Oftentimes, creating a beautiful, thriving or edible landscape feels overwhelming and beyond our reach. We have tried numerous times to keep up on the work. We have to prune, deadhead, water, spread compost and any number of tasks to create a healthy landscape but even then the work is not done. We then have to maintain the plants as well: they become covered in pests and after all that work they fail or look poorly throughout the growing season. We double our efforts and try to keep the beds clean of debris, weeds and mulch that will bring in pests but the plants don’t thrive any better. So we either give up or increase our maintenance. Thankfully, there is another way to approach this situation, one that would solve many of the issues and reduce at least most of the maintenance issues. Two steps can help you make this possible and include arranging your landscape into separate functional spaces and choosing plants that fit into the description of permaculture.
But what is permaculture? Basically is it using nature to do all the heavy lifting for us. Sure, it might be impressive to have a beautiful Japanese garden in the middle of the desert, but wouldn't be easier to stick with how mother nature does it? Permaculture is where the plant choice and design try to take advantage of the natural ecosystem in your region.
Creating separate functional spaces helps us maintain each spaces more efficiently so we don’t become overwhelmed. Functional spaces would include vegetable area, play area, open lawn area, entertaining area, and storage areas. Separate these areas with flower beds, hedges, or even hardscape paths and walls. When you are working on maintaining the landscape, choose only one of the areas to focus on and work until finished. This system will make the work feel easier to accomplish thus reducing the overwhelmed feelings of maintenance. Side note, this also works when applied to the rest of your life :)
Actually reducing maintenance, at least on the pest side would include planting permaculture type plants. These plants will help bring in the 99% percent of beneficial insects into your yard. These then will eat and therefore maintain healthy levels of the 1% of harmful insects that often attack our landscape each year. To keep the beneficial insects in your landscape, you need to create habitat for them with plants that have nectar, provide protection, means of reproduction and winter protection. Just like humans, bugs need homes where they can help create an ecosystem in your landscape, one that can potentially self-sustain the pest levels in your landscape. The beneficial insects will eat the harmful insects as well as feed on the nectar of the plants. They will help with pollination and improve the health of many other plants in the landscape. They can also increase curb appeal in your landscape, especially if they are clustered together in patterns or functional spaces as discussed in the previous paragraph. Some of these plants include rudbeckia, liatris, echinacea, agastache, monarda, and any number of herbs.
Surprisingly, creating a bug-filled landscape can actually help reduce your pest levels and therefore, maintenance in general. Keeping a wintering grounds for these insects can shift some of the fall and winter maintenance to spring, but it will make the end result better. You will not want to cut down your perennials for the winter but in the spring after the bugs are awake. Creating a self-sustaining garden and well organized landscape will lower your maintenance levels overall and increase curb appeal. This approach also leads to lower maintenance with hardscape paths and flower beds between areas so the workload for each area is more manageable. All of this will result in a much healthier and more beautiful outdoor space.