By Rob Sproule
“Native plants give us a sense of where we are in that great land of ours. I want to look at Texas like Texas and Vermont like Vermont.“
– Lady Bird Johnson
If I could sum up 2018’s landscaping trends in one word, it would be “lifestyle”. People are wanting to extend their living space outdoors more and more. They want to spend more time outside, and most modern landscaping happens to support that goal.
But what about our plants? We still want them to be gorgeous, but we don’t want to spend our extra time outside watering, weeding, and fussing over prima-donna plantings. The Low- Maintenance Planting trend is all about freeing up more time to enjoy our backyard lifestyles.
Let Go of the Lawn:
Where do you spend the most time when maintaining your yard? Chances are it’s mowing, watering, and fertilizing the lawn.
In some phases of our lives, like when the kids are small, we need lawn. After that, however, the best way to save time in your yard is to ditch the lawn and install beds of native, low- maintenance plants, instead.
Using Native Plants:
The best way to reduce watering is simple: avoid plants that need a lot of water, like tropicals and tender perennials. As a general rule of thumb, if it won’t survive the winter or must be babied to do so, you’ll need to water and fertilize them regularly.
Native plants are a lazy gardener’s dream. They’ve evolved and adapted to the rainfall your yard normally gets, so in a normal year, you likely won’t need to water at all. Of course, some supplemental watering and a touch of fertilizer will make them healthier and better able to resist pests and diseases.
As a happy side-effect, natives are the most environmentally-friendly plants you could choose. They’ve developed natural resistances against the pests that plague imported plants and local pollinators flock to them as the most known and trusted food source.
Wood mulch is the unsung hero for low-maintenance gardening. It’s cheap, easy to install, and here’s what you get:
Watering Help: The mulch prevents soil evaporation and keeps moisture on the roots, where it needs to be. This decreases your need to water as frequently.
Weed Control: Smother those weeds! Cut holes for your existing plants to grow, and cover the rest. The only weeds that you’ll see will be from the odd seed that lands on accumulated soil on top of the mulch.
Biodiversity: This is usually overlooked, but the healthiest yards are those with resident predators to keep pest numbers under control. Whether it’s ladybugs, ground beetles, or spiders, mulch (particularly nuggets) provides ideal hiding and overwintering spots for your backyard mercenaries.
Low-maintenance is in vogue. Manicured, perfectly groomed gardens are less popular and have been exchanged for the “bed-head” look.
A bed-head garden is exactly how it sounds. It’s messy, wandering, and exactly how it’s meant to be. It uses native, low-maintenance plants and lets them grow as they will, without interfering or pruning. The idea is that a natural, micro-ecosystem will emerge that self-regulates pests, attracts pollinators, and bring its own style of rugged beauty to the yard.