Low Maintenance Gardening
          ... or should I say "Low-er maintenance", since there's really no such thing as a garden that doesn't need at least some regular care to be healthy and beautiful.  
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  How many times have new gardeners asked me for advise on creating a "low maintenance" garden!  
Here's a few words on the matter from British garden writer, Judy Glatstein.
Reflections on "Low Maintenance" gardening from Judy Glatstein's book, CONSIDER THE LEAF. 
"... all too often though, there is a gap between our hopes and our results.   Seduced by pretty flowers, we plant time-consuming gardens that display only passing moments of beauty as plants briefly bloom, then fade.   The roses covering the dream cottage have black spot on their leaves and Japanese beetles eating their flowers. 
I remember a client who asked me with some consternation,  "You mean now that the garden is planted I have to take care of it?"    Yes, indeed.    We plant, then we tend to watering, weeding, fertilizing, mulching, staking, disease and pest protection - on and on. 

Were I the lady of the manor, with ample funds, more leisure, and a head gardener with support staff, this wouldn't be a problem.  In my imagination is a gilded age of opportunity, wherein I drift through the garden on a golden afternoon.   I am wearing a flowered dress, wide-brimmed straw hat, and gloves, carrying a basket with a pair of secateurs, and smiling benignly at the gardeners doing the real work.    But just like most other gardeners I know, my real costume is a pair of filthy blue jeans and an old tee-shirt.    Out in the garden, as light fades, I pitch the tools - an 8-pound mattock for hacking at my New Jersey clay and a WeedWrench to yank out multiflora roses (Rosa multiflora) - back into the tool shed and empty assorted 5-gallon Sheetrock buckets filled with lesser rocks and weeds.   

A collection of articles to help some of your gardening tasks go quicker.
link to ...  Deadhead to prevent seeding
  link to ... Chop leaves instead of bagging them up.

My time is limited.    I cannot afford high-maintenance plants needing special attention in exchange for a two-week bloom period.  In fact, even easily grown plants that "pay back" with a two-week period of bloom and nothing more just do not do it for me.   I need plants that pay their way.    In return for room and board (make that planting room and garden maintenance) I want easy-care plants with extended interest.    After all, even in cold-winter regions the growing season lasts for several months.   Flowers are great, but I  consider them an embellishment for plants with fantastic foliage, the accessories that set off that basic black dress..."  

  from CONSIDER THE LEAF by Judy Glatstein 


The “secret” to a low-maintenance garden?  Deadhead faithfully!   
Any plant can become a “weed” if allowed to go to seed in your garden beds.    Deadheading (snip off the faded flower just below it), or cut back plants down to basal foliage immediately after most of their blooms start to fade, prevents all the seed from ripening. 

This sounds so simple, but it prevents a tremendous amount of weeding work later in the season or the following year.   We tend to focus on the dandelions and thistles as the "weeds" of our gardens, but how much time do you spend on also rooting out the volunteer Coneflowers and Black Eyed Susans from among your other plants?    In other words, lots of a garden's maintenance time is spent rooting out all the stray seedlings of "good" plants as well as weeds.  

dadheading diagram. This really is one of the biggest “secrets” to lower maintenance gardening!    While keeping on top of deadheading is in itself maintenance, it's far easier and far more pleasurable than crawling around on the ground rooting out seedlings.   The key is to keep on top of it - even one Brunnera faded flower spray allowed to drop seed, will be enough to cause lots of unwanted seedlings you'll need to dig out.   

Make it a daily task to just browse your bed for 5 minutes with clippers in hand.   If you catch the fading flowers early enough, you can just clip and let the flower top drop to the ground to decompose.  If it's close to ripened seed though, best to collect the deadheads into a yard waste bag since even after clipped, the seed might be far enough along to carry on to ripening.  (Even your compost heap can become a rich load of unwanted seed - use a yard waste back for flower tops or seed heads, and the compost heap for anything else.)  

The bonus to this faithful deadheading routine is you’ll often get a second blooming on many plants, but the main benefit to keeping your spring and early summer blooming plants trimmed and clean of faded blooms is to prevent this excessive seed drop. 

Along the same lines, it’s important to recognize that just one lonely weed that’s allowed to flower and drop seed, guarantees that you’ll have many dozens more of the same weed later in the season and in years to come.   Don't wait!   This is how chickweed can take over a garden so easily.  One little plant hiding underneath something taller, drops hundreds of seed before you notice it.  Guaranteed that each and every one of those seeds will sprout over time!  

Even if you don't have time to dig out the root of the weed popping up in your garden at the moment you notice it, just nip off the flower top for now until you can get to it.

                    Cheers!  Evelyn
...an excerpt from the handouts for my Perennial Garden Maintenance class.  Visit www.GardenPossibilities.com for details. 
© Evelyn Wolf 2019.  All rights reserved.  Please contact for permission to use.
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 ... a quick tip from my Nov 2010 newsletter - 
Chop Leaves Instead of Bagging in Fall.  ...the best organic boost for lawn and garden and far less work!
Organic Matter - we've heard about it over and over again as the essential ingredient that turns plain dirt into the best gardening soil.   At this time of year it always boggles me why I continue to see all those yard waste bags lined up at the curb for pick up.   Such a waste!   Chopped leaves are not only weed free organic matter, it's the only soil building product that's free of any delivery charge too!    (I wonder - is that why we take their value for granted?  ... because we didn't pay for them?!)

It's the very best stuff for your garden, but somehow we continue to see all the fallen leaves as a problem, instead of the blessing that it is.   Mother Nature's circle of life at it's finest - leaves have taken away nutrition from the soil during the growing season, and in fall all those nutrients are returned to where it came, the soil.   Just a bit of help from earth worms who will pull the leaves underground and the circle is complete.  Underground, leaves will break down and feed all the micro-organisms in the soil ecosystem that will in turn, feed the tree next year.  

A perfect circle - unless we intervene and break the circle by removing the fallen leaves, as though they were in fact yard "waste".     ... the only waste here is the waste of your time to bag them all up!    

Chop them up a bit with your lawn mower and then use them instead to  - mulch around the base of roses;  prepare a new garden bed;  mulch your perennial garden to protect the soil surface from the winter sun;   mulch thick around any new plants going into their first winter;  on, and on.    Fallen leaves are the best and the cheapest way to keep your garden soil healthy.  ...and using fallen leaves this way is far less maintenance time than bagging them all up and dragging them to the curb.  

This year, keep that gardener's gold for yourself!   Better still, ask your neighbour to give you their leaves too!    The more the better - just chop them first and there's nothing better for your garden ... weed free, nutritious, pure organic matter - that SAVED you time!    Evelyn 

  © Evelyn Wolf 2019.  All rights reserved.  Please contact for permission to use.
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