Home Guru

A Shorthand Method to Planning a Low-Maintenance Garden

Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

We are part of The Trust Project

By Bill Primavera

When I was a single homeowner with a property to be maintained, a feeling of near euphoria would greet me with the first breath of spring as I would anticipate my first days in the garden.

Year after year, I could always be assured that I had at least five or six months ahead of me where, whenever stressed, all I had to do was put on my garden gloves to zone out and unwind outdoors.

In ensuing years, however, that enthusiasm dampened somewhat, first by “gardener’s knee,” then a schedule that sometimes had me choosing the easy chair and TV for relaxation in my dwindling free time rather than anything more strenuous in the open air.

Yet, I still wanted to have my property always looking its best, especially when it came time to sell it.

Now is the time for planning a low-maintenance garden that will eventually require only a one-weekend planting schedule, another for clean-up and only occasional touch-ups from spring to fall.

My main objectives in creating an attractive but low-maintenance property were to plan for as much color as possible throughout the spring, summer and fall and to beat the weed and deer munching problems.

To accomplish the first goal, I spent my first years of home ownership in planting foundation flowing trees and shrubs that promised to return year after year, requiring only pruning either in the spring or fall. These included spring blooming apple and cherry trees, lilac, forsythia, azalea, rhododendron and late summer blooming Rose of Sharon.

I always considered carefully which plants I put into my garden and which I kept out. On the “out” list were roses, which can kill you from the constant attention needed (except for the “Knock Out” variety, which are more forgiving), and annual flowers for cutting, which can be as intense a process from seedlings to the eventual cut as raising a child.

“In” was anything that blooms every year with no attention from me, such as phlox, Shasta daisies and black-eyed Susans.

Accompanying those bursts of color were swaths of daffodil, crocus and hyacinth bulbs planted in wire cages to keep the squirrels at bay.

For colorful ground cover that spread like wildfire, I planted clumps of periwinkle whose purple blossoms last for weeks. Another trusty foundation planting of several varieties was hosta, also blooming in spires of purple and white.

In the spring, just a bit of time is required to trim spring flowering shrubs right after blooming for thicker growth and more blooms next year. And, just as the gardener is tending to the perennial beds, the earliest spring bulbs will be blooming. Afterwards, the gardener should deadhead them (remove the remains of the blossoms) but not remove the leaves. If left to die back naturally they feed the bulbs for next year.

For time efficiency, the concept of annual flowerbeds was replaced by a collection of urns in focused areas of the property, filled with very hardy geraniums that lasted throughout the season.

Step two of my no-work garden was the easy way to keep weeds, invasive plants and deer at bay. The principal deterrent to weeds is to employ thick mulch doing its triple-duty miracle work of retaining moisture while inhibiting weed growth, plus adding nutrients to the soil as it decays.

I have a money-saving trick in achieving a thick mulch look. Regular mulch can be quite expensive, so I asked my friends who would cut and prune my trees to drop a full load of really clean chips near my driveway, and I used them in all my garden beds as a first layer. Then, I covered that layer with a mere skin of the more expensive mulch.

My third element for easy gardening was to utilize certain products necessary to keep the invaders of the garden, both plant and animal, at bay. One is the fabulous Preen, those tiny granules keep weeds from germinating. Another is Round-Up, which kills those invaders like grout weed that are not destroyed by Preen. (A recent gardening column advised readers that the only way to get rid of grout weed was to move!) I would spray the Round-Up directly on the leaves of this garden predator and systemically they died off.

And the third product, Bobbex, keeps the deer from wishing each other bon appétit over my hosta and geraniums. (They don’t much like the rest of the plant.) While Bobbex must be sprayed at least once a month to continue its effectiveness, it’s a small price to pay to assure that you won’t lose an entire bed of plantings to one evening of deer indulgence. (Also, spray again if there is a tremendous rainstorm.)

Be mindful of what William Shakespeare wrote: “Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste.” With the tricks outlined here, you can enjoy the sweetness of the flowers and make haste in banishing the weeds, along with Bambi.

Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914- 522-2076.


We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.