• Easy Gardening: Top 4 Tricks of the Trade

This rock garden uses gravel mulch to make gardening simpler.This rock garden uses gravel mulch to make gardening simpler.
This rock garden uses gravel mulch to make gardening simpler.

by David Salman, High Country Gardens Chief Horticulturalist 

Conservation of Energy: Ideas for a More Beautiful and Labor Efficient Garden

I have to face the fact that I'm not as energetic doing garden chores and projects as I used to be. But my love of plants and gardening is stronger than ever. What's a horticulturist to do? Well, getting older has the advantage of experience. And a lifetime of gardening has taught me a few "tricks of the trade" that allow me to spend less time "doing" and more time "enjoying" when I'm outside with my plants. So whether you're getting older or just want to spend less time doing gardening chores, I have some easy gardening ideas for you to consider.

David Salman's Top 4 Ways To Do Less And Enjoy More

  1. Design A Low-Care Garden
  2. Use Mulch
  3. Use Reseeding Plant
  4. Folar Feed During The Growing Season
Catmint (Nepeta) planted in multiples makes for easier gardening and a unified look. Also featured is Columbine (Aquilegia), Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale) and Ornamental Grasses.Catmint (Nepeta) planted in multiples makes for easier gardening and a unified look. Also featured is Columbine (Aquilegia), Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale) and Ornamental Grasses.

Catmint (Nepeta) planted in multiples makes for easier gardening and a unified look. Also featured is Columbine (Aquilegia)Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale) and Ornamental Grasses. Photo from a customer garden.

Tip 1: Design A Low-Care Garden

If you have a big landscape to install or are just planning to plant a modest new flower bed, how you put the new garden together makes a huge difference in terms of its care and maintenance. If low maintenance is a priority, there are easy ways to design it so that you can enjoy a beautiful yard and save on labor, time and expense.

  • Make small areas of concentrated color where long-blooming perennials and ornamental grasses are the focus.
  • Use more of few types of plants to simplify their maintenance and maximize their visual impact.
  • Use a variety of shrubs, vines and ornamental grasses to cover larger areas of the yard.
  • Forgo a lawn unless you absolutely must have it.
  • Use groundcovers as turf grass substitutes to provide the open feel and look provided by a lawn.

Tip 2: Use Mulch

In the western US where more arid growing conditions prevail, watering can take up an enormous amount of a gardener's time, especially if it's to be done manually with a hose and sprinkler. Water is also a precious and expensive resource requiring conservation. Mulching saves water and time spent on plant maintenance. Find the right mulch for your style of gardening and plant palette and use it consistently. Mulching is a time saver because it reduces weeding and protects your plant's roots from the summer heat. This helps to grow healthier plants that need less care.

Tip 3: Use Reseeding Plants

I have come to appreciate the natural style of gardening as an expression of how our plants interact with the weather, climate, and in the growing conditions where I live. As much as I used to enjoy gardens with large numbers of different plants and more structured, detailed designs, I have come to greatly appreciate a garden where many of the plants have, over time, spread and established themselves in new places, by propagating themselves through re-seeding. These "volunteers" (re-seeded children of the original plants) are survivors that have found places that are well suited to their needs. Consequently, they need very little care to look their best.

Some of my favorite, non-weedy naturalizing perennials:

Agastache cana (Texas Hummingbird Mint)Agastache cana (Texas Hummingbird Mint)
Agastache cana (Texas Hummingbird Mint)

Tip 4: Foliar Feed During The Growing Season

Our plants can often use a gentle boost during the growing season. Foliar feeding, or feeding plants with a nutrient spray, is a real time saver. Foliar feeding with a gentle natural or organic fertilizer is a highly effective way to supplement or restore plant health during the growing season. Foliar feeding is also highly beneficial to new transplants, which can struggle as their roots grow and adjust to their new soil. It allows the gardener to fertilizer a much larger number of plants, compared to mixing and watering the plants with a fertilizer solution, or top dressing the soil with a compost/natural fertilizer mix (which is best done in the fall anyway).

How To Foliar Feed Plants:

  • Mist the plant leaves thoroughly in the early morning with a mix of seaweed and fish emulsion. I use a simple 2-gallon pump sprayer or backpack sprayer, but a handheld spray bottle will work as well.
  • Do this several times, two weeks apart, as needed. 

Shop Easy To Grow Plants

  1. SunSparkler® Wildfire Stonecrop, Sedum 'Wildfire'

    Sedum rupestre ‚SunSparkler® Wildfire‚ PP#28621 (Stonecrop) blazes with ruby red petals edged in hot pink. Late summer brings clusters of long-blooming pink flowers. It&...

