The Q&A Archives: What can I do with my little flower garden?

Question: I do not have a green thumb. I moved into a new home a year ago. I have a small flower garden in the front of my house beside the drive way. I can not keep up with the weeds, watering and general upkeep with them. My son put in beautiful flowers for me on Mothers Day, but they have long since bit the dust. What can I put in there in place of flowers? Something that needs little if any maintenance would be great.

Answer: You might find that flowering shrubs are easier to care for than a flower garden. Assuming it is a sunny spot, you might try one of the new low maintenance disease resistant landscape roses such as Knock Out. (This rose is easy to grow and needs only an annual pruning in mid spring when you should cut it back to about a foot high.) Other choices might include Weigela, Chaenomeles, Spirea, or a littleleaf lilac such as Syringa pubescens "Miss Kim". You might also consider some of the reliable low maintenance perennials such as daylilies, sedums, purple coneflower and baptisia.

In spring and again in early summer apply a topdressing of good quality compost and a complete granular or slow release fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or similar proportions.

Be sure to use a layer of organic mulch several inches thick over the root area year round. This will help keep down weeds as well as reduce the need for watering during the summer.

During the summer you may need to water during dry spells. Water as needed to keep the soil slightly moist like a wrung out sponge. Apply water slowly and deeply to encourage deep rooting. To know if you need to water, dig into the soil with your finger. If it is still damp, you do not need to water yet.

Your local professional nursery staff and/or county extension may have other suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the growing conditions in your planting area and your personal preferences. Good luck with your new plants!

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