As I grow older, I enjoy gardening as much as ever, but it is harder to get the necessary tasks done. Perhaps you too face the challenge that endless gardening chores present, either because of physical limitations or simply because time is limited. Here are some tips for reducing your gardening workload.
▪ Reduce the number of perennials in your landscape: Years ago, before they became as popular as they are today, perennials were promoted as a way to decrease the amount of time spent on flower gardening. Supposedly, perennials were “easy care” and required less work because they did not need to be replanted every year like annual flowers. While most perennials do not need to be replaced annually, they do require a considerable amount of work, such as cutting them back in the spring or fall, staking plants that require support, removing spent flowers during bloom, pinching to encourage bushier growth and dividing plants when they become overcrowded.
When perennials became a popular way to add color to the landscape, flowering shrubs were not a viable alternative. The flowering shrubs of yesteryear were typically behemoths that provided color or interest for a brief time. However, because of companies like Spring Meadows Nursery, gardeners now have smaller shrubs that fit well into garden landscapes. Many of these newer shrubs have a long bloom time, plentiful flowers and multi-seasonal interest. Spring Meadow, a wholesale nursery, grows more than 400 shrub varieties and introduces new and improved ones every year.
By planting newer, smaller varieties of flowering and evergreen shrubs, you can reduce your garden workload and still have abundant color and seasonal interest in your landscape. If you are tired of the time and work associated with flowering perennials, consider replacing them with these newer shrubs. They will need pruning and general maintenance each year, but not as much as flowering perennials need.
▪ Edging: The landscape around my house and on the inside of the fence is completely bounded with flower and shrub beds. I initially tried to keep the beds looking tidy and natural without a physical edging, but using a string trimmer and herbicide was just too much trouble. To reduce my workload, I had concrete edging installed along all my flower and shrub beds, as well as around each of my trees. I had previously eschewed concrete edging because of its unnatural appearance, but I was eventually willing to overlook my aesthetic concerns. Quality landscape edging makes it easier to mow along lawn edges, to keep grass from creeping into flower and shrub beds, and to contain mulching materials.
▪ Landscape beds: Because of environmental concerns about the amount of water, fertilizer and mowing needed for a healthy lawn, there are gardeners who desire converting much of their lawn area into landscape beds. It is a noble pursuit, but making landscape and garden beds larger can lead to more time and work needed for maintenance, such as weeding and plant care. Big or small, the maintenance of landscape beds can be reduced with the use of a 3- to 4-inch layer of wood chip or shredded bark mulch on top of bare soil. This conserves soil moisture, significantly deters weed growth and adds organic matter to the soil. A well-designed drip irrigation system can reduce the amount of water lost through evaporation and discourage weed growth.
Marianne C. Ophardt is a former retired horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.