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    SunSparkler® Wildfire Sedum SunSparkler® Wildfire Sedum Sedum 'Wildfire' PP#28,621
    As low as $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Sedum rupestre 'SunSparkler® Wildfire' PP#28621 (Stonecrop) blazes with ruby red petals edged in hot pink. Late summer brings clusters of long-blooming pink flowers. It’s an attention-worthy groundcover that will naturalize to fill a sunny, dry area. In fact, the more sun, the brighter the color. A perfect easy-to-grow addition to a rock garden, container, or any sunny spot that needs a water-thrifty color boost. Deer and rabbit resistant.
  2. Sedum Autumn Fire, Dark Pink Sedum, Autumn Fire Stonecrop

    Sedum telephium ‚Autumn Fire‚ (Stonecrop) is an improved form of Sedum ‚Autumn Joy‚ that is larger growing, has larger flower heads and is longer blooming. Th...

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    Autumn Fire Sedum Autumn Fire Sedum Sedum 'Autumn Fire'
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    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Sedum telephium 'Autumn Fire' (Stonecrop) is an improved form of Sedum 'Autumn Joy' that is larger growing, has larger flower heads and is longer blooming. The flat heads of rose-pink flowers appear in late summer. Leave the faded flowers on the plant for added winter interest.
  3. Verbena peruviana

    Verbena peruviana ‚Red Devil‚ (Perennial Verbena) is a perennial variety that grows as a groundcover and blooms all summer with a dazzling display of brilliant red flower...

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    Red Devil Perennial Verbena Red Devil Perennial Verbena Verbena peruviana
    As low as $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Verbena peruviana 'Red Devil' (Perennial Verbena) is a perennial variety that grows as a groundcover and blooms all summer with a dazzling display of brilliant red flowers. 3" tall x 15-18" wide.
  4. Old Man's Bones Stonecrop, Sedum globosum 'Old Man Bones',  Image courtesy of Conservation Garden Park

    Sedum globosum ‚Old Man‚s Bones‚ (Stonecrop) is an outstanding low-growing sedum with uniquely rounded, chubby leaves held on short spreading stems. Evergreen succ...

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    Old Man's Bones Sedum Old Man's Bones Sedum Sedum globosum 'Old Man's Bones'
    As low as $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Sedum globosum 'Old Man's Bones' (Stonecrop) is an outstanding low-growing sedum with uniquely rounded, chubby leaves held on short spreading stems. Evergreen succulent foliage often develops a bronze tint in summer and flushes shades of purple, pink, red, and bronze over the winter. Perfect for groundcover, rock gardens, edging pathways, and spilling over the edges of raised beds or containers. It blooms in summer with clusters of small, bright yellow, star-shaped flowers.
  5. Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox, Phlox subulata Purple Beauty growing in rock garden as groundcover

    An easy-to-grow groundcover, Phlox subulata ‚Purple Beauty‚ (Creeping Phlox) carpets the mid-to-late spring garden with starry lavender-purple flowers. Whether you are lo...

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    Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata 'Purple Beauty'
    As low as $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    An easy-to-grow groundcover, Phlox subulata 'Purple Beauty' (Creeping Phlox) carpets the mid-to-late spring garden with starry lavender-purple flowers. Whether you are looking for a water-thrifty addition to flow through a rock garden, or a beautiful way to highlight a spring-blooming bulb collection, 'Purple Beauty' will add pollinator-friendly, drought-tolerant spring beauty to your garden.
  6. Marcus Dwarf Blue Salvia

    Salvia nemorosa ‘Marcus’ PP# 13,322 (Dwarf Blue Sage) is a tidy, dwarf selection that blooms all summer with deeply colored violet-purple flowers. It is extremely cold ha...

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    Marcus Dwarf Blue Salvia Marcus Dwarf Blue Salvia Salvia nemorosa 'Marcus'
    As low as $10.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Salvia nemorosa ‘Marcus’ PP# 13,322 (Dwarf Blue Sage) is a tidy, dwarf selection that blooms all summer with deeply colored violet-purple flowers. It is extremely cold hardy, browse resistant to deer and a lover of clay soils.
  7. Little Trudy® Nepeta, The Undaunted Garden Managed By Lauren Spring

    Nepeta x psfike ‚Little Trudy®‚ PP#18,904 (Catmint) is a compact, long-blooming Catmint with warm purple flowers that bloom from late spring through summer, attracting b...

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    Little Trudy® Nepeta Little Trudy® Nepeta Nepeta x Psfike PP#18,904
    As low as $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Nepeta x psfike 'Little Trudy®' PP#18,904 (Catmint) is a compact, long-blooming Catmint with warm purple flowers that bloom from late spring through summer, attracting bees and butterflies. Finely textured aromatic foliage will help to deter deer and rabbits.
  8. White Chamaebatiaria millefolium, Chamaebatiaria millefolium, Fernbush

    Chamaebatiaria millefolium (Fernbush) is a beautiful native shrub that brightens the garden in mid-summer with big clusters of bright white flowers. It also has attractive dried seed...

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    Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria) Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria) Chamaebatiaria millefolium
    As low as $14.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Chamaebatiaria millefolium (Fernbush) is a beautiful native shrub that brightens the garden in mid-summer with big clusters of bright white flowers. It also has attractive dried seed heads and olive-green foliage. Drought resistant perennial plant (xeric).