August can be a time of the year when a Nebraskan wishes the garden could just take care of itself. Perhaps hot temperatures, high humidity and biting insects have taken a toll, or maybe it is just “been there, done that” for three months. Whatever the reason, many people reach a point when they wish they had bought fewer plants in the spring.
While there is no such thing as a no-maintenance garden, there are ways you can reduce the work involved. Below are a few tips.
Pot-it-and-forget-it is not an option. Container pots need consistent watering. If you don’t want to spend your mornings schlepping a watering can to 40 pots like I do, you might want to limit the number you pot up in the spring. Believe me, I understand how challenging that can be. The garden center has so many beautiful plants; it’s hard to walk away with only a few. Even though most of my annuals are grown from seed indoors during winter, I still come home with more plants (hence the 40 pots around my house). Consider using large containers, which dry out more slowly and require less watering.
The perennial garden has great potential for reduced maintenance requirements. Instead of tender plants, which require removal or wrapping for winter, look for plants hardy to our area. Avoid plants that are a poor fit for the conditions of the garden. Don’t insist on growing acid-loving plants like rhododendrons in alkaline soil or moisture-loving plants in a windy, dry area. Give some thought to replacing some perennials with shrubs. Reconsider your spring bulb choices. Daffodils and iris are pretty during their short bloom period, but then you are stuck with unattractive foliage for weeks and eventually need to cut that off. (If you truly love those daffodils and iris, move them to the back of the garden; as summer perennials emerge, they cover up fading bulb foliage.)
Tired of tending a vegetable patch? Perhaps you should choose vegetables that do not yield multiple crops per season. Or consider container gardening – dwarf or bush types of vegetables do well in a sunny location on a deck or patio.
A lawn is the most time-intensive feature of the home landscape. You can reduce the level of maintenance through any or all of the following:
1) Reduce your expectations (really, clover isn’t that bad; pollinators love it).
2) Stop bagging lawn clippings – it’s extra work and not good for the turf. Returning clippings to the turf (as long as it isn’t so much it is smothering) will provide nutrients, thus requiring less fertilization, another time saver.
3) Eliminate little odd-shaped areas of turf that necessitate expert lawn mower maneuverability. Mulch them into a tree or perennial berm.
If you want absolutely no maintenance, install artificial turf, stick in some plastic flowers and call it good. Better yet, move to a condo.