Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could enjoy an attractive, colorful garden without spending all of your free time working at it? It can be done, and all it takes is some knowledge about the right plants to use and application of a few simple tips and techniques. A little homework before you plant will pay off in the amount of your time and money spent, both now and in the future.
4 Proven Steps to an Attractive, Low Maintenance Garden:
1.) Choose plants that are known to be reliable and problem free for your area. Considering the bewildering array of plants available at the garden center right now, choosing the best for your needs will require a little guidance. Start by making a list of plants you like. With camera phone in hand look around the neighborhood and photograph plants that appeal to you. Take along the pictures when you ask your favorite garden center expert for proper identification. Consult gardening books, magazine articles, and the web to learn about the plants on your list. Enlist the help of garden center staffers to learn how well local conditions suit each plant.
A common mistake is to choose plants that look just right on planting day, and then rapidly outgrow their spaces, creating a continual maintenance headache. Select varieties that won’t outgrow the garden space you’ve allotted to them. Unlike an interior design that looks best the day it is installed, a landscape design should look its best several years later.
Look for compact varieties of plants. For instance, many traditional favorites, such as spirea, spruce, and butterfly bush are now available in compact forms that are much more likely to suit the scale of today’s smaller gardens. Most often these plants have parts of their names in single quotes, and are referred to as “named varieties”. Examples of some named, compact plants are ‘Goldflame’ spirea, dwarf ‘Serbian’ spruce, ‘Indigo Blue’ butterfly bush, and dwarf ‘Yetti’ hawthorn.
Named varieties offer resistance to pests and diseases that plague the common species. Examples include ‘Prairiefire’ crabapple that is resistant to both apple scab and fire blight, and ‘Knockout’ rose, which rarely is troubled by powdery mildew, a common rose disease. Disease – resistant varieties result in fewer pests, which ultimately translates into lower maintenance.
Some dwarf conifers, such as ‘Globe’ spruce, grow very slowly, as little as one inch per year. Such slow growers are more expensive because a plant that is only 4 to 6 feet tall may be 10 to 15 years old. Growers have invested as much time and materials in these as in plants that are much larger. The initial extra cost pays off over time because such plants need minimal, if any, pruning.
2.) Mulch well-prepared soil so plants get a strong start. After prepping planting soil with appropriate additives, don’t forget the mulch. It is a very effective weed deterrent. Spread a 2-3” inch layer of shredded cedar bark around plants. Cedar bark, as opposed to nuggets, chips, or additional rock provides the best coverage and, in my opinion, looks the best. As mulch breaks down it adds organic matter to the soil; it also shades roots in summer and acts as insulation in winter. I put down a fresh layer of mulch each spring with a light top dressing at the beginning of the season.
3.) Use soil moistening polymers to reduce weeds and conserve soil moisture. Reduce water usage by amending your plants’ soil with my specially formulated ‘Aqua Boost Crystals’. These mycorrhizal-infused crystals hold 200-300 times their weight in water and keep the soil moist at the root zone of each plant. The mycorrhiza fungi added to this formula infuse the soil and encourage plants to root deeply. These crystals are so effective that a plant’s demand for water can be cut in half . . . or more!
4.) Use an automatic clock to run your drip irrigation lines.
Even for plants requiring only minimal water, a drip-irrigation system on a timer eliminates standing in the yard with a hose to water plants. Since drip irrigation delivers most of its water underground, it really cuts down on the amount of water used and on weed growth, particularly during the dry summer months.
Plant of the Week is the Mystic Blue Spires Sage, Salvia ‘Balsalmisp’. The more heat and sun this sage receives, the more masses of true blue flowers it produces to tower above its knee-high foliage. Deer and rabbit proof, yet irresistible to butterflies and hummingbirds, this naturally compact and well-balanced plant is ideal for sunny container gardens and garden spaces that need sprucin’ up with more summer color.
Designer Wednesdays with Rich Olson. If you need serious help from a local landscape designer, Rich Olson will set up shop here at Watters Garden Center every Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. His first half hour of professional advice is free, including his digital enhancement of your landscape photos. This is an exceptional opportunity to address those difficult-to-design spots in your landscape. Rich also can do full scale landscapes with overlapping irrigation and lighting plans.
Free Gardening Classes – The summer class schedule has been posted and starts next Saturday, June 21 at 9:30 a.m. Our first class is entitled “Everything you Wanted to Know about Tomato Care”. See the entire summer class schedule at wattersgardencenter.com/classes.
Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at www.wattersgardencenter.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/watters1815