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Low Maintenance Garden

I live in the country, but work in town and find I have less and less time for my flower beds. I need some advice on how to make them more maintenance free, but still have some color and beauty.

I can certainly sympathize with your plight of not having enough time to spend in your flower garden. I love to garden and find it very relaxing, but there are times when it is just plain work.

My first suggestion would be to determine the amount of time you have to spend in your garden and then consider the size of your garden. Keep the design simple. Maybe reducing the manicured portion and enlarging the natural portion would alleviate some of the problem. Later on down the road if you find that you have extra time on your hands to spend in the garden you can always expand.

To make your flower beds easy to maintain, evaluate how your plantings work with their surroundings. A garden that works with rather than against the environmental conditions will save you time and effort. Group plants with similar cultural requirements together and in the right spot. For instance, combine drought tolerant plants in areas that stay dry and group plants that enjoy moist soil or ‘wet feet’ in a wetter area.

If you’re spending a considerable amount of time watering, consider putting in some drip irrigation lines and irrigate each zone separately.

While both perennial and annual flowers are beautiful, they can be heavy maintenance, especially if deadheading is required to keep them blooming or they spread aggressively. Be selective in your choice of plant material as some require much less care than others. And do the research; make sure the ones you choose are not prone to disease or insects. Consider using some of the smaller or dwarf flowering shrubs as they require less maintenance and flower beautifully. As an added bonus, look for those that are fragrant as well. At heights of 12, 18 or 24 inches, they integrate beautifully in flower beds.

Other ideas include installing a mowing strip such as a brick edge to your beds so you can mow close and eliminate line trimming. Use landscape fabric and mulch to help retain moisture and control weeds. Replenish your mulch once every year. Use ground covers as ‘living mulch’ to fill in bare spots. When you are ready to plant it the area simply pull out the ground cover. And keep your tools handy and organized. Wasting time searching for the right tool means less time spent enjoying your flowers.