As gardeners, most of you have admired well-maintained gardens. You know, the ones that look like they are tended by a full-time professional gardener. Think about what you liked about those gardens: the weed-free beds, the clean-cut bed edges and the thriving plants. You probably wondered about how the well-maintained condition of such gardens is achieved.
Such well-maintained "finished" gardens may or may not be the result of the efforts of a professional gardener. However, most of you cannot afford to hire a professional gardener. You (by necessity) have to design, install and maintain your own garden; and you have to do all this with a limited budget and limited time.
The following suggestions for lowering the maintenance of your garden can help achieve that well-maintained, "finished" look and reduce the time that you spend on maintenance chores:
? Cover any bare soil, either with mulch or with carefully chosen groundcover plants. This will ensure that most unwanted seeds do not germinate. It will also help preserve soil moisture.
? Edge your garden beds. This will keep lawn grass out of your perennial beds, and groundcover or other plants out of your lawn. Your choices of edging are many, and include black plastic, brick or stone, landscape timbers, metal, and a "cut" edge. The "cut" edge can't be recommended for a large low-maintenance garden because it involves cutting through large amounts of sod on a yearly basis, and the grass along the cut edge still has to be trimmed, however, it could work for a small garden.
? Limit the number of high-maintenance plants you grow. Some plants simply take too much effort to maintain when grown in large numbers. For example, growing many Phlox paniculata cultivars involves spraying for powdery mildew, staking to prevent falling over during high winds, and cutting down stems to prevent being overrun by unwanted seedlings. If you grow only one or two Phlox paniculata, the required care is achievable in a lower-maintenance garden, but if you grow many more than that, the work can become overwhelming. Of course, Phlox paniculata is a very beautiful, fragrant mainstay of the late summer garden, so if you like it and have the space, grow at least one mildew-resistant cultivar.
? Perform maintenance chores frequently. You are probably in your garden anyway. If you sometimes put off these tasks because none of your tools are within easy reach, but are instead in the tool shed or garage, consider placing a waterproof mailbox or other container in a handy location in your garden. Your pruners, alcohol for sterilizing, gloves and other tools will be within easy reach.
? Mulch around trees and landscape features. This will reduce the amount of time spent on mowing the lawn. It will also protect the bark on your landscape trees and reduce the chances of your mower making contact with features such as telephone boxes or well heads.