Low Maintenance Gardening
* Written by: Todd Haiman is a landscape and garden designer, principle of Todd Haiman Landscape Design in New York City which designs and builds residential gardens, roof gardens, brownstone gardens, large landscapes, vacation properties and public spaces.
Whether your garden is a vertical landscape design or an urban landscape design it will require some maintenance. Low or easy maintenance gardening is what many people would like to embrace, either through necessity or preference. No garden will be a zero maintenance garden but most gardening activities have a lower input solution or alternative to consider.
A professional garden designer can design a low maintenance garden, but there is no such situation where it could be a no maintenance landscape or no maintenance garden design. Even a "landscape" of non-living material such as a concrete slab requires some maintenance. Over time it needs cleaning, over time it cracks due to the freezing and thawing effects of winter.
Here are some steps you can take for a low maintenance garden that you apply yourself.
1. Minimize the amount of lawn coverage. No ground cover or perennial plant you can name needs to be watered, mowed, and fed as often or as much as a lawn. Try using aggregates as a ground cover.
2. Choose plants wisely. Do research. Select plants specifically that are low maintenance plants. Ornamental grasses are extremely low-maintenance plants. The majority of rose selections while incredibly romantic, sensuous and gratifying are high maintenance with the management of aphid infestations, mildew and black spot.
3. Mulch. Mulch. Mulch. This is your greatest asset in the garden. It conserves moisture so you water less, balances temperature shifts, minimize freezing and thawing in the winter, and suppresses weed growth.
4. Limit containers. Containers need lots of maintenance from planting up, re-potting and feeding, to watering and handling. If you do opt for planters, try to use larger ones with greater volume of compost, as these should dry out less quickly.
5. Wrong plant, wrong place. Don't insist on growing rhododendrons on a chalky soil, or bog plants in a windswept dry garden. Equally, remember that lawn grasses are really plants suited to open conditions. Lawns planted in a shady brownstone garden yard, will always be difficult to keep to an acceptable quality. Consider performing a soil test to truly understand your garden and what plants are most suited.
6. Tender plants. These require seasonal tasks such as lifting, winter wrapping, moving to a protected environment or annual propagation. Instead, look for plants that are deemed fully hardy which can be left outdoors year round.
7. Hedges. If you can be patient with slower growing hedging plants until they reach the necessary height such as yew (Taxus baccata) or holly (Ilex aquifolium) you will be pruning less often. One "haircut" a year rather than 3/4 times a year.
Applying these principles in your garden design will cut down on the amount of work you'll perform and increase the amount of time you can relax in your garden.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor!
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