Keep your landscaping looking good with less effort

Keep your yard looking its best and reduce your workload by adopting practices that offer several benefits. Your garden will flourish and you will have more time to enjoy its beauty.

Let your garden waste do the work in your garden. You save time when transporting plant residues to the recycling center and when buying bag material. Use shredded leaves, evergreen needles, herbicide-free grass waste, or other pest- and weed-free organic material as mulch. Spread an inch or two of these materials on the ground around annual and perennial flowers and vegetables.

Use wood chips and shredded bark to mulch paths, trees, and shrubs. Team up with your neighbors, rent a shredder, and turn the brush into mulch for your landscape. Keep a two to three inch layer of mulch around the plants, remembering to keep the mulch away from tree trunks and the canopy of plants.

Organic mulch helps conserve moisture, reduce weeds, and improve the soil as it breaks down. So you will get multiple benefits from this one task while burning a few calories and strengthening your muscles.

Water plants thoroughly and less often when watering the garden. This promotes deep roots and makes your plants more drought tolerant and pest resistant. Water early in the day to reduce water loss through evaporation. Consider using drip irrigation or drinking hoses to deliver water directly to the plant roots where it is needed.

Check the container gardens daily. Water thoroughly until excess water runs out of the ground or use one of the many container irrigation systems. Use a slow release fertilizer so the plants will thrive with less effort. These types of fertilizers provide a slow, steady release of nutrients for balanced growth without sacrificing flowers or burning drought-affected plants.

Don’t forget your trees and bushes. Proper watering also improves their health. Water new plantings and moisture lovers when the top few inches of the soil are dry. Even established trees and shrubs need a helping hand in long periods of drought. Always water thoroughly to promote deep, drought-resistant roots.

Mow your lawn for as long as your grass is actively growing. Mow high, as taller grass can compete better with weeds and form deeper roots, making it more drought tolerant. Minimize stress by removing no more than a third of the total height of the grass each time you mow.

Always use a sharp mower knife. Sharp blades cut more efficiently and save time when mowing. They use 22 percent less fuel and the lawn uses up to 30 percent less water. Plus, the clean cut will be less noticeable and the wound will close quickly, so you can grow a healthy, better looking lawn.

Make sure you leave clippings on the lawn. They add nutrients, moisture, and organics to the soil. The clippings of one season correspond to one application of fertilizer. Every time you mow, you fertilize the lawn and improve the soil.

End any gardening job with a bit of tidying up. Sweep clippings, plant debris, and manure from walks, drives, and patios to keep them from getting into storm sewers. Keeping plant debris out of our waterways is good for us and the environment.

Melinda Myers has written numerous books, including “Small Space Gardening”. She hosts the DVD series “How to Grow Anything” from The Great Courses and the nationally syndicated television and radio program “Melinda’s Garden Moment”. Myers is a columnist and editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned with her expertise by Longfield Gardens to write this article. More information is available at www.MelindaMyers.com.

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