The Low Maintenance Garden
by Val Lockhart the Lazy Gardener a.k.a. pigfish
A beautiful garden does not automatically require a huge commitment of your time and money. Smart, well-thought out garden design can decrease the amount of time you spend working in your garden, increase the amount of time you spend enjoying your garden, and increase the value of your home.
Answer these questions for yourself:
How much time do you currently spend on your garden?
How much time do you want to spend on your garden?
Why? Be honest. “Why?” is perhaps the most important question to answer. Are you:
1) Such a busy person that you don’t have time to spend on your garden
2) A really smart gardener who is always looking for the ultimate in low-maintenance techniques?
I’ve fallen into all three categories at some time or another in my gardening life and I’ve decided I like #3 best. Here is how I define the “Lazy Gardener”.
The Lazy Gardener is:
...an easy-going-true-type-B-stop-and-smell-the-roses-what-the-world-needs-now-is-love-sweet-love-nothing-ever-gets-me-down-my-priorities-are-straight-it’s-always-sunny-in-my-world personality
Not a bad thing to be.
Whatever your answer, 1, 2 or 3, the first step in creating your low maintenance garden is:
My backyard before the last snowfall added on several more inches
Step One: Dream
Here in the Midwest, winter can be harsh. Last winter we had over 20 inches of snow on the ground and it was still falling. Personally, I like snow, but come on! My garden was blissfully asleep under all that snow dreaming of spring. Winter is time for Garden Dreaming.
Note: For those of you who live anywhere in the world where you can garden all year round, otherwise known as paradise, can I move in with you?
Back to real life...In order to make the most of your Garden Dreaming time, I suggest you:
1) Light the fire
2) Snuggle up in your favorite chair by the fire with a hot drink and a warm blanket
3) Browse through gardening books, magazines and catalogs. Pay attention to what you like and what you don’t like. Of course you can browse online too. But for me, snuggling up with a laptop just isn’t the same.
Some of my favorite books, magazines and catalogs are:
Anything with lots of great pictures and not much text. Be aware that those who write gardening/yard/landscaping books are usually NOT Lazy (i.e. low-maintenance) Gardeners. Don't let them intimidate or corrupt you. Lazy Gardeners unite!
Browse your local bookstore or visit your library. Most libraries have quite a selection of Gardening, Landscaping and Home Improvement books. Be sure to look in the “oversize” section usually at the end of the aisle. A lot of gardening books don’t fit on a standard library book shelf.
Buy yourself a few gardeners’ magazines. If you have friends who are serious gardeners, they will have some back issues you can borrow. They always do. However, gardening magazines are a great investment. You can keep them and refer back to them for years and years. Gardens don’t go out of style the way clothes do. Here are some good ones.
- Fine Gardening
- Garden Design
- The English Garden
- Garden Gate
- Birds & Blooms
- Country Living’s specialty garden magazines
- Better Homes and Gardens specialty garden magazines
- Any regional gardening magazine you can find for your area
I love gardening catalogs. They give you not only great pictures, but accurate, to the point descriptions that are so helpful when making planting decisions. And...they're free! Here are some of the best.
Begin Step One: Dream!
As you are browsing through your gardening books, magazines and catalogs, pay attention to what you like. Think about color, texture, and size. Are you drawn to bright sunny colors, or cool serene colors? Do you like the formal gardens (I hope not if you truly are a Lazy Gardener) or do you prefer a more relaxed informal look. Do you like the shade gardens or the sun gardens or a combination of both? Do you like the giant tree or the tiny flower? You might like the decks, porches, patios, and pools more than the plants. That’s important. Take note.
In fact, keep a notebook close by and jot down thoughts as you dream. Insert post-it notes to mark your favorite pages in your books, magazines and catalogs. This will be helpful when you move on to the next step in low maintenance gardening: Step Two: Define Your Needs. The work is coming.
For now, for today, whatever the weather outside your window, let it be spring in your heart. Enjoy Step One: Dream. Be a Lazy Gardener.
Happy Garden Dreaming!
Step Two: Define Your Needs
People are going crazy for the warm weather here in Ohio. The long, cold, snowy winter has made the promise of spring oh so sweet. And finally, I am ready to turn my brain from the dreaming of a beautiful low-maintenance garden to the planning and prep work necessary to create a beautiful low-maintenance garden. Who’s with me?
Define Your Needs
One of my all time favorite quotes is
“A problem well defined is half solved.” –Ben Franklin.
I live by that quote. You can apply it to any problem that needs solving! Thanks Ben, you rock!
Now it’s time to define your yard and garden needs. Grab that notebook you used when Garden Dreaming and write down your answers to the following questions.
How much yard/lawn/grass do you need? Why?
Do you need room for a playscape for the kids, sandbox, room for the dog(s) to run, room to play soccer, kickball, baseball, volleyball, crochet, horseshoes, cornhole, room to park the camper, boat?
Who maintains your lawn?
Yourself, spouse, teenager, lawn service company?
Are you happy with your lawn maintenance situation: cutting the grass, fertilizing, scooping the dog doo, etc?
Do you need room for an outdoor entertainment area, table and chairs, shade umbrella, grill, fire pit, swing for the grown-ups, lounge chair, comfy seating area?
Boundaries/Your Properties Edge
The low-maintenance gardening goal concerning the boundaries of your property is: simplify and beautify. It’s easiest for me to picture a suburban yard, because that is what I have, but this is true for any property. Are the boundaries of your property well-maintained? Are you happy with them? And if not, what can you do to change it?
First, create edging that is easy to maintain. This is worth your time. Time spent on good edging will result in lots of time saved later.
Sketch It Out!
In your Gardening Notebook, sketch out your entire yard. Include everything: house, driveway, garage, storage shed, etc. It doesn’t have to be pretty or even to scale. So long as you know what you are looking at, it’s fine.
Looking back at your list of what you need, sketch in the things you want to add or change.
What is the one most important thing to accomplish in your yard? You probably know exactly what that is and that is what you should tackle first. Duh! If you really aren’t sure where to start, from a low-maintenance gardening perspective, I suggest you start the boundaries of your property. ..what the neighbors see.
Think about your lawnmower. Is it easy to cut the grass along your property’s edges? Flowing curves are almost always easier to maintain than straight lines with right angle corners. Curves don’t have to be perfect to look good…and they do look good! Classy and elegant.
The best time for a lazy gardener to tackle this project is on a day when the ground is soft from a good soaking rain. What I mean by this is simply that the ground will be much easier to dig. Lay out a hose in the shape you want along the edges you want to fix. With a good sharp spade, dig up only as much turf as you have to in order to create your desired shape. A sharp spade will save you time and backbreaking work. If you have a compost pile, add your dug up turf to it.
Do everything you can to make this a pleasant experience for yourself, you lazy gardener you. Keep a water bottle close (or beverage of your choice). Turn on some tunes and feel free to sing along. I suggest throwing in a few dance moves to entertain the neighbors.
When you have a nice curvy, easy to maintain boundary to your property, you are ready to move on to Step Three: filling your borders.
Val Lockhart, a.k.a. the Lazy Gardener a.k.a. Pigfish (on Hubpages)
...has been gardening for 17+ years in Southwest Ohio and Indiana. She completed the Master Gardener training program twice (once in Indiana and once in Ohio) and works in a garden center sharing her wisdom with all who seek it. <Big laugh here> Val’s Lazy Gardener philosophy is that “you shouldn’t spend any more time working on your yard and garden than you want to”.