleaner. The right watering wand is easier to use and can reach where you need it to with little effort. So use the right tool for the job.
10. Will your budget allow for installation of sprinklers or drip irrigation? For me, watering all summer is my number one time-consumer and although it's an enjoyable task, I would feel less tied to the hose if I had some automated waterers installed.
Let's Go Garden!
Read more about creating a low maintenance garden from the National Gardening Bureau.