4 landscaping tips to create a low maintenance garden

4 landscaping tips to create a low maintenance garden

Wouldn't it be nice to have a beautiful garden without giving up your entire Saturday to maintain it? Is it actually possible to have a garden and still have time to "stop and smell the roses?" 

After spending over thirty years gardening, I have discovered several ways to weed out time wasters in the garden. Here are a few tips to give you more time to enjoy your garden and less time working in it. 

1. Right plant – right place.

The single most important thing in creating a low maintenance garden is to put the right plant in the right spot. This sounds simple, but a beautiful garden depends on this more than anything else. You might get azaleas to survive in a sunny spot, but you will spend more time watering. 

Instead, choose a nice shady spot, where they will thrive with much less effort. Also, keep in mind how large a mature plant/shrub will be when planting near walkways or driveways. 

Planting a one-year-old gardenia a foot off the driveway may look nice for the first three years, but a mature gardenia will grow to be six foot wide and just as tall. By the forth year, you will have to park the car on the street, as the gardenia will have taken over the driveway. 

2. The importance of mulch.

Secondly, don't skimp on mulch. Too many times, people think they are saving money by buying less mulch. Wrong! You need to keep a three to four inch layer of mulch around your plants to keep weeds at bay. Ideally, this should be done twice a year. 

Also, while I do not use weed killers in my beds, (anything with the name "killer" in it cannot possibly be good for my flowers), I have found Preen, a pre-emergent, to be helpful in the battle against weeds. Just sprinkle a light layer on the ground before mulching to help slow down weed germination. 

Generally, I tend to forgo the use of landscape fabric, mainly because I have pulled out so much of it from clients’ flowerbeds, which are sometimes literally covered in weeds. Landscape fabric is more effective in areas that won't be disturbed by frequent digging. If you plant annuals, which have to be changed each season, it is more trouble than it is worth to use the fabric. 

3. Go small.

Choose dwarf varieties of shrubs and trees. As our lives get busier, the size of trees and shrubs are shrinking. Growers are constantly developing new plant material that requires less pruning. 

Some examples of these are loropetalums. These shrubs, with their highly desirable burgundy foliage and pretty pink blossoms, make a beautiful statement in the garden, but grow extremely fast, requiring frequent pruning to keep under control. 

Some of the newer varieties such as "Purple pixie" or "Purple diamond" max out at two feet by four feet, requiring very little pruning. These actually stay small enough to use in containers.

4. Get rid of high maintenance plants.

Replace high maintenance shrubs with easy to grow plants. One of my favorite flowers is the rose. Growing and maintaining most varieties of roses, (fighting blackspot and other problems with these disease prone beauties), was way too much like work until the Knockout came along. 

Knockout roses have made beautiful rose gardens possible without all the fuss. Knockouts come in every color, provide a profusion of blooms and require no spraying. The only drawback to these roses is that they grow so well that they need to be pruned twice a year to keep from getting too tall. Try to find a spot in your garden for one of these – you won't be sorry.

Proper plant selection, placement and adequate mulching will lower the maintenance requirements of your garden. By following a few guidelines, you can create a beautiful, low maintenance garden that you and your family can enjoy for many years to come. 

About this Angie’s List Expert: Shelley Fones is the owner of The Gardening Angel, LLC, providing landscaping services in Portsmouth, Va. Since 2005, The Gardening Angel has specialized in weeding, pruning, planting, garden maintenance and the installation and design of gardens.

As of December 4, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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