Free Advice — Part 2

What advice have I to share with those of you who want to age in your garden? This is the second post about what I have learned and try to (but don’t always follow). The first post was about planning your plantings and dealing with size and location. Here are some more suggestions from my grab bag of learned weeds and prize blooms and free!

Entry to the back yard seen from the back yard
Entry to the back yard seen from the back yard

  •  Don’t Install a Pond

No matter what you have been told, ponds require spring cleaning and fall winterizing at least, and unanticipated maintenance can be high: liner leaks, algae growth, fish health problems, plant health problems, water source and recirculation problems. There’s an awfully lot in this system that will go wrong over time and unexpectedly.

  •  Don’t Install Small Pots or Other Containers

Installing lots of small containers or pots adds enormously to your daily agenda. Pots and containers require daily watering, so if you want to plant stuff in pots, make sure you have ready access to water.

don't require daily watering
These potted plants (grasses and lamb’s ears) don’t require daily watering

If you insist on planting in pots and you go away, make sure someone comes to water your plants. Use large pots so that they won’t have to be watered more than once a day (the usual requirement during the height of summer). Use polymer crystals to soak up and give off water in the pots. Buy self-watering pots with a reservoir in the base to retain the water and give it back to the plants when they need it. Again, if you want to plant in pots, be aware of their maintenance and plan accordingly.

Coir baskets are plastic lined to retain moisture
Coir baskets are plastic lined to retain moisture

In our Maryland garden, we use plastic lined coir baskets and daily watering for our patio wall plants (out of the sun for about 6 hours a day too). We  only plant very hardy plants for the sun (sweet potato vines seem to do well, as do some grasses and succulents). But when we are less able to get around, they will go too.

  •  Plant bushes, preferably evergreen, rather than flowers

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.

Monarda is more of a weed than a prized perennial
Monarda is more of a weed than a prized perennial

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…

  •  Mulch Pretty Much Everything!

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.

Baloon flower so far with no weeds
Baloon flower so far with no weeds

There’s a lot more I could tell you that we have learned the hard way — but we don’t want you to repeat our mistakes — make new ones AND enjoy the process, because there is no “end point!”

Any advice for those out there sharing with us?

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