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How to Grow a Low-Maintenance Garden

Planting Style

Meadow Plants
Here are some great meadow grasses and flowers that will do well in your low-maintenance garden.

Selecting the right style of planting for any given area can also reduce maintenance. Instead of lawn grass that needs regular fertilizing, watering, and mowing, a self-sustaining meadow area can be appealing and leave you with plenty of time for your other interests. This and other tips will help your landscape look great with less effort.

  • Plant weedy spots with thick-growing ground cover to avoid becoming a drudge to weeding. Ground cover works well on banks, in sun or shade, under fencing where it's hard to keep weeds down, beside outbuildings, and even under trees where it's too shady for grass to grow.

    It's important to start the ground-cover bed in weed-free soil, however, so the ground cover can take over without competition. Another option is to clean up the soil. Turn it over with a rototiller or spade, let the weeds sprout, and then turn it again. Repeat the process until the weeds are almost gone.

    Choose a ground cover that will thrive on the site. It needs to spread vigorously and grow thickly enough to crowd out any weeds. In shady areas, try pachysandra, barrenwort, or wild ginger. In sun, try creeping junipers, daylilies, ground-cover roses, or other plants that are specifically suited for your climate.

    For good results fast, buy plenty of plants and space them relatively close together. If this is too expensive, spread plants farther apart, and mulch the open areas to discourage weeds. Plan to keep a close eye on the new garden for the first year and pull up or hoe down any weeds that appear. Water and fertilize as needed to get the ground-cover plants growing and spreading quickly. Once they've covered the soil solidly, there won't be any space for weeds.

  • In areas distant from the house, plant native meadow grasses and flowers that only need to be mowed once
    a year. Then have fun watching meadow garden flowers come and go throughout the season.

    You can find seed mixes or prestarted turflike carpets
    of meadow plants specially blended for different regions
    of the country. To feature your location's unique meadow plants, just let the area grow wild, and meadow plants will come on their own. (Be sure to explain what you are doing to your neighbors so they won't think your lawn mower is broken!)

    While they are getting started, newly planted meadows will need weeding and watering. Once in the late fall -- after the flowers and grasses have all set seed -- mow them down and let the seeds scatter to come up next year. Purchased wildflower carpets and mixes may contain colorful flowers that disappear after several years. You can sprinkle new seeds or plug in new clumps of a wildflower carpet to reintroduce them for color if you want.

  • Mow down old flower stalks in late fall to clean up a flower garden. Before mowing anything but grass with your mower, make sure it has a safety feature that will prevent debris from being thrown out at you. Using suitable lawn mowers can save you plenty of time compared to cutting back the flower stalks by hand. If you allow the old stems to scatter around the garden instead of bagging them, you may find an abundance of self-sown seedlings arising in springtime.

  • Speed up the compost-making process by chopping up leaves and twigs before putting them on the compost pile. The smaller the pieces are, the faster they will decay. Chopping can be easily done with a chipper-shredder or a mulching mower.
Wild sunflowers, though not as showy as these hybrids, are beautiful in meadows and gardens.