CAROLE McCRAY'S 'THE POTTING SHED:' How to create a low-maintenance garden
March 02, 2014 1:40 AM
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Becoming over-enthusiastic in the spring with creating larger beds, edging existing beds, spreading mulch and tending to newly sprouted perennials can leave your energy at a different level come late summer. It doesn’t have to be that way. Your time and efforts can be minimized.

The following tips are from readers who shared ideas with The National Garden Bureau. I have also added a few of my own gardening tips.

• Choose plants suited for your garden zone. It is easy to become enticed with plants in a zone 8 that only work well in a zone 5 if you can over winter them. It’s a fine idea if you are prepared for the additional work to keep plants going till the next gardening season.

• Choose annuals and perennials that don’t require a lot of deadheading; for example, New Guinea impatiens, portulaca, Shasta daisies and coneflowers.

• Look at native plants. Often hardy to your climate zones means native plants have become adaptable to your climatic conditions.

• Try companion plantings. One suggestion is to interplant hostas with spring bulbs; tulips and daffodils are early bloomers before hostas grow tall. The large hosta leaves will grow up and cover the yellow foliage of the finished bulbs, so it won’t be necessary to trim the foliage.

• Container planting means less maintenance because fewer weeds grow in fresh potting mix. Tightly pack plants in the container to keep down the weeds. Choose containers that have wheels on the bottom for easy mobility to catch the sun or to enjoy some shade.

• Raised beds are another way to lessen maintenance. They do not require the bending as other beds do, and since the soil won’t compact as much as other beds, you won’t be tilling or digging when it’s planting time.

• What’s your style? Decide if you want a more formal, neat and tidy garden or a garden of less formal design typical of a cottage garden; with areas of shade, plants with a naturalized woodland look will require less care.

• Choose the best tool for the job. Sharp tools make the work easier than dull tools.

• Consider installing sprinklers or drip irrigation if your budget can afford it.

• Plant evergreens as opposed to trees that drop their leaves. Then there will be less raking.

• Try ground covers instead of places where you would have a lawn. Sedum, periwinkle, sweet woodruff and creeping juniper are good choices.

• Ornamental grasses such as purple fountain, blue fescue and blue oat grass are beautiful and require a once-a-year cutting.

• Practice healthy gardening and good garden hygiene by keeping the garden free of weeds, pests and diseases. This will minimize gardening chores.

• Plant new plants at a time when you are available to give them a good start with regular watering.

These tips should help you create a garden with more time to enjoy your plants and less time to fuss over them.

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