Richard Bogren, Gill, Daniel J. | 3/29/2018 4:26:45 PM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
(03/30/18) I’m often asked about low-maintenance landscaping. After a brief conversation, I usually get the feeling that what the person is actually looking for is a no-maintenance landscape. Unfortunately, if you are going to have a landscape with trees, a lawn, shrubs and flowers, maintenance is going to be involved.
You can make choices, however, that will lead to a reduction in the amount of work it takes to maintain your landscape at a level you find acceptable. If you find your landscape has become a burden and requires more time than your busy schedule permits, this can lead to frustration and an unhappy situation. Under those circumstances, you should definitely look into ways to reduce the amount of maintenance your landscape requires.
Reduce the work
Generally the highest-maintenance parts of a landscape are the flower beds. Gardens full of colorful annuals and perennials look smashing, and everybody craves color. But these beds must be replanted as needed, weeded, watered, groomed and protected from insect and disease problems. If you are trying to decrease the amount of maintenance your landscape requires, it is a good idea to begin by minimizing the number and size of flower beds — or even eliminating them.
In this effort, only plant flowers in the most important places. Flower beds can be appropriate close to the front entrance to your home to brighten the front landscape, focus attention on the front door and welcome visitors. Reduce maintenance even more by planting colorful bedding plants in large containers instead of in the ground. Beds and containers of flowering annuals are also appropriate around outdoor living areas, such as decks or patios, to brighten and enrich the area where your family spends time outside.
Lawns are another high-maintenance part of the landscape. At least once a week from April until November you are forced to drag out the lawn mower and mow the lawn, whether you want to or not. Lawn areas are attractive in the landscape and are necessary for outdoor activities, such as a kids play area. But do you really need that much lawn? A smaller lawn means less work. Reduce maintenance by replacing some or all of the lawn with lower-maintenance ground covers and beds of shrubs.
Because fertilizer stimulates growth, which increases mowing frequency, fertilize your lawn moderately, if at all. Only if your lawn shows signs of low vigor or you need to stimulate growth to fill in damaged areas is fertilization critical.
Make the right choices
If you choose plants that will grow and mature at the proper size, you will reduce your yard work substantially. Pruning can add a tremendous amount of work to landscape maintenance, and the most common reason for pruning is to control the size of plants. Why plant a shrub that will grow to be 8 feet tall in a location where a 4-foot shrub is needed? You will have to constantly prune the plant to keep it half as big as it wants to be. Never purchase any plant — trees and shrubs in particular — without knowing or asking what its mature size will be.
You should also choose trees and shrubs that are well-adapted to our climate and are not prone to constant pest problems. By selecting plants that are not as likely to have major insect or disease problems, you will reduce the considerable amount of work involved in pest control.
If you have had more failures with plants than you care to remember, get into the habit of asking and learning about plants before you include them in your landscape. Your parish LSU AgCenter office is a great source of information. Make sure you choose plants that are well-adapted, reliable and less prone to pest problems and will thrive in the growing conditions where you intend to plant them. Then you will have a much easier time taking care of them.
Do what’s important
Mulching is extremely important for an attractive landscape and healthy plants and is especially critical in reducing weeds. A 2-to-3-inch layer of mulch should be placed over the soil in every bed in your landscape. It’s well worth the cost and effort. Not only is it your best defense against weeds, but mulch also conserves soil moisture by slowing evaporation from the soil surface. Weeding and watering are major gardening jobs, and the more we reduce the effort needed to do them, the better.
Speaking of watering, professionally installed irrigation systems with automatic timers are an excellent way to save time and effort in watering. Even soaker hoses hooked up to automatic timers are an easy-to-use, inexpensive way to water beds. Timers are available at most hardware and building supply stores. You still need to pay some attention; don’t leave the timer set to turn on the irrigation system during rainy periods.
Although your landscape will always require a certain amount of regular maintenance, it should not be a burden to you. If you find that you have to spend far more time taking care of it than you like, remember, there are things you can do to make it easier.
Beds and containers of flowering annuals are also appropriate around outdoor living areas, such as decks or patios, to brighten and enrich the area where your family spends time outside. Photo by Dan Gill/LSU AgCenter
Reduce maintenance by replacing some or all of the lawn with lower-maintenance ground covers and beds of shrubs. Photo by Rick Bogren/LSU AgCenter