Saturday, October 11, 2008

Low-Maintenance Gardening

Neophyte gardeners seldom realize the amount of work it takes to make a successful garden. Low-maintenance is a relative term. Especially during the 1st few years, even a low-maintenance garden requires a lot of work. There is a reason that so many lots are covered with lawn & almost nothing else. Lawn requires by far the least amount of time & money. The most time-consuming chore is also the least appealing: weeding. Any new planting quickly becomes filled with weeds. Left to grow, they often choke out the new garden plants. Weed at least once a week during the 1st 2 growing seasons. Be very careful to water regularly during the summer. Inspect your watering system frequently to see that water is available for every plant. Even with this effort, some of the plants are going to die. Budget money to replace them. After 2 or 3 years things become easier, if you have prepared to keep maintenance low.

Rules for Low-Maintenance Gardens

1 Plant lots of shrubs. Next to lawn, they are the least trouble. They grow fairly quickly to shade & cover the ground. Most weed seeds sprout only in ground open to sunlight.

2 Plant lots of groundcovers. Not only do they shade the ground, but they compete for space with weeds. Leave no ground uncovered.

3 Cover any remaining open ground with mulch. Bark mulch does a good job of weed suppression until groundcovers get a chance to grow.

4 Plant few perennials. They require staking, dead-heading, cutting back & dividing. Choose perennials that don’t require staking, dead-heading, or dividing.  They all require cutting back.

5 Be careful what you plant under trees. Falling leaves, branches & debris can smother plants. Avoid planting perennials (except for bulbs) small shrubs & evergreen conifers under large trees. Use large shade-loving shrubs with perennial shade-loving groundcovers beneath them.

6 Avoid hybrid roses.  They are prone to disease & require constant pruning.

7 Avoid hedges or anything that needs to be clipped.  A fence is much less trouble.

8 Don’t plant next to lawn without a barrier. Grass is very invasive.