Having a garden is an excellent way to improve your home’s aesthetic appeal. A garden can also encourage you to spend more time outdoors and, if you choose edible plants, eat healthier. However, many of us simply don’t have the time to spend tending plants. Does that mean you should give up on your garden dream? Absolutely not! Consider our tips for keeping a low-maintenance garden in Valparaiso.
Choosing the right garden site will reduce your workload later. Look for a sunny spot with good drainage. Locations receiving at least six hours of direct sunlight are ideal, especially for vegetables. Check your drainage by looking out for standing water after rain. Valparaiso’s clay soils have notoriously poor drainage, so don’t skip this vital step.
Don’t plant your garden too close to existing trees or shrubs which will compete for water and nutrients. Some plants, such as walnut trees, can also be toxic to other plants.
Gardens can be low-maintenance, but there’s no such thing as a no-maintenance garden. The larger your garden, the more work it will be. A large garden means more area for weeding and watering. Start small, especially if you’ve never had a garden before. You can always extend it later if you’re ready to take more on.
Think Outside the Box
Creating a garden doesn’t always mean working with your property’s land. Thinking outside the box can help you create the lowest maintenance garden. Container gardens are ideal low-maintenance options for gardening newbies. These small self-contained gardens are ideal for growing herbs and salad herbs.
For something a little larger, consider a raised garden bed. A raised garden bed sits above the ground, so it’s a great way to overcome natural hurdles like poor drainage and finicky clay soil.
If you’ve made a traditional garden, look for low-maintenance plants that will thrive in Valparaiso’s clay soil. Clay particles sit close together, making less room for water and oxygen to pass through. Clay soils often don’t drain well, leading to root rot. Only the hardiest plants survive in these challenging conditions.
Wildflowers and plants growing naturally in Indiana are the most natural choices. The farther a plant is from its natural growing conditions, the harder you’ll work to keep it healthy. Black-eyed Susan varieties, purple coneflower, and goldenrod are some of the natives you could plant at home. These plants are all used to Valparaiso’s temperature, rainfall, humidity, and soil. For a classic garden, consider clay-loving non-natives such as viburnums, white and oakleaf hydrangea, shrub roses, and dwarf lilac.
Vegetables harvested in summer and autumn often thrive in Valparaiso’s clay soils. Cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkins, squashes, onions, and leeks are among the vegetables who love the high nutrient and water content of local soils.
Growing fruit isn’t recommended for people wanting a low-maintenance garden. Soft fruit bushes don’t appreciate clay soils, although hardier fruit trees will do fine in Valparaiso. However, they’ll take time to establish. The extra watering required for the first few years can be enough to turn many time-poor people off. Once the roots grow strong apple and pear trees should need little tending, but it takes a lot of time to get them there.
Spread Some Mulch
Mulch insulates your soil, keeping your plant roots comfortable and reducing moisture loss. Lay a two-inch layer of mulch and you can water your plants less frequently. This is a real plus in summer, when soaring Valparaiso temperatures can dry soil quickly. As it breaks down, natural mulches add nutrients to the soil and improve its quality. This is a big benefit when working with local clay-based soils. As an added bonus, mulch also suppresses weeds. Evergreen needles, shredded leaves, wood chips, and shredded bark all make excellent mulch.
Mulch will reduce the amount of weeds that grow in your garden, but it won’t stop them entirely. Weeding is a maintenance task few gardeners enjoy, but don’t put it on the back burner. Weeding your garden diligently, whenever these intrusive plants pop up, saves time in the long run. New weeds are easily pulled out by hand while more established ones are much more stubborn. Weeds also compete with your garden plants for water and nutrients. Remove them quickly and your own plants will have more of the elements they need to thrive.
Weeds also encourage insects and diseases to take up residence in your garden. These nasties can quickly bother your plants. Remove the weeds and you’ll spend less time spraying insecticides and nursing your plants back to health.
Watering is another essential maintenance task, but there are ways to water smarter. Water evaporates quickly in the heat of the day, before the soil absorbs it. Water early in the morning, before temperatures peak, to reduce moisture loss. This habit will make your watering more effective.
Don’t make the mistake of watering at night though. While you won’t need to worry about evaporation, this practice can make your plants too wet and vulnerable to disease.
Remember too that new plants are the neediest. You may dream of a low-maintenance garden, but be patient. Invest time watering small plants frequently in the first few weeks, then you can reduce your watering time later. Shrubs and trees take years to develop a healthy root system, so they’re not recommended for low-maintenance gardens.
If you really want to cut maintenance time, consider an automatic irrigation system. These systems can be expensive, but they’ll take over the watering for you.
Keeping a low-maintenance garden is one way to make your home greener. For more sustainable ideas, speak to the experts at Energy Diagnostics. We’ve helped homes and businesses in Valparaiso reduce their energy consumption and comply with the latest energy guidelines since the 1990s. Complete our online contact form to learn how we can help you.