29 April 2010

How About Some Take-It-Easy Gardening Ideas?

Whether you have a new home to landscape, an existing home to maintain, or if you rent, making your surroundings pleasing will provide hours of summer enjoyment.

For apartments, a large pot or two brimming with sun loving herbs and flowers make a big difference in how the entry looks and feels. A shady entry can be transformed with ferns in hanging pots or in tall planters.

Trees benefit both homeowners and renters. Most trees need some sun to thrive but, they can be planted in a pot on a sunny balcony or deck to provide shade and improve the view.

Woody shrubs are indispensible around a property line, across a deck, or under trees. In the summer, shrubs add softness and fullness. Placed carefully, they provide shade and a windscreen.

Perennial flowers, bulbs and annuals also play a role in easy gardening.

Easy care perennials come back year after year with little effort on the gardener's part. Hostas in the shade, Knock Out Roses for the sun, fall asters and dozens of other perennial, flowering plants will return for several years. To keep them easy care, though, avoid plants that need weekly pruning or staking to maintain their appeal.

It's hard to go wrong with sticking some durable bulbs in the ground. In this category, daylilies cannot be outdone. From spring to first frost, their leaves fill the garden and in the summer their flowers bloom day after day.

Annuals have their place, too. These are plants that last only one season. For the summer though, annual plants add herbs for the table, flowers for the butterflies, and color to spice up a solid green garden. Budget-wise gardeners look for annuals that drop seeds and return next spring.

Do more of what works.
If there are successful plants in your landscape, consider adding more of the same type. For example, if hibiscus, viburnum or lilac thrive in your neighborhood, plant six as a hedge.

Avoid work.
Certain trees and shrubs are messy. Magnolias drop flowers and leathery leaves that create problems near a pond, fountain or swimming pool. For lower maintenance, stick with small leaf plants and evergreens that shed very little.

Be water smart.
A little mulch goes a long way toward reducing the amount of water that potted plants need. In the summer months, put mulch on top of the soil in planter boxes, flower pots and flower beds. Since most herb and succulent gardens need the soil to be dry on the top, mulch those sparingly.

Soaker hoses are inexpensive and can reduce the chore of watering. Lay them down so they circle the bed, attach to the hose and let them run while you sip a glass of tea and read a book. Tuck a tuna fish size can under the hose and watch for it to fill. That's one inch and the right amount of water for most plants. A soaker hose and some mulch will cut both the work and the water bill.

If you have a sprinkler system for the lawn, place azaleas, mums and other moisture loving plants near the edge of the lawn. They will be kept happy with little effort on your part.

Install a pebble pool.
Mark out an area with a hose or a bag of flour, dig down four inches, stacking the removed soil to form a berm. Line the spot with plastic and fill it with small stones. Edge the pool with large flat stones. Put out a few pots or plant water loving plants in the ground around the pond. Add water as needed.

Place a chair or bench nearby so you can watch the birds, frogs and butterflies.

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