Don’t let your spring garden enthusiasm lead to overplanting and the creation of a summer gardening nightmare. A design with maintenance in mind and some strategic care can help reduce the time you spend managing your gardens and landscape.
Consider using fewer plant species when designing perennial flowerbeds. Increase the number of each to boost the visual impact of the garden and reduce maintenance. You’ll have fewer species to manage, identify and differentiate from the weeds as they emerge in spring.
Select plants suited to the growing conditions and that do not require deadheading and staking. Avoid pest- and disease-prone plants as well as those that quickly multiply and overtake neighboring plants and the garden bed.
Design garden beds with gentle curves and avoid tight spaces that limit access and will make managing the surroundings difficult. Make sure all parts of the garden can easily be reached for planting, weeding, harvesting, and care. Add a path of wood chips or a few steppers, like Leaf Stepping Stones, to large garden beds as needed for easier access.
Reduce watering needs by growing plants suited to your area’s normal rainfall. Group moisture-loving plants together to minimize the amount of water used and time spent watering. Enlist the help of soaker hoses or drip irrigation like the Snip-n-Drip Soaker system (gardeners.com) when watering is needed. This irrigation system applies water to the soil where needed and can be cut with scissors to fit any garden that is planted in rows.
Reduce watering frequency, suppress weeds, and improve the soil with the help of organic mulches like leaves, evergreen needles, and wood chips. You’ll gain multiple benefits with this one task. Spread a one- to two-inch layer of mulch over the soil surface. Pull it away from tree trunks, shrub stems and off the crowns of flowering plants and vegetables. The finer the mulch material, the thinner the layer of mulch you’ll need.
Slow the infiltration of grass and weeds into garden beds and eliminate the need to hand trim with a bit of edging. Use a shovel to dig a V-shaped trench around the perimeter of the garden edge. Fill this with the same mulch used in your flowerbed to create a mowing strip around the garden bed.
Join forces with neighbors and rent an edging machine for the day or weekend. These machines can make it easier and quicker to accomplish this task. With a shared rental, you all save money and no one has to maintain and store the equipment.
Keep tools handy to save time and energy spent retrieving forgotten tools from the shed or garage. Weather-proof garden tool bags with multiple compartments make it easy to organize, store and carry hand tools, plant tags, gloves, and other small items to the garden. Or store them right where they are needed. Convert an old mailbox or invest in a small storage container like the waterproof Galvanized Garden Tool Storage Box. Mount it on the end of a raised bed, fence, or post to keep small tools, gloves, safety glasses, and more in a handy location.
Use carts, wagons, or a gardener’s summer sled when moving large or heavy loads. You’ll be able to accomplish the move with fewer trips and less muscle strain.
Take time this season to implement a few of these strategies. A few changes can save you time that you can instead spend relaxing, enjoying, or adding more gardens.
Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” instant video and DVD series and Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Gardener’s Supply for her expertise to write this article. Her website is www.MelindaMyers.com.