There are two kinds of people in the world. People who like to garden and love nothing better than spend hours tending to it and people who'd love to have a beautiful garden but don't want to spend hours tending to it. (I would fall in the latter category; my sister Barb in the former.) Valerie Easton's new book The NEW Low-Maintance Garden might not appeal to sis, but it's exactly what I've been looking for.
According to Val, we can all have beautiful gardens that require less labor AND money for upkeep if we follow a few simple rules. Take, for example, ground covers. From The NEW Low-Maintenance Garden, here's Val's advice when considering these labor-saving garden additions:
• Avoid plants that need deadheading, fertilizing, or dividing.
• Choose plants of similar timidity or vigor so that they’ll coexist harmoniously, without one type or another dominating and crowding the others out.
• Plant ground covers more closely together than you might expect: for instance, small plugs of moss and thyme should be planted no more than your hand’s width apart (which makes for easy measuring when planting). Avoid planting in even rows; staggered rows or a diamond pattern or even random patterning, looks most natural as the plants grow in.
• Consider installing drip irrigation or soaker hoses to keep ground covers well watered, especially in the first few years, which will encourage them to cover the ground much more quickly.
• Mulch between freshly planted ground covers and pull weeds regularly until the plants are large enough and cover the ground enough to out-compete the weeds.
• When planting ground covers on a slope, choose strong, tough varieties that can withstand drought. Then carve out temporary little terraces, or angled trenches with a lip on the downhill side, to keep water from running off or eroding the soil away from the baby plants’ roots.
• Any sharp, clean edge makes maintenance easier. Defining the edges of ground cover beds helps keep them tidy and the dirt from spilling over onto pathways, patios, or lawn.
• When planted in masses, ground covers can substitute for lawn, especially the “stepable” types like Irish moss, blue star creeper, and wooly thyme.
• Get the most visual impact from ground covers by combining them with hardscape. The textures and colors of the plants are shown off when lapping up against the edges of decks, patios, and terraces or growing around pavers. Planted in cracks and crevices, ground covers soften the edges of the hardscape as well as keep weeds out of difficult places.
• Ground covers and ground huggers aren’t synonymous, so don’t limit your thinking to low growers. Ferns, epimediums, hostas, ornamental grasses, lavender, and shorter bamboos work massed or interplanted to keep down weeds and cover the ground.
If the photographs, by Jacqueline Koch, are the possible outcome, then my future low-maintenance dream garden will rivals sis's labor-intensive one!
You can find The NEW Low-Maintenance Garden at Amazon for about $13.50...eligible for super- saver shipping.