Landscape Maintenance Tips
When we have a struggling landscape, we often feel overwhelmed. So many things are going wrong: plants are dying, ornamental grasses don’t fully grow in, perennials don’t reflower, and the tree leaves are turning yellow and chlorotic. Often we give up on our landscape because of the level of maintenance and lack of improvement. There are a few tricks you can implement so you avoid this frustrating situation. These techniques would include good plant choice, the right watering, and effective design.
Poor plant choice is often the largest reason for a failing landscape. Unfortunately, any shrub, tree, or perennial will not work in every location in your landscape. In most landscapes you want small to medium sized trees, both shade and evergreens. For shrubs, you will want dwarf varieties but even then some of the plants get massive. (i.e. dwarf mugo pine gets 15’ tall and pygmy barberries gets 8’ tall) So, when purchasing a plant, you need to take into consideration the size of the plant when full grown. You should purchase the plant that will still fit the width of the bed while leaving room for the other layers when it is fully mature. Most plant tags have a description of the size range. Then, make sure that plant you are wanting will actually survive in our climate as well as the microclimate in the yard. If the bed is in full hot south or west facing exposure, you will want plants that love heat. If the bed is on the north side, you will want plants that love shade, etc. Following these guidelines will help you avoid most of the issues described previously. Its just like real estate - location, location, location.
Appropriate watering can really be a science when living in a desert location and getting it right can be the difference between life or death of the plant. Most plants struggle when their leaves are wet so consistent spray watering, even though it is the simplest sprinkler system, is in most cases detrimental to the plants. The water in Utah is often laden with salts and other harmful chemicals. All of these factors overwhelm most plants to the extent that they give up. Spray watering is also very inefficient as a large portion is lost to evaporation or a taller plant is in front of the spray head. Interestingly enough, this can lead to plants not getting the water they need. Using drip lines to water your plants not only is better for them, it reduces loss and will save you money on that monthly water bill. It will also only water the plants directly instead of the entire bed, thus soaking them thoroughly without excess. Another perk is fewer weeds because the water is being absorbed by the plant only. Watering with a drip line, either point source or inline, helps maintain the garden more efficiently.
Effective design also makes a large impact on the ease of maintenance in a landscape. Having an organized space with purpose, function and good plant choice will make the landscape easier to maintain. You will feel in control instead of overwhelmed. The basics of good design include having good proportions of beds to lawn so there is an aesthetic balance as well as enough root depth for the plants. Not enough depth will cause them to compete for resources with the lawn itself. The beds should be deep enough for roots but also wide enough to allow for layering. Proper layering in the beds goes a long way to maintain interest and curb appeal. The right plant in the right place makes a difference here as well. Using trees and shrubs as foundation plantings and good groundcover will unify the space. This not only is a good design, it is easier maintenance. Choose hardscaping that is low maintenance such as compacted chat, flagstone chips, or pavers. Plant in clusters, or lines to make the best visual impact but this will also allow the plants to help each other grow. Avoid having small sections of lawn, as this is very hard to keep green and healthy here in Utah. Keep the lawn that you do have contained to its space by using submerged edging installed with stakes. Grass roots are 6-8” deep and will easily grow underneath edging that is not deep enough. Remember, pulling overgrown lawn out of your beds is neither easy nor rewarding.
In conclusion, using good design elements will set the stage for easy maintenance. Watering with effective techniques and choosing the right plant will help create a thriving landscape. And with all that time you saved not having to care for your yard can be spent enjoying it.