• 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. Echinacea purpurea Magnus

    Magnus is a distinctive, vigorous and large growing cone flower cultivar. The bright reddish-pink petals of its huge flowers are held flat as they radiate out from the cone, instead ...

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    Magnus Echinacea Magnus Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea Magnus
    $10.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Magnus is a distinctive, vigorous and large growing cone flower cultivar. The bright reddish-pink petals of its huge flowers are held flat as they radiate out from the cone, instead of curving backwards as is typical of most coneflowers.
  2. Select Blue Catmint, Nepeta faassenii Select Blue

    Nepeta 'Select Blue' (Select Blue Catmint) is a fantastic xeric perennial with dramatic lavender-blue flowers and handsome gray-green foliage. A recurrent bloomer, the first flush of...

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    Select Blue Nepeta Select Blue Catmint Nepeta faassenii Select Blue
    As low as $10.99 Sale $7.69
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Nepeta 'Select Blue' (Select Blue Catmint) is a fantastic xeric perennial with dramatic lavender-blue flowers and handsome gray-green foliage. A recurrent bloomer, the first flush of flowers comes in late spring, and again later in summer. A long-lived, easily grown perennial, this is an excellent plant for beginners.
  3. Yellow Coreopsis verticillata Zagreb, Coreopsis verticilliata Zagreb, Zagreb Whorled Tickseed

    12-18" tall x 18-24" wide. Coreopsis 'Zagreb' is a long blooming, easy-to-grow perennial with a big display of brilliant golden-yellow flowers beginning in late spring. Drought resis...

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    Zagreb Coreopsis Zagreb Whorled Tickseed Coreopsis verticilliata Zagreb
    As low as $10.99 Sale $8.24
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    12-18" tall x 18-24" wide. Coreopsis 'Zagreb' is a long blooming, easy-to-grow perennial with a big display of brilliant golden-yellow flowers beginning in late spring. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  4. Red Achillea millefolium Red Velvet, Red Velvet Yarrow

    Red Velvet is one of the best with it deep rose-red, flat-topped flower heads that hold their color. Deep green, fine textured foliage, this yarrow is sure to attract butterflies whe...

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    Red Velvet Yarrow Red Velvet Yarrow Achillea millefolium Red Velvet
    Sale Price I Save 30%
    $10.99 Sale $7.69
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Red Velvet is one of the best with it deep rose-red, flat-topped flower heads that hold their color. Deep green, fine textured foliage, this yarrow is sure to attract butterflies wherever it's planted. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  5. Mellow Yellows Coneflower, Echinacea 'Mellow Yellows'

    Mellow Yellows Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a study in harmony with beautiful blossoms ranging from cream to gold. Blooming from early summer to first frost, Mellow Yellows has...

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    Mellow Yellows Echinacea Mellow Yellows Coneflower Echinacea purpurea Mellow Yellows
    As low as $11.99 Sale $8.39
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Mellow Yellows Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a study in harmony with beautiful blossoms ranging from cream to gold. Blooming from early summer to first frost, Mellow Yellows has a long-lasting steady supply of blooms, making it an essential garden workhorse. Butterflies, bees, and birds are frequent visitors to Echinacea, and you can leave tall, sturdy flowers up over the winter for visual interest and food supplies. Beautiful for cut flowers on long, sturdy stems.
  6. Yellow Coreopsis lanceolata Sterntaler, Coreopsis lanceolata Sterntaler, Sterntaler Tickseed

    Sterntaler is a robust, long blooming Tickseed with showy golden-yellow petals with a reddish-brown center. The flowers are continuous over the summer when deadheaded. It thrive wit...

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    Sterntaler Coreopsis Sterntaler Tickseed Coreopsis lanceolata Sterntaler
    $9.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Sterntaler is a robust, long blooming Tickseed with showy golden-yellow petals with a reddish-brown center. The flowers are continuous over the summer when deadheaded. It thrive with heat and sun and requires a well drained soil. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
  7. White Chamaebatiaria millefolium, Chamaebatiaria millefolium, Fernbush

    Chamaebatiaria millefolium (also known as Desert Sweet or Fernbush) is a beautiful native shrub that brightens the garden in mid-summer with big clusters of bright white flowers. It ...

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    Fernbush (Chamaebatiaria) Fernbush Chamaebatiaria millefolium
    $12.99
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Chamaebatiaria millefolium (also known as Desert Sweet or 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).
  8. Agastache Kudos™ Gold, Hummingbird Mint, Photo courtesy of TERRA NOVA® Nurseries, Inc.

    Agastache Kudos Gold (Hummingbird Mint or Hyssop) is compact-growing and extremely long-blooming with golden-yellow flowers on short, tidy flower spikes from late spring to September...

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    Kudos™ Gold Agastache Kudos™ Gold Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache Kudos™ Gold PP#26,410
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    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Agastache Kudos Gold (Hummingbird Mint or Hyssop) is compact-growing and extremely long-blooming with golden-yellow flowers on short, tidy flower spikes from late spring to September. The nectar-rich tubular-shaped flowers are highly attractive to hummingbirds. Kudos Golds yellow flowers are an unusual color for the Agastache family.