“Tending” is the key word in the title. I’ve seen garden writers advise their readers to tend to their gardens rather than toil in them. This is what I advocate, too. Although there is no such thing as a maintenance-free landscape, you can strive for a low maintenance landscape.
Steps to a low maintenance landscape include…
• Selecting plants that are resistant to insects and diseases. Do your homework before you buy plants, and cross those that are favored by persistent pests off your list. Two examples that come to mind are ash and hemlock trees. Ash trees are being decimated by emerald ash borer and hemlocks by the hemlock wooly adelgid. These two examples also put to rest the assertion that native plants are more resistant to pests. We are being invaded by foreign pests, and our native plants have no defense against them, and the pests have no natural enemies to keep them in check. This is leveling the playing field between native and introduced plants. Just make sure any introduced plant you select will behave itself. Many become invasives that are difficult to control.
• Buy only low maintenance plants. If you have high maintenance plants in your landscape now, consider removing them and replacing them with something that’s less work. Many perennials, for example, are high maintenance. They spread to the point that they must be dug up and divided periodically. Some require dividing every year. Replace them with shrubs that only need to be pruned once a year or even less. Even better, consider including dwarf conifers in your plant palette. Many of them can go years without even having to be pruned.
• Reduce the size of your lawn. Turfgrass is, arguably, the most high maintenance plant in your landscape. A lush, green lawn requires multiple fertilizer and weed control applications every year, as well as applications of grub control and other lawn insecticides. This doesn’t include the time required to mow once or twice a week during the growing season. Ground covers, and even moss, are the most popular alternatives. Some designers are replacing large grass areas with planting beds. Cottage gardens and wildflower gardens also make attractive lawn alternatives in the back yard.
• Plant annuals in containers. Planting annuals in containers is becoming increasingly popular among gardeners. By container, I’m not just talking about plain old terra cotta pots on the patio. Containers include window boxes, raised beds, and even elevated beds. Elevated beds look like big window boxes on legs. Some are even on wheels. Raised beds are available in all shapes, sizes and colors. You have your choice of materials, also – wood, metal, plastic and even a combination of several materials. Garden centers have huge selections of decorative containers in all shapes, sizes and materials. Why plant annuals in containers? It’s easier on the knees. You’ll be able to raise the containers up to you rather than you having to get down to them. You can sit or stand, possibly putting off the onset of knee problems – an occupational hazard of gardeners. Containerizing annuals also makes it easier to change them out during the season or as summer fades into fall. You can make planting even easier by planting the flowers in nursery pots and just slipping them into the decorative containers. You won’t even have to wash and disinfect the decorative container when changing out plants.
These are just a few ways in which you can work smarter, rather than harder, on your landscape. Adopting these practices now, regardless of your age, may put off being forced to adopt them as joints begin wearing out as you age. For professional help, you can call on our landscape design professionals.