The person who originally landscaped my yard chose flowers and bushes based on what they looked like in the nursery, without any consideration given to how much work they take to maintain or what they contribute. Before RA I hated weeding the garden; it’s worse now that my hands ache for days after pulling weeds. Low-maintenance/high-yield plants would be ideal.
For instance, my low-maintenance lavender hedge is green all year and bears beautiful flowers in the summer. Weeds aren’t a problem because I mulch heavily. Instead of hand-pruning all the flower stalks, I take the weed-eater to them – either in autumn or spring, depending on the weather and when I get around to it. I know some gardeners are appalled that I take a weed-eater to my lavender, but it’s quick and easy, and my plants are flourishing. The weed eater can be wrapped with foam to make gripping it easier.
Some plants do well with a groundcover beneath – sort of a living mulch to keep down the weeds. I recently put in a hedge of evergreen huckleberries, and underplanted the bushes with lingonberries. Everything is heavily mulched to keep in the moisture and keep down the weeds until the lingonberries spread.
Mulch is your friend. It holds moisture in the ground, which means less work watering. It inhibits weeds, which means less work weeding. It’s free! Grass clippings make great mulch (provided your grass hasn’t gone to seed).
My high-maintenance landscaping? With the help of a few friends, I’ve ripped most of it out and am happily learning about useful plants to take their place. My plant wish-list has gotten much longer than the space I’m looking to fill or my budget will allow, which means I’ll put in only some things this year, then spend the summer preparing new beds for the future. In addition to my aforementioned huckleberries, I’ve planted blueberry bushes and peach trees, and have some artichokes in the greenhouse to be planted out in mid-May.
It’s fun changing the landscaping in my yard to plants that will be easier to maintain. If you’re inclined to take on a similar project, a few things have been helpful. GoogleMaps let me zoom in on my house, which allowed me to get a perfectly-to-scale picture. I was able to print it and use the picture as my “sketch” for writing in measurements and deciding on locations for the plants I want to put in. Another thing I discovered is that local nurseries charge less than mail-order nurseries and generally carry plants that will grow well in your area. That said, mail-order nurseries are a great source for varieties not stocked by the local nursery.
- Coat your hands with vaseline before donning your gardening gloves. They’ll be softer and easier to clean when you’re done.
- Invasive plants like mint can be contained in pots.
- If you want to grow herbs, make a plan as to where you’d like to grow them, but only add 2-3 per year so you get time to learn how to use them without being overwhelmed.
- Herbs make good landscaping plants, and can cut down on your grocery bill. Sage and thyme are evergreens that are very easy to grow. Stick them in the ground and ignore them until you need a few leaves.
- Don’t be a slave to the zone maps. Microclimates can let plants do well in areas that the experts say they shouldn’t. For example, rosemary is labeled a tender evergreen, but mine is in outdoors in the ground and at six foot tall has survived weather down in the teens, simply by being in a slightly protected location.
- Moisture-loving plants will do better by a swimming pool than will plants that like well-drained soil.
- Lay a board on grass to kill it before establishing a new bed. Keep it well-weeded for a year (or two) before putting in new plants.
- Raised beds can be built 2-3 feet tall, which makes it possible to sit in a chair while tending plants.
- Some of the garden planning software has a 30-day free trial period. It’s nice to try before you buy (or determine you don’t want to buy).