For those who love the look of a summer yard brimming with blooms and showy foliage but don’t want to have to toil in the soil, a low-maintenance garden bed or a micro-garden is the ideal option. Low-maintenance gardens are exactly what they sound like – a collection of plantings chosen for their ease of care. Micro-gardens allow your green thumb to flourish on a small, easy-to-handle scale – think patio containers, window boxes and flower pots. Following are some tips on taking on either this summer.
Choose natives to Western N.C.
Native plants are an easy addition to a low-maintenance garden. They are already adapted to native soil types of Western North Carolina and generally grow best with little attention. Maximize your success by matching the right plants with the right site conditions: Take into account available light, moisture and soil pH, and for ideas look to nearby natural areas to observe how native plants grow naturally.
Some native plants to consider are: ferns such as Lady Fern and Hay-scented Fern; grasses and sedges such as Big Bluestem; ground covers like Wild Strawberry and Wild Blue Phlox; and wildflowers like Butterfly Milkweed and Blackeyed Susan.
Pack in perennials
A garden bed packed with perennials promises blooms year after year, with minimal-to-no work. Add in flowering perennials that require no deadheading, and you can literally sit back and enjoy the fruits of your one-time labor!
Perennials require less yearly maintenance, saving you money, energy and time by not having to clear out garden beds and replant every year. They also don’t require annual composting or mulching.
Perennial root systems offer some amazing advantages, not only to the perennials themselves, but to surrounding plants and soil. Because they don’t need to be pulled up and replanted each year, the soil remains undisturbed and structurally strong. The roots aerate and channel the ground, allowing water to travel more efficiently. This benefits shallow-rooted plants nearby, which draw moisture and nutrients up from the surface of the perennial roots.
Hardy perennials provide ground cover and preserve moisture. You can choose perennials that continue to benefit your yard through the winter, dying back in the colder months yet keeping enough foliage to cover the soil and protect it.
The magic of mulch
Adding a layer of mulch to your garden bed helps to prevent weeds from proliferating among your plants, saving you time and effort. Mulch also prevents erosion, an issue in the many hilly yards common in the Asheville area. It allows water to drip into the soil, rather than run off the surface and strip topsoil with it. Mulch also helps to retain moisture, so you don’t have to water as much. And it aids in regulating soil temperature, protecting plants from extremes that can stress and weaken them.
Depending on what you use, mulch can help to add nutrients and improve your soil over time. Natural mulch gradually decomposes, helping to aerate soil and prevent it from becoming compacted and hard.
Micro gardening options
If you’d like to grow plants and vegetables on a smaller, easier-to-handle scale, micro gardening is the way to go. Flowers, greens and herbs are micro favorites, but really anything can be grown with this method of gardening. All you need is a small outdoor space and a container.
Window boxes and flower pots are great for micro gardening, and having such containers can make it easier to tend to plants and amend the soil specifically to each plant’s needs. Micro gardening usually requires seed selection and germination, moist, rich soil, and a warm environment to start.
Depending on the type of vegetables or herbs planted, a micro garden can begin producing within two weeks of first leaf formation. The result is fresh, nutritious food for you and your family, easily attained with some tending.
Read More: How to Create an Eco-Friendly Landscape