Make a plan, choose wisely and use native plants for a low-maintenance gardening experience.
The seed catalogs begin arriving. Beautiful, verdant pictures of luscious flowers blooming merrily along in sculpted gardens, all framed by well maintained rolling lawns. Leafing through the catalogs is certainly a fine diversion to chase away the gray January clouds and a way to begin planning your spring garden.
Now, for a douse of reality. Those vibrant pictures of flowering roses, deep purple clematis, impatiens bursting in oranges, pinks and lavender¬–they live in a controlled climate carefully tended by nursery people who care for them correctly, not in our Missouri yards.
So, keep in mind that what you see in the catalogs may not exactly work here. There’s no harm in dreaming, but as you begin to plan for spring, think of the reality of your yard and how much effort you will contribute to keeping it up.
While we can’t promise a no-maintenance landscape, we do have some suggestions for a low maintenance garden.
Begin with a plan
Whether you are starting from scratch or refreshing your current garden, a plan is a must. Look at the environmental aspects of your space and designate shady areas, full sun gardens, windy areas and extremely dry or wet locations. When you’ve completed your assessment move on to choosing the appropriate plants for the right spots.
As with most things simplicity, is much more elegant than an explosion of plant clutter. Each plant should serve a purpose, whether as ground cover, a backdrop or bits of color throughout a coordinated scheme. Give each plant enough room to grow, and be very generous with mulch. This nurtures plants, if you choose organic mulch, and reduces the need to water. Plants grouped into small beds are more eye-catching than a sweeping view more suited to public spaces. Small beds are also easier to maintain, which means success for you. The Missouri Extension Service has landscaping guides and plans that will be quite helpful.
When choosing your plants, keep in mind the Missouri summers that can be extremely oppressive in July and August. That kind of heat stresses plants and the people who care for them. Choose plant matter that can handle low watering and high heat.
The best bet for low maintenance plants are native ones. These plants live here in Missouri and have adapted well to the climate. Grownative.org, a cooperative project between the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Agriculture is an excellent resource to stock your garden with natives that you can enjoy the whole growing year with a minimum of effort. The Missouri Botanical Garden also offers Plants of merit that will grow well here.
Curl up with the delicious seed catalogs as the cold winter wind blows outside. Choose wisely and decide how much work you are willing to contribute to your garden. Then you’ll have great success and an enjoyable summer.
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