• 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. Blue Spruce Stonecrop, Sedum reflexum 'Blue Spruce'

    'Blue Spruce' Creeping Sedum (Sedum reflexum) is a standout among low-maintenance Sedums. This easy-to-grow and eye-catching features succulent blue-green foliage, much like little s...

    Learn More
    Blue Spruce Sedum Blue Spruce Stonecrop Sedum reflexum Blue Spruce
    As low as $7.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    'Blue Spruce' Creeping Sedum (Sedum reflexum) is a standout among low-maintenance Sedums. This easy-to-grow and eye-catching features succulent blue-green foliage, much like little spruce needles! A pollinator favorite, it is covered with small star-shaped yellow flowers in summer for over a month. A great evergreen groundcover where low maintenance, drought-tolerant, deer-and-rabbit-resistant plantings are desired.
    Learn More
  2. Angelina Stonecrop, Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'

    Fast-growing, and colorful, 'Angelina' Creeping Sedum (Sedum rupestre) adds a dazzling highlight with colors from chartreuse to golden yellow. Easy to grow, it will spread quickly as...

    Learn More
    Angelina Sedum Angelina Stonecrop Sedum rupestre Angelina
    As low as $7.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Fast-growing, and colorful, 'Angelina' Creeping Sedum (Sedum rupestre) adds a dazzling highlight with colors from chartreuse to golden yellow. Easy to grow, it will spread quickly as a drought-tolerant groundcover. Bright yellow star-like flowers bloom in summer and foliage turns golden-orange in autumn. A great pick for rock gardens, dry borders, and large expanses of ground that need planting.
    Learn More
  3. SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Beard Tongue, Penstemon pinifolius ‘P019S', orange flowers

    A soft orange-flowered selection of pineleaf beardtongue, SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) is a native cultivar that starts flowering in late spring and attr...

    Learn More
    SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Penstemon SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Beardtongue Penstemon pinifolius 'P019S'
    $8.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    A soft orange-flowered selection of pineleaf beardtongue, SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) is a native cultivar that starts flowering in late spring and attracts numerous pollinators and hummingbirds. Reminiscent of Colorado summer sunsets, its long-lasting blooms add a warm glow to dry area gardens. Finely textured evergreen foliage forms a compact mound for year-round interest.
    Learn More
  4. Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox, Phlox subulata Purple Beauty growing in rock garden as groundcover

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

    Learn More
    Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata Purple Beauty
    $10.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    An easy-to-grow groundcover, 'Purple Beauty' Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) 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.
    Learn More
  5. Rose Marvel Meadow Sage, Salvia nemorosa 'Rose Marvel', pink flowers

    'Rose Marvel' Salvia (Salvia nemorosa) adds stunning spikes of large magenta-pink flowers to the summer garden. It’s a garden workhorse, reblooming without needing to be cut back, ...

    Learn More
    Rose Marvel Salvia Rose Marvel Meadow Sage Salvia nemorosa Rose Marvel
    $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    'Rose Marvel' Salvia (Salvia nemorosa) adds stunning spikes of large magenta-pink flowers to the summer garden. It’s a garden workhorse, reblooming without needing to be cut back, and a pollinator favorite, attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. The lovely herbaceous-scented foliage is deer and rabbit resistant. Drought tolerant once established. Nice cut flowers too!
    Learn More
  6. SunSparkler® Dazzleberry Stonecrop, Sedum 'Razzleberry'

    Bold and beautiful, SunSparkler® 'Dazzleberry' Sedum sports smoky blue-grey foliage in 6-inch-tall mounds. Come late summer, raspberry flower clusters cover the plant for long-lasti...

    Learn More
    SunSparkler® Dazzleberry Sedum SunSparkler® Dazzleberry Stonecrop PP#22457 Sedum Dazzleberry PP#22457
    $10.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Bold and beautiful, SunSparkler® 'Dazzleberry' Sedum sports smoky blue-grey foliage in 6-inch-tall mounds. Come late summer, raspberry flower clusters cover the plant for long-lasting color. Easy-to-grow and pollinator-friendly, it’s a great low maintenance perennial for groundcovers, rock gardens, borders, and containers in sunny, dry areas. 'Dazzleberry' will naturalize and spread creating a carpet of easy-care color.
    Learn More
  7. SunSparkler® Lime Twister Stonecrop, Sedum 'Lime Twister', pink flowers

    SunSparkler® 'Lime Twister' Sedum is a two-toned garden knockout with lime green foliage edged in a buttery yellow. This hardy succulent blooms in late summer with rose-pink flowers...

    Learn More
    SunSparkler® Lime Twister Sedum SunSparkler® Lime Twister Stonecrop PP#26895 Sedum Lime Twister PP#26895
    $10.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    SunSparkler® 'Lime Twister' Sedum is a two-toned garden knockout with lime green foliage edged in a buttery yellow. This hardy succulent blooms in late summer with rose-pink flowers that last for well over a month, supporting pollinators and brightening the late summer to fall garden. An easy-to-grow choice that will spread to fill containers, borders, and water-thrifty gardens. Deer and rabbit resistant.
    Learn More
  8. Buzz® Hot Raspberry Butterfly Bush , Buddleia davidii 'Hot Raspberry', raspberry-pink flowers

    Buzz® 'Hot Raspberry' Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) wakes up summer’s doldrums with splendid raspberry-pink flowers. Blooming from early summer to late fall, the sweetly scent...

    Learn More
    Buzz® Hot Raspberry Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) Buzz® Hot Raspberry Butterfly Bush Buddleia davidii Hot Raspberry
    $11.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Buzz® 'Hot Raspberry' Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) wakes up summer’s doldrums with splendid raspberry-pink flowers. Blooming from early summer to late fall, the sweetly scented shrub is a magnet for many pollinators, especially butterflies. This compact habit is perfect for smaller spaces, a lovely addition to a perennial bed or large container planting. The flowers and foliage make lovely bouquets.
    Learn More