Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
March, 2005
Regional Report

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Plan your design carefully to minimize future maintenance on your beautiful landscape.

Designing an Easy-Care Landscape

Spring fever has arrived in the lower south. This wonderful affliction calls to the gardener deep inside everyone, drawing us outdoors to dig and plant. With a little forethought and planning, we can create landscapes that are both beautiful and easy to maintain in the years to come.

Design With Maintenance in Mind
Keep maintenance at the forefront as you plan your landscape. Make beds large and sweeping. Combine several small beds into a large one to reduce mowing time. Avoid sharp angles. Gradual curves are easier to mow and more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. If you have several trees close together in the lawn, consider creating a large bed around them. This will save time mowing and edging around each trunk and provide a place to toss the leaves as a natural mulch. Install edging to delineate between turf and bed areas. This will prevent St. Augustine and most zoysias from invading.

Start Off Weed Free
Weeds are much easier to deal with before your turfgrass and other landscape plants are in. This is especially true for perennial weeds, such as bermudagrass, nutsedge, wild blackberry vines, and johnsongrass, to name of few of the more notorious invaders. Whether you dig, spray, or combine the two, do all you can to get rid of weeds so you can start with a clean slate.

Choose Easy-Care Plants
Let's face it, some plants, like some people, are just plain high maintenance. Others need just a little help getting established and then do quite well on their own. Slow-growing and dwarf types require less pruning to keep them in bounds. If you plant evergreen shrubs, keep in mind that shearing them into box or other shapes means regular trimming and much more work than maintaining them in a more natural shape.

Choose plants that are adapted to your area and not prone to disease or insect attack. Most types of euonymus, for example, while widely planted, are magnets for powdery mildew and/or scale, and should be avoided.

Annual flowers can keep you busy, planting, fertilizing, deadheading (in some cases), and then pulling them out to replant. To keep an area colorful, you may be making three or more color changes a year. Perennials are a bit less trouble but still need some grooming and feeding. Every so often they may also need dividing to keep them in top shape.

This is certainly not to say that we should avoid flowers ... may it never be! But to minimize maintenance, give some thought to where you plant them so you get maximum effect from minimum effort.

And don't forget ornamental grasses, which are underutilized in our landscapes. They require very little care and they add an attractive feature with the long blades and graceful movement in the wind. Cut them back in late winter and provide a little fertilizer, and you're pretty much done with their maintenance for the year.

Mulch Your Cares Away
Mulching gives a great return on your time. When you lay down a thick layer of mulch, it will hold annual weed seeds at bay for the season. You'll have to water less often, and as the mulch breaks down over a few seasons, nutrients will be released for your plants.

These are a few tips to keep your maintenance chores to a minimum. Just remember: the more elaborate and extensive your landscape, the more likely you are to spend more time out there keeping it in shape. You can have a simple design that is also quite beautiful. So do some planning, looking, and thinking before building a new landscape or revamping an old one. Your time will be well spent.

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