Buzzword: Low Maintenance

When I hear the words “Low Maintenance,” I always ask for clarification. This term means different things to different people!

man on riding lawn mower

In my opinion, turf grass is high maintenance. Grass requires regular mowing and watering. Core aeration, and fertilizing (often with weed control) is necessary to keep grass healthy. However, these chore are accomplished with machinery and can be easily contracted out. Therefore, many people consider grass to be low maintenance.

Trees and shrubs are more mid-range of maintenance requirements. Trees and shrubs only need to be pruned once per year – or less. Sustainable pruning is first carefully removing dead or dying branches, crossing branches, and then pruning for the overall structure of the tree or shrub. The debris from deciduous trees – such as leaves, petals or twigs – can create a lot of clean up maintenance.

Plants that everyone agrees are low maintenance are ornamental grasses (clumping type grasses). Tall grasses such as Karl Foerster Reed grass or Prairie Drop Seed only need to be cut back once each year. Cut the clump of grass to about 8-12” above the soil level in late winter/early spring (March). Since there isn’t any careful selection of what to keep and what to remove, cutting back grasses is a fairly easy task. Ornamental grasses rarely require division.

Perennial and annual flowers require more attention. These plants will reward you with more flowers if you deadhead them (remove spent flowers). A perennial bed needs careful weeding and some plants require regular division. A good way to enjoy perennial flowers but with a bit less maintenance is by grouping the plants, or planting in drifts of the same plant.

Often overlooked, allowing enough space for each plant to grow and spread when you first plant them eliminates extra maintenance of pruning, dividing, or relocating plants.

I understand you may not want to spend all your time doing yard work. There is no such thing as a no-maintenance garden. The question is just what does “low maintenance” mean to you.

Garden Self-Evaluation: May
Garden Self-Evaluation: April