Gardening: Good planting practices
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 help retain moisture until the plants have matured to completely cover the ground. Once that has happened you should only need to mulch the edges of your gardens. 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. Use large plants that naturally grow to the height and width you desire so only hand pruning is necessary.
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. That is as long as you treat them as natives and forego the water and fertilizer and plant them in the right place for the plant’s needs. Use plants with few insect and disease problems and those that are slow growing for less pruning. Better yet, determine the mature size of the plants and place accordingly in the garden. 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 but not over fed and watered and they will be vigorous and healthy. This is the best way to prevent problems which in turn can increase maintenance needs.
Eileen and Peter Ward have owned a landscape and lawn maintenance company for 35 years. Eileen can be reached at Gswdmarco@comcast.net or 239-394-1413.