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Low Maintenance Gardening

Low Maintenance Gardening

There is no such thing as a maintenance free garden, but you can reduce the workload with some careful planning.


  • A large to medium-sized lawn requires a lot of effort if you want it to look good. You have to water, mow, fertilize, control weeds and insects, dethatch, aerate, and sometimes over seed.
  • If your lawn is in poor condition now, think about putting a lot of time into it for one year to bring it back to a thick, healthy state or simply sod over and start again. Once restored, it’s a matter of maintenance through proper watering and fertilizing rather than battling weeds, grubs, or thin spots every year.
  • Establishing a ground cover under mature shade trees or replacing grass with gravel along the side of the house where it’s always shady is much easier than reseeding every year.yard grass
  • You can also reduce the size of the lawn area with wider beds of shrubs, evergreens, and ground covers.
  • Small lawns can be eliminated completely and replaced with paths and areas of smooth riverbed stone or pea gravel interspersed with a variety of slow-growing plants and groundcovers, interesting rocks, and perhaps a bench or birdbath.


  • Choose evergreens or broadleaf evergreens that, when fully grown, exactly fit the space where you’ve planted it.
  • Think about replacing your Cedar hedges with a wood fence, surmounted with an attractive lattice. Train a flowering vine to cover the lattice and there’s almost no maintenance.

Flowering Plant Material

Annuals, perennials, and some flowering shrubs like Lilacs need to be “deadheaded”. Perennials need to be cut back close to the ground every fall and many varieties also need to be split in half every 3-5 years or their entangled root systems will stop them from flowering.

lilac blossom

  • Choose dwarf flowering shrubs that require no deadheading and little pruning of any kind like Potentilla, Dwarf Lilac, Carol Mackie Daphne, the dwarf Spireas, Compact Lemoine Deutzia, St. John’s Wort, and Miniature Snowflake Mockorange.
  • Plant larger shrubs that are self-sufficient like the Weigela, Burningbush, Cotoneaster, Winterberry, and Serviceberry.


Rose care normally includes deadheading, fertilizing, insect and disease control, and winterizing. However, Shrub Roses don’t require as much. The Ottawa Explorer series, in particular, is renowned for its hardiness and low maintenance. And don’t forget the Hybrid Teas!

  • Choose a Shrub Rose based on mature size, flower colour, and fragrance.
  • Carpet Roses were recently introduced and are gaining popularity for their disease-resistance and prolific blooming. Smaller than most Shrub Roses, they’re easy to maintain.


  • Consider installing an in-ground irrigation system that’s on a timer. It’s easy to program to go on at specific times and days of the week. You can also change it anytime depending upon natural weather conditions.
  • Purchase a soaker hose that gently seeps water into the soil. They take the place of hooking up sprinklers or watering by hand.
  • Group together plants with similar water requirements so some aren’t over watered while others aren’t getting enough.
  • Consider drought tolerant plants that may only need watering every 10 days to 2 weeks.

bark mulchWeeds

  • Lay black landscape fabric on top of the enriched soil when establishing a new garden to prevent weed growth. Peg it down with plastic pegs designed for this purpose so the fabric doesn’t shift, and cut an X in the fabric big enough to get the root ball into the ground.
  • Once planted, cover the porous fabric with 3 cm – 5 cm (1″ – 2″) of bark chips, cedar mulch, or cocoa bean mulch. These same mulches or gravel can be used anywhere in established gardens to stop weeds growing between plants. They also hold moisture in the ground longer so you don’t have to water as frequently.
  • Mulches are biodegradable, be sure to top them up regularly when they start to disappear. Landscape fabric is also ideal under gravel paths.
  • For interlock driveways and walkways, brush silica sand over the joints every year or two so the spaces between stones are packed like concrete. Weeds simply can’t establish themselves so you don’t have to worry about getting rid of them.