A low maintenance garden?


I suppose that I could learn to love planting, just planting, and not having to bother with the untidy chores that follow. No doubt there are gardeners who will say that they love pruning, transplanting, deadheading, dividing, mulching, and composting, and even some who find weeding to be therapeutic. I prefer to plant and forget, to spend my spring afternoons lounging and admiring nature’s handiwork, but, of course, this is only accomplished by paying someone to do the dirty work, which is not a consideration.

I love to dig, and am content to plant the day long. But when the digging is through, I am fortunate to have sufficient motivation to discard the day’s debris, or even to set tools back into their proper place. Eventually, much of what must be done is accomplished, but at a deliberate pace, and perhaps after weeks or months.

To be reasonable, a measure of garden maintenance is unavoidable, and procrastination will too often result in thrice the effort to set things right again. After twenty years I have figured out that if I will pull a weed or two as I walk through the garden each evening, seldom does this amount to enough to be considered “work”. Still, there are times when a task seems overwhelming, when weeds appear to outnumber the desirables, or ivies and hostas have grown to cover the stone paths.

Wherever a spot of soil is left unplanted, there will be space for a weed to grow, so I am determined to fill each nook and cranny to prevent as much labor as is possible. Planting trees, even small Japanese maples, dogwoods, redbuds, and such, will create shade that will eliminate a surprising number of weeds. As an added benefit, now you have trees, and with proper selection there will be marvelous blooms or colorful foliage.

Beyond the shade of overhanging tree branches you must plant shrubs, and there are a multitude of choices for every circumstance, to fill areas wide or narrow, tall or short. In the gaps between trees and shrubs there will be space to jam in perennials, and if suitable selections are made the result will occupy an area that might otherwise be a weedy mess. If all goes well the result could even be attractive.

I am seldom bothered by bugs or other pests. For a time deer feasted on the garden, but now I spray a repellent late spring through early autumn, and only occasionally do I see any more than a broken twig. I don’t worry at all about beetles and caterpillars, and suffer only slight injury from slugs and other beasts.

To my delight, I have discovered a labor-saver to keep paths clear of offending branches and flopping perennials. My wife becomes quite perturbed when the stone paths, front entry walk, or driveway are obstructed, and on the occasions when she prowls about the garden, she is not long before detouring back to the garage to pick up her pruners. She will snip away for hours, and though I will heartily protest her untrained efforts, the deed is done, and any minor damage she has inflicted will grow back shortly.

I have not convinced her to rake leaves or muck the ponds, so my weekend schedule will be full from March through the start of May. Some days are wonderful, with a warm sun and daffodils nodding in the breeze. A day spent raking leaves, cutting ragged perennials to the ground, and cleaning up disasters left behind from the autumn can be joyful. But, there is work to do, and it is folly to imagine the garden that could be called low maintenance.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Susan Gartner says:

    Hi Dave,

    I just pushed some snow off the 15 small Leland cypresses I bought at your place last year. Most of the cypresses are doing well but we did loose 3 big trees.

    I enyoy reading about your garden. I am a beginner at gardening.


  2. Nice and very informative post. Thanks for sharing.

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