In landscaping, simplicity rhymes with good design

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When it comes to landscaping, simplicity means good design and low maintenance. Low-maintenance landscapes are designed in such a way that every shrub, tree, and flower bed all have defined functions. It is best not to over-plant, and to eliminate frills and flower beds as much as possible. Fewer well-placed gardens help reduce the maintenance of the landscape.

Arrange your plants en masse. Scattered plants require edging and weeding and can make mowing difficult. Avoid planting grass where it is too shady, dry, wet, or too steep to be mowed safely. Use a ground cover or other plants in these areas. Mulches help minimize weeds and retain moisture until the plants are mature to completely cover the soil. Once this has happened, you will just have to mulch the edges of your gardens. Use gravel, bark, or pine straw and occasionally pull or spray growing weeds. Don’t over-fertilize. This is not good horticultural practice and results in more pruning or mowing. It also invites insects to all new tender shoots.

A flower bed around the trees eliminates pruning and speeds up mowing. This will help protect the bark from damage from garden tools. Make sure the beds are wide enough so that they don’t bump into low branches while mowing. Define the edges of aisles, walkways and beds more clearly with metal, wood or brick edging. It also helps keep stones and mulch in place and prevents grass from growing in walkways etc. thus reducing pruning. Create paths with gravel, stepping stones or paving where foot traffic is heavy. Make sure driveways and gates are wide enough for lawn care equipment. Electrical equipment speeds up maintenance time.

Use fences or hedges for privacy or a windbreak. A fence would require less space than shrubs or you can select low maintenance plants. Use tall plants that naturally grow to the height and width you desire so that only hand pruning is needed.

When you plant a vegetable garden, only grow what your family can use. Leave enough space between rows for easy cultivation. Electric plowing would save hours of manual labor. Narrow beds are easier to weed in the center. Large masses of annuals give you vivid colors with less maintenance.

Prune trees so that the wind can pass through them and more light reaches the grass through the thinned branches.

Native plants are adapted to our local climate and soil and are less susceptible to pest problems, making them less demanding in maintenance. That’s if you treat them like natives and forgo the water and fertilizers and plant them in the right place for the plant’s needs. Use plants with few insect and disease problems and those that grow slowly for less pruning. Better yet, determine the mature size of the plants and place them in the garden accordingly. Buy quality plants. Replanting or treating diseased plants takes time and money. Inspect your plants before you buy them. Buy from reputable, neat and well-maintained nurseries and garden centers. Do not buy plants with excessive new growth or with scarred, cracked, or peeling trunks or branches. Plants should be compact and not long. Inspect the leaves for the proper shape, size, and color, and examine them for insects or disease issues. Make sure the root system is not growing out of the pot.

Nothing is more important than good planting practices. Prepare your planting hole with water, fertilizer and any necessary amendments. Make sure your plant is in a location that she prefers. Practice preventive maintenance. Keep plants and lawns well, but not overpowered, fed and watered and they will be vigorous and healthy. This is the best way to avoid problems which, in turn, can increase maintenance requirements.

Following: Gardening: hundred-year-old plants continue to give

And: Gardening: Protecting your plants from pests

Also: Gardening: Prepare Your Garden for Hurricane Season

Eileen and Peter Ward have owned a landscaping and lawn care business for 35 years. Eileen can be reached at [email protected] or 239-394-1413.


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