Garden Maintenance, It’s Just What You Make It.
Most people enter my back yard, and make one of two comments, “Oh how beautiful, this must be lots of work” or “I guess it looks like this because you do this for a living”. The truth is…it’s all relative. I do this for a living so I don’t want to come home and go back to work, I need a yard that is as maintenance free as possible and looks like a gardener lives here. Maintenance in a yard is exactly what you set it up to be. Here are the do’s and dont’s of low maintenance.
First, be sure not to bite off more than you can chew. Don’t get over ambitious, only plant what you are able to take care of in a season. If you want to plant a large area, start with a plan you can manage. A great way to accomplish this is to have a plan made for you by a professional such as myself so you can have a long term plan of attack. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you need to set a pace for yourself.
Once you have chosen an area to plant, remember to start small particularly if you are a beginner to allow yourself to have some success to avoid becoming discouraged. Make a plan. Scale out a size of the new garden space so you can choose appropriate plants in appropriate sizes. Research the plants you have chosen either choose from a reliable source like the City of Austin “Grow Green” booklet, or check out my Facebook page at Lisa’s Landscape & Design for several lists/photos of plants,trees,vines and edibles. Going to the nursery ill-prepared will only mean you’ll make poor impulse choices.
Once you have your plant selection laid out, be sure NOT to over plant. Instant gratification is not to be found in your garden the moment you plant it. Planting a new garden is about deferred gratification. While you might be excited about the new plants and bed you have prepared and happy you had it done, or labored through yourself, you wont really see it come to fruition for a couple of years. If you are finished and it looks like it has been there for several years…you either spent too much on full grown plants, or you did it wrong.
I suggest buying 1-3 gallon plants. If you are buying native and adapted they will grow plenty fast (with the exception of certain slow growing trees) and you can save money here. Smaller plants also require smaller holes and less water to establish. Space the plants appropriately, if they are to be 3×5, be sure to leave plenty of room for maturity. When the plant is full grown it should reach to the next plant without overlapping it. Also be sure to plant lower plants (this means you really need to know the mature height) in the front and tall ones in the back or middle to prevent plants being hidden later.
If you are planting appropriate sized plants for the space, than you will not have to continuously trim it. A great example is the builder plants that are frequently used as shrubs in the front of most people’s houses. When plants are the wrong size for the space they look a mess and are constant maintenance. Additionally, if you aren’t interested in monthly maintenance, be sure not to choose plants like Roses, some sages or plants that need to be trimmed for continued flowering, although this maintenance is minor.
By choosing native and adapted plants you will not have to amend the soil too much other than composting and mulching for the most part. Mulch needs to be in depths of 4-6″, yes…4-6 inches…this will help with moisture retention and weed control, translation…less work. Once your bed is established and the water is manageable, begin a new bed, and so on.
You can always expect semi-annual maintenance from any garden. You will need to compost your beds just before Spring and cut back the dead heads and dead wood or branches from your deciduous plants. Then you will need to re- mulch in the Fall (I recommend a shredded hardwood, no colors) to protect your plants roots from the hard freeze. Not to worry, you will never reach the top of your fence with mulch…it will decompose and amend your soil, blow away, convert into carbon, etc. You will need to add more mulch each year to maintain 4-6″.
basically, if you choose the right plants and space them properly, you will find that your maintenance is minimum, your garden will be more pleasureful, and you will have a lot more free time to enjoy it 😉
Lisa’s Landscape & Design
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”