This is the second post in a series on mistakes to avoid in your garden as you age. These mistakes apply to anyone wanting to minimize the maintenance of their garden, because of time, the heat of summer, or simply inclination, wanting to do something else with your spare time! The first post is here.
1. Mistakes to Avoid: Planting flowers, even perennials
Flowers can be overrated! Color in the garden can come from bushes, shrubs, and trees, and the maintenance of the latter is much less than that of flowers, even perennials! Flowers require deadheading, staking, and weeding. Annuals require purchase and planting annually or overwintering in special conditions. Perennials require dividing.
It can all be too much, when you compare this with planting a shrub, watering it until established, and then (unless you’ve selected too large a shrub for the space) forgetting about it. I’ve found replacing flowers with bushes and shrubs relatively freeing…
2. Mistakes to Avoid: Plant Hybrid Tea Roses
Although it can be done in certain parts of this country (maybe only California?), in general, a hybrid tea rose is a high-maintenance plant if there ever was one.
It is susceptible to a lot of disease and ugliness in most parts of the nation, especially where there is humidity and high temperatures. The knockout roses are the easiest to care for, if you must have a rose, and the rosa rugosa for a hedge rose. Any other type of rose, floribunda, old English, etc. are intermediate in care between the easy care and the hybrid tea. Not that you can’t grow a hybrid tea, just be prepared to take care of it.
3. Mistakes to Avoid: Don’t Use Mulch
Weeding is probably the one thing you will do the most of in your garden. Don’t make it a full time occupation!
We have someone come and put down bark mulch annually to keep the weeds to a dull roar and then we spread “Preen” weed killer over the mulch to reduce the weeds that self seed. It isn’t fool proof and does not eliminate weeding, but it does reduce the amount of weeding to something manageable.
4. Mistakes to Avoid: Plant fruit trees
These boys and girls need a great deal of maintenance! Spraying, thinning, pruning are all required annually, and the spraying sometimes weekly or monthly. For those of us not feedng a horde or canning or freezing, this is quite a bit of effort for the pleasure of giving your bounty away (which is not a bad thing, mind you).
However, the spraying does not mean that you are growing anything safer than what you can buy in the grocery store, and you are exposing yourself to the chemicals directly! So don’t do it, and don’t believe that you can grow any fruit tree without some kind of chemical fall back if you are to save your tree at some time in its life!
5. Mistakes to Avoid: Try to have a weed-free lawn
It just isn’t worth it in time, chemicals, and appearance.Select a hardy perennial mix recommended for your area. Spread broad leaf weed killer at the beginning of the season to get the dandelions that your neighbors will complain about if you let them go to seed. If it’s green most of the time, be thankful. Keep it mowed high (3 or 4 inches in the heat of summer in the Mid Atlantic region), tolerate clover, and overseed in the fall to replace and rejuvenate the week areas.
6. Mistakes to Avoid: Prune shrubs into high maintenance shapes
This is a mistake that we consciously make at our home. We love niwaki and bonsai and other manicured garden shapes. We shape our boxwood.
We prune and preen our juniper. We love to prune. But if we were honest, we would have to admit this is a high-maintenance activity that should be dispensed with if we didn’t love to do it so much! As we said in the first of this series, we are not advising against any of the these mistakes, if you want to do any of them, just be aware of the risks you are taking versus the rewards!
7. Mistakes to Avoid: Don’t Plan Ahead
If you don’t have a plan for your yard and garden, that’s what you’ll get. Instead ask yourself what do you want and what impinges on that? I want hostas and they are deer dessert, so I have to ask how to discourage deer in my garden. I could give up on the hosta and select something deer resistant (no, there is nothing that is deer-proof) and plant that. I may do so in the future, but for now, I cage my hosta,
spray it with deer repellant, and curse the white-tailed vermin! If you want lawn and have children that like to play outside, select something that can be stomped on and still survive. If you want potted plants, put your hose very close to them, leave the hose out all the time, and water every day. If you want to grow a vegetable garden, plan to devote a great deal of time to planting, weeding, staking, netting (if your birds like vegetables too), caging (if your deer like what you are raising), and watering (to keep the moisture level even). If you are less able to get down to ground level to do all this, have someone build raised beds that you can sit on to weed, stake, etc.