When landscaping, simplicity equals good design

In landscaping, simplicity means good design and low maintenance. Low-maintenance landscapes are designed in such a way that every shrub, tree and flower bed has specific functions. It is best not to overplant and remove as many frills and flower beds as possible. Fewer, well-placed gardens help reduce landscape maintenance.

Arrange your plants en masse. Scattered plants must be bordered and weeded and can make mowing difficult. Avoid planting grass where it is too shady, dry, wet, or too steep to be mowed safely. Use ground cover or other plants in these areas. Mulches help minimize weeds and retain moisture until the plants are mature to completely cover the soil. Once that is done, all that remains is to mulch the edges of your garden. Use gravel, bark, or pine straw and occasionally pull or spray weeds that show up. Do not over-fertilize. It’s not good horticultural practice and will result in more pruning or mowing. It also invites insects for all of that delicate new growth.

A bed around trees prevents trimming and speeds up mowing. It helps protect the bark from damage from the lawn tools. Make the beds wide enough so that you don’t come across low-hanging branches while mowing. Define the boundaries of paths, driveways and beds with metal, wood or brick edging more clearly. This also helps hold stones and mulch in place and prevent the grass from turning into sidewalks, etc. Create gravel, stepping stones, or pavement paths where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic. Make sure the walkways and gates are wide enough for the lawn maintenance equipment. Power equipment speeds up maintenance time.

Use fences or hedges for privacy or a windbreak. A fence would take up less space than shrubs or you can choose plants that require little maintenance. Use large plants that naturally reach the desired height and width so that only a hand cut is required.

When you start a vegetable garden, you are only growing what your family can use. Leave enough space between the rows for easy cultivation. Electric tillage would save hours of manual labor. Narrow beds are easier to weed in the middle. Large masses of annuals give you bold colors with less maintenance.

Prune trees to allow the wind to flow through them and allow more light to reach the grass through the thinned branches.

Native plants are suitable for our local climate and soil and are less prone to pest problems, making them less easy to care for. That is, if you treat them like locals and give them up on water and fertilizer and plant them in the right place for the plant’s needs. Use plants with few insect and disease problems and those that grow slowly for less pruning. Better still, determine the full-grown size of the plants and place them in the garden accordingly. Buy high quality plants. Transplanting or treating ailing plants costs time and money. Check your plants out before you buy them. Shop at reputable nurseries and garden centers that are neat and well-kept. Do not buy plants that have overgrowth, or that have scarred, cracked, or peeling trunks or branches. The plants should be compact and not leggy. Examine the leaves for the correct shape, size, and color, and examine for any insect or disease problems. Make sure the root system doesn’t grow out of the pot.

Nothing is more important than good planting practice. Prep your planting hole with water, fertilizer, and any necessary supplements. Make sure your plant is in a preferred location. Practice preventive maintenance. Keep plants and lawn well, but not over-fertilized, feed and water them and they will become vigorous and healthy. This is the best way to avoid problems that can increase the need for maintenance.

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Eileen and Peter Ward have owned a landscaping and lawn maintenance company for 35 years. Eileen can be reached at Gswdmarco@comcast.net or 239-394-1413.

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