The Joy of Smart Gardening

As a native Floridian, my feet are happiest in flip-flops, I sleep through the winter with my windows wide open and I love the feeling of a mild sunburn. My existence is pretty darn simple. If, however, I were to be relocated, say by a hypothetical job or spouse, to somewhere like Alaska, things would change quickly. In order to survive, much less flourish, I would require heavy clothing, constant heat applied to my body, antibiotics to fight the flu and a daily dose of vitamin D to compensate for the loss of sunshine. You see, by putting me where I don’t want to be, you have converted a thriving, low maintenance guy into a very high maintenance person with little chance of survival. This silly analogy has a point, read on!

After 20 years of designing landscapes for clients, one thing is for sure, everyone starts out the with the same goal – low maintenance. But rarely is this wish satisfied. Why? Well, I think we fail to really define and understand what we mean by “low maintenance”. So let’s do that. I suggest we start by defining all the landscapes tasks that diminish your bank account and ruin your Saturday, and then let’s see how we can reduce or eliminate them. Here are the 6 biggest offenders:

IRRIGATION costs you a fortune in water and repairs, and it is an insane waste of our precious Florida natural resource. The fastest way to reverse this is to eliminate, or greatly reduce, your grass areas. It is not as hard as you think, click this link to see my video on YouTube for details The second best thing you can do is to only select plants that have very low water requirements. Many of our Florida natives can survive with no supplemental irrigation once established. Imagine that, a low water bill, no concern when the water restrictions are in place and no sprinkler repair costs.

FERTILIZATION is not only expensive but the nitrogen and phosphorus runoff is a detrimental pollutant to surrounding water bodies. The best way to eliminate fertilizer is to use native plants. More specifically, you should pick natives that are happy with your existing soils and local weather conditions. When a plant is satisfied with the natural, existing soil, fertilizer becomes unnecessary. Fertilizing is basically you fooling a plant into being happy in a place where it is not meant to be!

FUNGICIDE AND INSECTICIDE APPLICATION is another thing we do to force plants, palms and trees to live where they don’t belong. It is now popular for homeowners to sign up with lawn spraying companies to do quarterly preventive spraying. This drives me crazy, it is bad enough that we are poisoning our ground with chemicals when our gardens have a problem, but now we are doing it even when they don’t have a problem! Most native plants are very resistant to insects and disease when used in their appropriate ecosystem. Remember, right plant, right place!

MOWING EDGING AND TRIMMING can be eliminated in 2 steps. First use no, or very little, turf grass. Gardens without grass render lawn equipment useless. Next, pick plants that have a mature size that fits the space you are designing.  Properly sized plants will eliminate constant pruning. Also consider things like succulents, Bromeliads and grassy plants that never require trimming.

WEEDING can be a huge problem or a minor chore, it depends on how the landscape is designed. Properly spaced plants fill in quickly and reduce the area for weeds to thrive. Naturalistic designs tend to have less definition between the materials and therefore fewer opportunities for weeds.  

PERIODIC PLANT REPLACEMENT can be reduced by selecting long-lived plants. In addition to a plants typical life span, you want to increase the chance of survival by following all the suggestions above.

So, did you catch that?  5 of the 6 most disliked garden tasks can be eliminated with good plant choice and minimal sod usage!

Let me know if I can be of any help. Feel free to post questions or upload photos, I would be happy to hear from you.

Mike@MikeFlaughLA.com   www.MikeFlaughLA.com   772.419.0024    772.201.9733

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