Enjoying a morning coffee or cup of tea surrounded by the peaceful harmony of a beautiful, lush garden is a relaxing way to begin any day. It is even more satisfying when you’ve created the environment yourself.
Of course, maintaining that beautiful garden sometimes delivers the opposite of relaxation. If you find your summer months filled with seemingly endless watering and weeding chores, you may consider giving up your outdoor space altogether.
But don’t throw in the towel quite yet. There are some easy strategies you can adopt that will give you the garden you want without all the work.
Choose Plants Wisely
Just like people, some plants are higher maintenance than others. When creating a low maintenance garden, choosing easy-to-grow flowers is one way to take the hassle out of maintaining your green space. Plants and flowers like lavender, marigolds, and daffodils are very easy to grow, even for beginners. Once established, these hearty plants require very little attention or care.
Before choosing any plant, though, it pays to understand your local climate. Knowing your hardiness growing zone and finding flowers best suited to it is one way to avoid future maintenance nightmares. Another way to get more results with less effort is to pay attention to the flowering schedules of the plants you eventually select. By choosing a variety of low-maintenance flowers with different bloom times, you can enjoy beautiful color all summer long without additional effort.
Perennials are also a great way to achieve a low-maintenance garden. Plants that come back year after year, with little to no intervention on your part, will go a long way toward turning your garden into a joy instead of a burden. Ornamental grasses are another great choice. Similar in performance to perennials, they offer a variety of colors and shapes that complement other plants. At the end of the growing season, you can opt to cut the grass down to its crown or leave the old growth for visual diversity throughout the colder winter months.
By choosing plants that will thrive in your local growing conditions, you eliminate unnecessary frustration and extra work in your backyard space.
Prepare Your Area
No matter where in the world you are, when it comes to growing a beautiful garden, everything begins with good soil. Most plants don’t need a lot to thrive, but well-fertilized, well-draining soil is your starting point for success. Mixing compost with your dirt before you start planting is one way to achieve this. Compost can be store-bought or made at home for no cost.
Once your garden is planted, weeds become your next concern. The good news is that keeping weeds at bay is fairly easy. Whether you’ve planted annuals, perennials, or shrubs, placing a layer of mulch four to six inches deep around your fresh plantings does two things. It slows down evaporation between waterings, keeping the soil around the plant roots consistently moist. It also blocks sunlight, keeping most weeds from ever taking root.
There is a variety of mulch available, from shredded wood and wood bark to stones and gravel. They all work on the same light-blocking and water-preservation principles. The type you choose depends primarily on aesthetics and what is readily available in your area.
Make Watering Easier
One thing the novice gardener often underestimates is the time it takes to keep a garden hydrated. Especially in the hot summer months, a garden will require a daily drink of H2O. For many people with busy schedules, the daily ritual of watering is a task that often falls by the wayside. Unfortunately, your garden needs regular watering to ensure optimal plant health and performance. This is when an automated watering system can be a lifesaver.
There are many types of automated watering systems available on the market and they all function in a similar way. A series of hoses or plastic tubing, controlled by a timer, delivers water to your garden. From basic to elaborate, they all offer the same benefits, too. Running on a timer, you’ll never have to drag the garden hose out again. Preset start and stop times mean over- or underwatering is a thing of the past. You can take your pick from basic systems with mechanical timers to high-tech offerings that you control from your smartphone.
Not ready to invest in an automated system? Another way to minimize the impact of a missed day or two of watering is to select drought-tolerant plants native to your region. Plants like aloe vera, butterfly bush, and yarrow can all withstand longer periods without water. So, if you get busy and forget a day or two of watering, it won’t result in your garden’s immediate demise.
Expand Your Outdoor Living Area
The long, balmy days of summer are the perfect time to entertain friends and family in your backyard. Take these gatherings to the next level by expanding your outdoor living space. Whether you extend your patio, build a fire pit gathering spot, or add a dedicated grilling area – or do all three – these projects all reduce the amount of green space left over for planting and maintenance.
There isn’t anything lower maintenance than having less garden area in the first place.
Likewise, in the garden space that remains, incorporate cozy seating areas that further reduce the area available for plants and flowers. Whether located in a shady nook or on a sunny patch of grass, these intimate resting spots blend harmoniously with your beautiful garden. By expanding your outdoor living spaces, you and your guests will have more room to spread out and enjoy the smaller and lower-maintenance garden you’ve created.
A US expat who has lived in many different regions of the world, Liz has honed her gardening expertise in a variety of climates and environments. Whether mastering the rainy environs of the Pacific Northwest to battling iguanas and other invasive garden critters on an arid Caribbean island, she’s been planting and experimenting with new gardening techniques for decades. You can find out more about her and her writing at www.lizwegerer.com.