We’ve all seen the pictures in the magazines or driven by the homes with
spectacular gardens. The beds are bursting with color, the trees and shrubs have an artistic form, and the lawn is like the something from Augusta National.
Of the many improvements we can make to our house, the landscape may be the most noticeable and one of the most desirable. Yet, many homeowners have great hesitation when it comes to dealing with their landscape.
For the sake of this article, we are considering low-maintenance landscapes that would provide a big impact. We’ll assume that you are working long hours and that spending some time on your weekends in the garden is ok, as long as there is time for everything else. We’ll also assume that you want some of those head-turning looks from the neighbors as they drive or walk by. We may even fool them into thinking you spend a lot of time in the garden. Nothing wrong with that!
Let’s start with plant selection. A low maintenance plant should be one that will tolerate our climate, or zone, and only need an occasional pruning to keep it in shape. It will also either provide some color through flowers or leaves and/or have an interesting shape without quickly overwhelming its location. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. We have plenty of fantastic plants like spirea, dwarf lilac, and azalea that meet these requirements.
If you’ll notice I slipped in a comment about ”occasional pruning” in the last paragraph. It is our experience that many homeowners over-prune to the point of removing flowers, rendering the plant a shape that is only fitting for an amusement park, and ultimately creating much more work than needed as the frequently pruned plant always looks like it needs another pruning. Let your plants grow into their natural shape and only make selective cuts to maintain that shape. Hand pruners are much better than shears for most pruning jobs.
The other challenge with any garden is weed control. You can pile on the mulch so heavy that you won’t have weeds. Of course, you also won’t be allowing water and air to reach your desirable plants. Keep your mulch to 2 to 3 inches and plan on spraying your weeds or pulling them.
The key to weed control is to keep up with it. Consider having a one gallon sprayer with some Roundup that you keep handy in the garage. If you don’t like using chemicals, there are some soap-based products that work well or you can always hand cultivate weeds with any of a number of garden tools. A weekly walk around the property to take care of the weeds works better than the once-a-year. all-day weed war.
For season color with annuals, we recommend either massing your annuals in a prominent location near the front door or property entrance or consider using pots on the front porch or deck. By massing them, you will create a much bigger impact than planting one here and one there. Annuals will need water to become established so plant them where water is readily available. In your pots you can use soil absorbing crystals that reduce watering substantially.
Your beds can look great but if your lawn is full of weeds the effect can be lost. Lawn fertilization with either standard or organic products is a fairly easy job. You can get by with as few as two treatments per year or up to six or more. Most garden centers and hardware stores sell products for the particular season. The key is to apply the products evenly so that there is no "striping." We recommend applying at one half the recommended rate but going over the lawn twice to ensure coverage.
This is actually a "Cliff’s Notes" version of a lunch ‘n’ learn I recently did for Cincy Chic. The room was packed, so we knew it was a popular topic and had to do this article for this week’s Real Estate issue! Click here to listen to the audio of the lunch ‘n’ learn.
Photo courtesy of Wimberg Landscaping