Top 5 Tips for the Low-Maintenance Gardener
Gardening can be a rewarding hobby, but it also requires a significant investment of time and effort. If you want an attractive garden without all the high maintenance, there are strategies you can employ. Here are 5 tips for the low-maintenance gardener to create an easy-care oasis.
1. Plant Low-Maintenance Perennials and Shrubs
The best plants for a low-maintenance garden are perennials and shrubs that grow vigorously but require minimal upkeep. Consider:
- Daylilies – bloom for months and then die back for winter
- Hostas – tolerate shade and grow quickly to form dense clumps
- Liatris (Blazing Star)- produces colorful spikes with very few pest issues
- Juniper – an evergreen shrub with great structure and no pruning needed
- Boxwood – neat, dense foliage and disease resistant
Look for plants labeled “tough,” “long-blooming” and “reliable.” Avoid plants known to be prone to pests, and disease or require regular dividing.
2. Limit Annuals and Bulbs
Annuals like marigolds, petunias, and lobelia as well as spring-blooming bulbs like tulips, daffodils, and crocus must be replaced every year. While they provide beautiful color, they require frequent deadheading and reseeding.
To simplify your garden, opt for displays of perennial and shrub plants that return year after year. Boost seasonal color by planting bulbs in confined spaces like containers.
3. Use Mulch Generously
Mulch is your best friend as a low-maintenance gardener. It conserves moisture, suppresses weeds, and moderates soil temperatures.
Apply around plants in spring after the ground has thawed. Aim for 3-4 inches of depth. Good mulch materials include:
- Chipped bark – attractive and long-lasting
- Pine straw – great for acid-loving plants like azaleas and blueberries
- Shredded hardwood – dark color offers weed suppression
- Pine needles – free mulch that decomposes slowly
Replenish mulch as needed, usually once or twice per year.
4. Mow Lawns Infrequently
A traditional lawn requires mowing once or twice each week in the growing season, plus frequent watering.
A more low-maintenance alternative is to space mows 2-3 weeks apart and allow turf grass to grow taller. This approach has benefits:
- Less water is needed – Taller grass has deeper roots to access moisture.
- Weeds are suppressed – Areas of bare soil where weeds take hold are reduced.
- Less time is spent mowing – You cut your workload in half.
Consider overseeding with shade-tolerant, low-grow grass mixtures suited to infrequent mowing.
5. Irrigate Deeply But Infrequently
Frequent, shallow watering promotes shallow root growth in plants which makes them dependent on you. Instead, practice “deep watering” at longer intervals.
- Water plants until the soil is moistened to a depth of 6-12 inches.
- Wait until the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry before watering again.
Signs plants need water include:
- Wilting or drooping foliage
- Leaves that are faded, yellowing, or curled
- Soil that is powdery or pulling away from container sides
Master the art of deep irrigation and you can water your garden just once or twice each week.
In conclusion, with the right plant selections, generous mulching, infrequent mowing, and deep watering at longer intervals, it’s possible to have an attractive, low-maintenance garden that meets your needs. Prioritizing perennials, shrubs, and groundcovers over more fragile annuals and bulbs can simplify upkeep dramatically. Following these tips will help you optimize the joy of gardening while minimizing the workload!