No Work Garden?

No work may not be realistic but it is a great goal to work toward

No work gardens by Midwest Gardening.jpg

Our lives these days are so busy and demanding that even for devoted gardeners it is sometimes difficult to keep up with all the maintenance of beautiful gardens and landscaping. But for the busiest among us, we can still have a lovely, but very low maintenance oasis. Incorporate as many of these practices and ideas into the planning of your gardens and you can be sipping lemonade on the garden bench more than bent over tending plants.

If you are truly aiming as much as possible for a “no work” garden and lawn, you don’t need to resort to concrete and astro turf. But you do need to completely focus on a no work objective and consider sustainable ideas rather than selection of plants. Let the no work objective drive plant and design selections and change the way think about your relationship with nature in your property.

How to create a beautiful landscape requiring minimal maintenance

  • Start with great soil: well loosened, good drainage, weed free. Nutrient rich is less necessary only if you are choosing the right plants. When plants do need feeding, top dress with compost that slowly feeds your soil

  • Create large enough beds for shrubs and perennials so you can allow things to grow and spread without trimming.

  • Don’t plant annuals. Instead buy a ready made container of annuals and tropicals to accent a sitting area

  • Plan for beds to be completely filled when plants are full size to eliminate opportunity for weeds.

  • Select only plants that are as self sufficient as possible. Natives are an excellent choice that require little or no watering and feeding.

  • Limit the number of plants used. Large swaths of a single plant can be very pleasing and even dramatic. You will not have to learn the needs of a large number of plants.

  • Select only plants perfectly suited to your conditions - sun, soil, climate.

  • Fill shady areas with hosta and other ground covering shade plants.

  • Surround trees with woodland plants that don’t mind shade and tree roots.

  • Fill large areas with slow growing shrubs. Most evergreens often require little or no maintenance once established, as well as shade trees and flowering trees.

  • Ornamental Grasses are widely available that offer all season beauty and virtually no care.

  • Mulch deeply to hold soil moisture and inhibit weeds. It also unifies your design and keeps the garden looking neat.

  • Use drip irrigation. Wind soaker hoses through your garden in spring and leave them there all season. Hook it up and turn on the faucet in seconds to water entire gardens with no evaporation waste.

  • Add wide no care paths with gravel, permeable pavers or groundcover.

  • Use hardscaping to add interest and reduce lawn and garden space. See plenty of low to no maintenance ideas below.

  • Patio and lawn furniture should be of composite or recycled material or aluminum. If you insist on wood, hardwood requires less maintenance than softwoods.

  • Use no care accessories. Use vintage items or items allowed to age.

  • Be sure to include beautiful sitting areas.

No work plants by Midwest Gardening.jpg

High maintenance plants to eliminate:

  • No annuals

  • No vegetables

  • No tender plants

  • No staking

  • No seeded plants

  • No rabbit munching favorites

  • No climbing plants

Great Low to No Maintenance Plants to Use:

Resist your need to design a unique garden with variety flowers. Stick with these no fail garden staples.

  • Bulbs require virtually no care once planted. Find spring, summer and fall blooming bulbs.

  • Cranesbill perennial geranium is an easy flowering groundcover.

  • Daphne

  • Echinacea purpurea, the species flower purple coneflower. Virtually bullet proof.

  • Euonymus

  • Herbs can add foliage, are easy care, aromatic and certainly useful.

  • Holly

  • Lady’s Mantle Alcehmilla mollis for great foliage interest

  • Lavender

  • Rosa Rugosa, the original Salt Spray Rose can be left to fend for itself.

  • Stella d’Oro daylily

  • Perennial grass is usually drought tolerant and only requires cutting down yearly

  • Rudbeckia are free flowering and essentially take care of themselves

  • Russian Sage

  • Sedum are easy fall flowering, groundcover to tall

  • Thymus creeping thyme is a tough walk on me flowering groundcover

  • Vinca minor creates a lovely groundcover

  • Flowering trees

Do be careful about invasive and fast growing perennials and natives. Although they require no care, that can quickly take over a garden. Be sure to inquire carefully at a trusted garden center.

No Maintenance Hardscaping:

One of the methods often suggested for a low maintenance landscape is to reduce the lawn and add gardens. If you read the article “Grass is Easy” you already know that may not be a good idea. But the comparison in that article uses data from standard practices. Here we will be looking at the absolute easiest to care for lawn and garden ideas. A much lower maintenance lawn by proper management of the turf can keep lawn in your plan. But there is much more you can do to reduce work and add interest.

  • Create 4 to 8 foot wide water permeable gravel or crushed rock paths depending on your property size. Use deep crushed gravel and set stepping stones or pavers in the path.

  • Create large sitting areas with permeable pavers.

  • Use gravel, crushed rock or permeable pavers to create large service areas for trash, storage bins or sheds, tools and compost.

  • Replace lawn areas with a large deck with no maintenance composite materials.

  • Replace lawn areas with permeable paver patios

  • Accent with a large structure such as a gazebo or pergola made from no maintenance materials. Choose recycled or composite materials or aluminum to replace wrought iron.

Keep in mind that the “hardest” hardscape materials are the lowest maintenance. Gravel can get strewn about, wood decking needs staining, composite may need a little cleaning, slate and concrete slabs may only need an occasional sweeping.

Minimal Care Lawn

There are actually several things you can do to maintain an easy care “lawn” space depending on your preferences. Reducing if not eliminating the lawn can be done creatively, naturally and beautirully.

  • Shape bed and border edges in easy to mow long straight edges or gently curved corners.

  • Edged or paved borders are easiest to mow

  • Use a mulching mower to leave clippings on the lawn

  • Employ practices that reduce lawn maintenance such as: keep the grass 3 inches or longer; water deep, early in the day, and infrequently; fertilize lightly and infrequently just to keep the lawn healthy but not rich green and fast growing; aerate as necessary.

  • Use a low maintenance grass species that requires less mowing, less water and less fertilizing

  • Replace large areas of lawn with a wildflower garden that simply needs to be mowed down once a year.

  • Replace large areas of lawn with eco-friendly ground covers that require no mowing virtually no care

  • Replace large areas of lawn with artificial turf, they really do look and feel better than ever

High Maintenance Plants that you insist on having

We all have things we just can’t bring ourselves to give up. Perhaps your beloved Delphiniums or a small vegetable plot. If you must keep them, be sure to locate them where they are easy to get to and close to the water spout. Container plantings should be in very large troughs or barrels to minimize watering. Don’t let yourself get carried away with must-haves, your objective is to eliminate work!!

Sharon DwyerComment