In the Garden:
Upper South
May, 2013
Regional Report

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A fence to define the garden area can be visually appealing and also help to limit the garden space, reducing the temptation to plant more than you can handle.

Designing the Low Maintenance Garden

Gardening should be fun, not overwhelming. One way to keep it an enjoyable pastime is to think about maintenance when you think about design. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you plan and plant your landscape.

Organize Your Space
When thinking about garden design, many avid gardeners start with what they love best -- the plants. But for the biggest impact with the least input, start by thinking first about the use of space. Consider the overall effect or feeling of the garden, not just the plants. Think about the general garden design first, how you will use the space and circulate around it. Organize your space, creating rooms, sight lines, and utility areas. Then think about which of those weird and wonderful "must-have" plants you really need and where they fit in to your plan.

Define Boundaries
If you have a postage-stamp yard, the boundaries have already been defined. But if you have a larger property, you may want to consider installing an attractive fence or wall to create a reasonable-sized area for your most intensive garden efforts. And even in a small garden, remember to take into account the "borrowed view," both good and bad. You may want to draw the eye to attractive areas of neighboring properties or screen less appealing areas from view.

Choose Plants Carefully
If reduced maintenance and the greatest visual impact is your goal, focus on using comparatively few species and cultivars, but in large numbers. Look for plants with interesting form and texture, multi-season interest, a long blooming period, and drought and pest tolerance. With perennials, it's also handy to have plants that don't need deadheading to stay attractive and don't require frequent division.

Group Plants for Ease of Care
Design your landscape so that plants with similar needs are grouped together for easier maintenance. For example, keep your roses that need regular watering, pruning, and insect and disease control in the same bed in an accessible spot rather than scattered throughout your landscape. Place perennials that tolerate dry soil, like yarrow, baptisia, and butterfly weed in less accessible beds so you won%%%t have to spend as much time and effort dragging hoses around all summer.

Location, Preparation, and Mulch
As with real estate, think location, location, location! Plants do best, with less care, when they are grown under their ideal cultural conditions (sun or shade, wet or dry soil). Assess your property, then do some research to choose plants adapted to the conditions you can provide.

It's paramount to prepare the soil well before you plant, incorporating plenty of organic matter. To avoid frequent pruning, be sure to space plants to allow for their mature size. Finally, mulch with an organic material deeply and faithfully to slow weed growth and minimize watering needs, and add fertility over the long run.


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