For some people, the garden is a tranquil sanctuary. It’s a calm, relaxed, Zen-like outdoor space where you can pick fresh vegetables and pungent herbs for summer salads. Maybe at the end of August you’ll even have a small surplus of tomatoes and cucumbers, and the kids can set up a makeshift farm stand where they can get their first taste of the entrepreneurial spirit by selling snow peas and squash.
There is a Yang to that Zen-like Yin when it comes to gardening, and for every aspiring gardener who has a relaxed approach to growing vegetables and flowers, there is the hardcore horticulturalist who looks at gardening like it’s a competitive sport. In other words, they want to have the best, biggest and most aesthetically pleasing garden in the neighborhood. Needless to say, not everyone has a green thumb, and without a green thumb it doesn’t matter which approach you take to gardening because nothing seems to work (or grow). To borrow a colorful catchphrase from HGTV, here are 5 low maintenance tips that will make your garden pop.
Keep it simple
If you approach gardening like you’re trying to win a Blue Ribbon at the local fair or attempting to secure a photo spread in Better Homes and Gardens, then chances are all the joy and satisfaction that comes with gardening is going to be lost. Remember: gardening is supposed to be a leisure activity; it’s supposed to be relaxing, not a headache-inducing activity like battling rush-hour traffic or running errands. If you’re not having fun, then you’re not gardening. Having the right approach is the key to gardening.
It’s not Downton Abbey
A garden doesn’t need to be planted in grid-like rows, so erase the picture of the formal English garden from your mind. You can cut down on weeding and trimming by opting for a more natural, chaotic look. This type of wild aesthetic is more like what you would find in France or Italy. Sticking with a very low key, economical garden will save you the stress of major upkeep.
Use native flowers and plants. While you might want to be creative and try something cutting edge, once you try to plant a California orange tree in the northeast, you’re going to have nothing but trouble. Plants and flowers that are adapted to your environment will take far less maintenance to cultivate.
Bigger is not always better
This is one of gardening’s major lessons. Just because you have a large backyard doesn’t mean you need to turn it into a sprawling Audubon reserve that comes complete with koi pond, garden swing and Bellagio-style fountain. Obviously, the larger the garden, the more work you will have to put into it. Before you till the soil or start planting anything, create a sensible blueprint.
Take it easy on the fertilizer
While hardware stores are stacked with all types of magic formulas that are said to boost garden growth, a little fertilizer goes a long way. Too much can lead to overgrowth, and once that happens you will find yourself outside every day, sweating, a straw hat combating the sun, unable to keep up with all the excessive mowing and pruning.
Whether you’re looking to grow a few extra tomatoes and cucumbers or competing for the best garden in the neighborhood, these easy, low maintenance tips will lead you down the path to cultivating a green thumb. The next thing you know, your kids’ makeshift stand will either be a fully operating organic farm named Back to the Land, or you’ll finally have that full-page spread in Better Homes and Gardens.