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.
My Top Four Ways To Do Less And Enjoy More
Easy Gardening 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.
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.
Easy Gardening 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.
Easy Gardening Tip 3: Use re-seeding 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 ground 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. And consequently they need very little care to look their best. Some of my favorite, non-weedy naturalizing perennials include:
Easy Gardening Tip 4: Foliar feed during the growing season
Our plants can often use a gentle boost during the growing season. And 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 that can struggle as their roots grow and adjust to their new soil. 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. Feeding plants with a nutrient spray is a real time saver. It allows the gardener to fertilizer a much larger number of plants when 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).
Phlox Jeana is a new garden phlox introduction notable for its multi-month bloom time and colorful lavender-pink clusters of sweet fragrant flowers. It is also exceptionally cold hardy and highly attractive to butterflies.
Phlox David blooms in mid-summer with round heads of large, pure white, delightfully fragrant flowers. The foliage is mildew resistant and this perennial grows easily in compost-enriched garden soil. The 2002 Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year.
Exclusive. Perfect Pink Phlox (Santa Fe Phlox) is a one of the very best Western wildflowers. Blooming in late spring with hundreds of large deep pink, white eyed flowers, it continues to bloom off and on throughout the summer. Grows in any soil including heavy clay. Drought resistant/drought tolerant perennial plant (xeric). 2013 Plant of the Year.
Gros Bleu is a hybrid French Lavender that is considered to be the very best of all the French hybrids. More compact than 'Grosso' but with equally darkly colored flowers, the scent is sweeter and with less camphor. Twice blooming.
Lavandula angustifolia Wee One is a special dwarf English Lavender that blooms with a wonderful display of short blue flower spikes only 10" tall. It is the most compact Lavender cultivar in cultivation.
Pastor's Pride is a twice blooming English lavender that has thrived in the Mid-West with excellent cold hardiness and moisture tolerance. This variety has nice chubby mid-blue flower spikes in late spring and September.