Does your beautiful garden turn into an alien landscape by the middle of summer? Why not use some expert tricks to keep maintenance to a minimum? Yes, you have to invest a couple of weekends in the beginning but the pay off is a place to relax, entertain your friends and add to your home’s well kept appearance with a minimum of effort.
- Develop a garden plan – Your plan can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. It’s purpose is to give a sense of direction to your gardening efforts. Your plan will help you realize that even if some things have to be put off until next year, they will come eventually. This step alone reduces the stress of creating an outdoor living space. What do you want this space to be like? Is it for outdoor entertaining or simply a place to relax after a busy day? Your master plan will help your make quality “easy care” purchasing decisions when it’s time to shop.
- When choosing your garden’s hard surfaces, consider future maintenance. Are you starting with a deck or a cement patio? By developing the seating area first, you can begin to use the area even before the rest of the garden is finished. If the deck or patio is already installed, does it need to be refinished? Sealing it will prolong it’s life and keep it cleaner. Remember, a little care now can add years to its life. If you are starting with bare ground, you might prefer a greener option. A patch of lawn looks nice but remember that it will need ongoing care. If your site is very shady, another option is to install patio blocks with a low growing moss between them. It’s an attractive option that doesn’t need constant mowing.
- Define your planting areas. Do you need to add trees? If so, the sooner the better because each year will increase their usefulness. Don’t forget to consider the density of the shade they will produce, their mature height and if they are very messy. Some flowering specimens are beautiful but do better in the corner of your landscape where you don’t have to deal with dropping blossoms or seed pods in your seating area.
- Now consider the planting beds themselves. If the ground is very compacted, it is worth it to rent a tiller or have someone do it for you. Have your soil tested for ph and adjust if necessary. This is a good time to have organic matter and compost worked in as well. The better your soil is, the more successful your future gardening efforts will be. Once the beds are ready, plant permanent greenery that will become the backdrop for your seasonal additions. This is one of the secrets to having gardens that don’t require starting from scratch each year. Once a permanent bush is planted, you can easily add color with flowering plants in front of it.
- Plan to water – Not all of us can afford an automatic watering system but you can simplify your watering task. Even if you can’t afford timers this year, you might be able to set up a pvc sprinkler system that can be manually operated. Doing so will give you better water coverage and simplify the task. Timers can be added when your budget allows. If that is outside your budget and you have to rely on a hose and sprinkler system, consider adding separate hoses for each area that you have to water. A simple shutoff splitter will direct the water where it’s needed without having to reposition the hose each time. You are more likely to stay up with needed watering if all you have to do is turn a valve.
- Put landscape fabric under your mulch. Some people use strips of plastic but unless you poke holes in it, the rain can’t penetrate. Other people use newspapers, whatever you choose, putting mulch on top of a weed barrier keeps weeds from taking over your garden. If any do sprout, you will find that they have shallow root systems and pull out easily. Along with this, add permanent edging. It not only defines the edges of your flower beds, but also helps to keep grass from creeping into them.
- Pick tables and chairs that are weatherproof and easy to clean. If you are in an area that gets a lot of rain, add a garden chest where chair cushions can be kept clean until you need them.
- Choose a garden statue over a fountain. Both add charm and help to give your garden an established look but fountains need to be cleaned weekly. If you want something that makes soothing sounds, try larger windchimes that ring in a lower note.