Frederick County Master Gardener Program
Few of us have as much time to
spend in the garden as we might wish. But there are
ways to maximize your time spent to achieve a lush
Have a plan. By starting your
landscaping with a plan, you will have an idea of the
types of plants you need to buy and where you're going
to plant them. You would also eliminate having to rip
out or move them to put in another feature, such as a
swimming pool, shed, or patio. When planning your
landscape, it will help to cluster your plants
together in large beds, leaving them room to grow.
Create a pleasing shape for the beds, making the
curves easy for your mower to navigate. Annuals are
labor intensive. An informal design using a varied
selection of perennials and trees and shrubs in their
natural shape will provide multiple seasons of
interest for little effort.
Select the right plants. All
plants are genetically programmed to grow in special
environments and to a certain size. Their nursery tags
usually provide this information. By giving them the
room they need to grow, you will reduce pruning needs.
Sun lovers in the shade or shady characters in the sun
will be stressed and more susceptible to diseases,
drought, and pests, invariably causing more labor to
keep them healthy.
Get to know the natives. The
native plants are the ones that thrive in this area
and should do well in your garden with little
intervention. In addition, many of them provide food
sources for birds and wildlife and many beneficial
Work with Nature. Leave the
grass clippings on the lawn to decompose into grass
food. Let the fall leaves create a natural mulch in
your gardens. They will decompose into organic matter
that will enrich your soil and provide food for
beneficial organisms. Many birds and insects feed on
other insect pests and reduce or eliminate the need
for pesticides. Creating an environment that provides
food, water and shelter for wildlife will encourage
them to visit your yard.
Lawn = work. The idealized
lawn is a monoculture of a plant species not
well-designed for our locality. Our summers get too
hot for the cool-season grasses, like tall fescue, and
our winters are too cold for the warm season grasses.
As a result, the grasses go dormant during these
difficult periods and turn brown. Keeping it green in
summer stresses the grass, causing it to put energy
into leaf growth instead of good root structure,
making it more attractive to pests and diseases.
Watering and fertilizing it compounds the problem and
requires more frequent mowing. By reducing the lawn
area, one can cut the time spent mowing, and by
allowing the grass use its natural defense of dormancy
in the heat of summer, the lawn will rebound in the
cooler months with better health.
No Fruits and Veggies. Most
fruit trees, berries and vegetables grown for human
consumption have been hybridized for greater crop
production and have lost much of their natural
resistance to diseases and pests. This causes more
work to grow them. However, if you simply must plant
food crops, select varieties that are disease
resistant and require little staking. Mulch and soil
amended with organic matter will greatly improve the
health and production of the vegetable garden.
Herbs, on the other hand, fall
in the no-brainer category. Most are drought
resistant, tolerant of poor soil and ignored by pests.
Make your tools work harder
than you. Good quality garden tools require less
effort to operate. Make sure they're sized properly
for your body and strength. Shovels, pruners and saws
should be sharpened for easier cutting. Soaker hoses
can be arranged to water large beds with little effort
or evaporation. Lawn mowers with electric starters are
easier to start than pull cords.
Mulch. An organic mulch
conserves moisture, reduces weed germination, and
improves the soil as it decomposes. Spread it no more
than 3" deep. It does not need to be removed annually,
just increased as necessary for depth and aesthetics.
Relax. Strict enforcement of a
"no-weed" policy or rigid geometric shapes consumes
many hours better spent enjoying your landscape. Not
all "weeds" are undesirable, some are just
misunderstood. Appreciating the natural shapes of your
trees and shrubs will eliminate the desire to whack
them into tortured configurations.
Knowledge is power. Just as
nearly every kitchen has a cookbook, every home with a
yard should have a basic gardening book. Knowing your
plants and some basic maintenance procedures will
enable you to better understand their needs.
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