I’ve written quite a bit about how you can design your gardens for easy care, because I’m passionate about letting people know that you can have beautiful garden spaces without hours and hours of work each week during the season. But I’m not going to lie – if you have a lot of those garden spaces, you will be spending hours, but hopefully if you use these 9 simple steps to your easiest garden ever, it will be only once or twice a season instead of weekly or monthly.
And of course, you can take to heart my tip #2 to keep it small and you may not spend hours at all – just enough time digging in the dirt to make you feel great, and the rest of the time enjoying your flowers and vegetables.
9 Steps To An Easy Care Garden
1. Observe Your Space.
- Sun patterns – know the areas of sun, shade, partial sun/shade and type of sun (i.e., hot western afternoon sun is harsher for plants than cooler morning sun).
- Water needs – figure out which areas are dry (under eaves and large trees), moist (near water) or hot (like those afternoon sun spots).
2. Start Small & Draw a Simple Plan
- Choose just 2-4 areas to start your garden, preferably close to your house so you can see the needs and benefit from the increased beauty.
- Sketch your basic ideas – a rough sketch is perfectly okay – including what type of hardscaping you’d like (paths, arbors, raised beds, etc.). Use your observations on your sun patterns to plan where to grow sun-loving vegetables and shade-loving plants.
3. Pick the Right Plants
- Think about the eventual size and plant accordingly- this may be the #1 thing that is difficult for any gardener – beginner or not. Most plants just look so small when you place them in your new bed and all you see is an expanse of dirt. DON’T be tempted to plant closer together to fill the space – you will thank me later. I speak from learned experience, because I didn’t listen, a-hem. You can fill the space with annuals if you want, but take to heart the full size measurements that will be listed on the plant tag (or do a search if you are given plants).
- Choose plants according to your areas sun and water needs. Good thing you spent some time observing, right?
- Research plants that are easy care (do not reseed invasively, grow too big, need lots of cutting back, etc.). See this list for some of my favorites.
- Plant in multiples of three or five – I don’t hold firm to the garden wisdom that they all need to be planted together, but I do like to see plant repeated throughout a space. It provides nice repetition- and makes it easier to plan.
- Tip: don’t think of evergreen trees and shrubs as boring – think of them as the backbone of the garden, providing a nice backdrop to seasonal flowers and some winter interest.
4. Lay the Foundation
- Plan the foundation of your area before planting any new gardens. You don’t have to do it all before, but it will help you know where you can start.
- Paths- plan where and what type (gravel, flagstone, bark, etc.)
- Patios or other hardscaping- think about where you want outdoor living areas and how they’ll connect to the house.
- Arbors and other wood and vertical structures.
- Think of things like hose guides as well so your plantings don’t get mowed over by the hose. In the picture above, you can see how we designed permanent wood guides close to our main spigot.
- Bonus Tip: Plan for garden utility areas: an example is this simple wood box we built to hold our hose – no fighting with a winder or too-small holder. It seriously is one of my favorite things since I use it almost daily in the summer. And my new Gilmour Flexogen hose is the easiest I’ve ever had to coil back in the box – I don’t have to fight with it at all! We designed the box to be tall enough to hold two hoses and sprinklers like Gilmour’s impulse sprinkler (which I’m loving for it’s easy-to-adjust settings so I can water right where I want). I also have the peace of mind that if something does go wrong with the Flexogen, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty (and made in the USA).
5. Build Simple Raised Beds
- Whether high or low, raised beds are probably the best way to an easy care garden. They can be made from almost any type of product – wood, cement, rocks, and even just mounded soil.
- Think about low raised beds for flower gardens, as well as vegetables. They make edging, weeding, feeding, and harvesting a breeze.
6. Grow Only What you Love or Fills a Need
- Have an eyesore area? Find an evergreen to cover it.
- What are your favorite flowers? Favorite colors? Stick to these and you will enjoy your new garden more than if you planted what someone else tells you to grow.
- For your vegetable beds, you really only want to grow only what your family will eat and love. Also think about what is harder to get at stores (tender lettuce), easy to grow (peas & beans) or where the home-grown version is tastiest (tomatoes comes to mind, which is probably why it’s the #1 home-grown vegetable/fruit).
7. Cover All Bare Spaces with Mulch
- Start with a layer of paper (either layers of newspaper or brown paper, or even thicker cardboard for areas you won’t be planting in) and lay it all around any plants you’ve added and cover all bare areas.
- Use fully finished garden compost, pine straw, or other available material for your mulch. We prefer a darker, soil-looking commercial compost for our garden areas, since it looks cool, clean and tidy when applied (pictured above). Add a good 1-2″ layer, but leave the area around the plants (about 2-3″ around) to make sure they don’t smother.
- See this video for more details of this technique that saves us hours of weeding each season.
8. Use Soaker Hoses or Drip Irrigation
- Lay soaker hoses all through your beds and all you need to do is hook up a hose like the Gilmour Flexogen hose to the end and let it soak for a few hours every 4-7 days, depending on your weather (using a quality hose like Flexogen’s makes it easy to carry to your beds because of it’s lightweight build and layer of oxygen-infused foam that greatly increase its flexibility). No need to stand over each plant with a hose, which never provides enough water anyway, or water overhead, which helps to spread plant diseases like mildew.
- Use quick connect hose ends to make hooking your hose to the soakers a snap, literally (and those sturdy, crush-resistent brass couplings make using the Flexogen with the connectors even easier).
- Drip irrigation takes a bit more time and money to set up, but it’s more concentrated to each plant. After that it, too, is just a matter of hooking up your hose.
- Tip: Use a timer at the head of your hose to make it even easier.
9. Enjoy it!
That’s what it’s all about, right?
You can find the Gilmour Flexogen hose at your local home improvement or garden store – and be sure to follow Gilmour on Facebook as well as visit their site for more watering and gardening tips!
Disclosure: I received product and/or compensation for this post. As always, the opinions, thoughts, and projects are all mine and I will NEVER promote something I don’t love and think you will find helpful – promise! For more info, you can read our entire disclosure page here.
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