When it comes to landscaping, simplicity equals good design and low maintenance. Low maintenance landscapes are designed so that every shrub, tree and flower-bed will all have definite functions. It is best not to over plant and to eliminate as many frills and flower beds as possible.
Fewer, well placed gardens help reduce landscape maintenance.
Arrange your plants in masses. Scattered plants need edging and weeding and can complicate mowing. Avoid planting grass where it is too shady, dry, wet or too steep to be safely mowed. Use ground cover or other plants in these areas. Mulches help to minimize weeds and retain moisture. Use gravel, bark or pine straw and occasionally pull or spray weeds that come up. Don’t over fertilize. It isn’t a good horticultural practice and results in more pruning or mowing. It also invites insects to all the tender new growth.
A bed around trees eliminates trimming and speeds mowing. It will help to protect the bark from damage by the lawn tools. Make the beds wide enough so you don’t run into low hanging branches when mowing. Define borders of walks, driveways and beds more clearly with metal, wood or brick edging.
This also helps keep stones and mulch in place and the grass from growing into walks, etc. thus reducing trimming. Create paths with gravel, stepping stones or paving where foot traffic is heavy. Be sure walks and gates are wide enough for the lawn maintenance equipment. Power equipment speeds maintenance time.
Use fences or hedges for privacy or a wind break. A fence would require less space than shrubs or you can select plants which are low maintenance.
When planting a vegetable garden only grow what your family can use. Allow enough room between rows for easy cultivation. Power tilling would save hours of hand work. Narrow beds are easier to weed in the center. Large masses of annuals give you bold color with less maintenance.
Prune trees so the wind can move through them and so more light reaches the grass through the thinned branches.
Native plants are suited to our local climate and soil and are less susceptible to pest problems making them lower maintenance. Use plants with few insect and disease problems and those that are slow growing for less pruning. Buy quality plants. Replanting or treating sickly plants takes time and money. Inspect your plants before you buy them. Shop at reputable nurseries and garden centers that are neat and well cared for. Don’t buy plants with excessive new growth or with scarred, cracked or peeling trunks or branches. Plants should be compact and not leggy. Inspect leaves for proper shape, size and color and examine them for insects or disease problems. Make sure the root system is not growing out of the pot.
Nothing is more important than good planting practices. Prepare your planting hole with water, fertilizer and any necessary amendments. Be sure your plant is in a site it prefers. Practice preventative maintenance.
Keep plants and lawns well fed and watered and they will be vigorous and healthy. This is the best way to prevent problems which in turn increase maintenance needs.
Eileen Ward and her husband, Peter, own and operate Greensward of Marco Inc., a lawn maintenance and landscaping company. Besides completing horticultural courses from the University of Florida, she has a commercial maintenance spray license and is a registered dealer in agricultural products in Florida.