Get Back to Basics and Enjoy Low Maintenance Flower Gardens This Season

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Gardening expert Melinda Myers shares tips and strategies for creating easy care, low input flower gardens with all of the beauty to enjoy throughout the season.

Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun' and Ageratum 'Blue Horizon' make a nice combination, adding plenty of color to flower gardens.

Grow a beautiful flower garden with minimal care by investing a bit of time at the start of the season to reduce ongoing care.

"Gardeners can grow a beautiful flower garden with minimal care by investing a bit of time at the start of the season to reduce ongoing care," says Melinda Myers, host of The Great Courses’ “How to Grow Anything” DVD series. Myers shared the following advice to create a flower garden without all the extra work to maintain it.

Always match the flowers to the growing conditions and the care that can be provided. Low maintenance plants need minimal or no deadheading and staking. This means gardeners will be growing good-looking plants with little effort. And if the plants are suited to the growing conditions and resistant to common pests that means even less work managing insect and disease problems.

Further reduce workload by selecting self-cleaning or free-flowering annuals and perennials and those bred for long bloom and compact growth. Then enjoy more colorful flowers with less pruning and grooming.

Ageratum, angelonia, calibrochoa and many of the newer petunia cultivars are just a few of the annuals that do not need regular deadheading for continual bloom. Include perennials like willow amsonia, bugbane, solomon seal, turtlehead and sedum autumn joy for lower maintenance and big results.

Prepare the soil and provide proper fertilization before planting. Work several inches of compost or other organic matter into the top 8 to 12 inches of soil to improve drainage and water holding ability. Incorporate a low nitrogen organic fertilizer like Milorganite at the same time. The slow release formulation provides needed nutrients throughout most, if not all, of the season. Plus, it promotes slow steady growth that won’t interfere with flowering, is less susceptible to pests and is more drought tolerant.

Properly space the plants, making sure they have sufficient room to reach their full size. Overcrowding plants will result in having to thin or divide plants more often or battle disease problems instead of enjoying the full beauty the plants provide.

Consider removing flowers on annuals at planting. This allows plants to focus their energy on establishing roots instead of flowers. If this is too hard to do, then remove the flowers on every other plant or every other row. Then a week or two later remove the flowers on the remaining plants. This will create full compact plants that produce more flowers throughout the season.

Pinch back long and leggy transplants. Use a hard pinch to remove the tip and several inches of stem. Use pruners or fingers to remove stems just above a set of leaves. The remaining plant will still look good, while waiting for new leaves and stems to grow and produce new blooms.

Encourage branching on single stemmed plants with a soft pinch. Remove just the uppermost portion of the stem where the leaves and tip are starting to develop. This will cause well branched plants and more blossoms.

Improve plant posture and reduce the need for staking with early season pruning. Keep mums and asters compact by pinching them back to six inches throughout June to encourage compact growth. Eliminate floppy growth and the need for staking on late bloomers like Boltonia, Autumn Joy sedum, Russian sage and Heliopsis.

Revive catmint and perennial salvia that flop open in the center with pruning. Cut flopping plants back halfway once or twice a season as needed.

And don’t forget to mulch. Covering the soil surface with an inch or two of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic material will conserve moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil as it decomposes.

Always water new plantings often enough to keep the top few inches of soil moist. Once established, water thoroughly and only as needed. This encourages drought tolerant roots, so there’s less need to water.

With proper planning, plant selection and soil preparation ongoing garden care can be kept to a minimum. That means more time to relax and enjoy the flower gardens.

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Diana Paul
Melinda Myers LLC
+1 (414) 771-1888
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