Summer Gardening for Black Thumbs and Busy People
It may be summer, but gardening is no vacation for you—you’ve got so many dead plants on your rap sheet that you’ve pretty much consigned yourself to a garden-free yard for the foreseeable future. However, while you may not have had much luck in your past horticultural forays, you don’t need to run in the other direction every time you see a planting trowel. Gardening is like any other skill—it may take a few experiments before you get the hang of it.
Besides the obvious aesthetic advantages, a little time spent in the yard is good for your health, with both mental and physical benefits that can keep you healthier and happier. Of course, all of that relies on your garden’s success, which can be tricky when you’re inexperienced and rushed. These tips will help you maintain a lush, vibrant backyard, no matter how terrible your gardening record.
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Landscaping, Made Easy
First thing’s first: picking plants that are easy-to-grow and hardy will save you a lot of heartache in the long run. In fact, many of your past unsuccessful attempts at growing plants at home may be contributed to fussy cultivars. Here are a few less-fickle choices that are low-maintenance and will make landscaping beds a cinch:
- Hostas: An easy-going ornamental ground cover, hostas look great planted around tree bases or as an edging for shrubberies. They are shade-tolerant, making them a good choice for less sunny areas, and are subject to few pests and other problems. Make sure to give them a good soaking with the hose every once and awhile, however—they can dry up without it.
- Ornamental Grasses: Tall, low-maintenance ornamental grasses are a go-to for homeowners that want trendy landscaping without the work. Maiden grass is a hardy, drought-tolerant variety that grows up to 6 feet tall, in ideal conditions. Feather reedgrass is another great choice. It has an interesting shape and can flourish in many different growing conditions.
- Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce: Most dwarf spruces are easy to grow, but this variety has attractive blue-tipped foliage that makes it especially easy on the eyes, as well. Plopped into well-drained soil, it needs nothing more than some watering here and there.
- Creeping Thyme: Another shade-tolerant species, creeping thyme makes an excellent ground cover, that loves well-drained soils and can be used for cooking, as well.
- Lilac: Although its delicate blossoms may appear frilly and fussy, lilac is a hardy little flowering shrub that will produce lovely, showy blossoms in spring and early summer with just a little watering.
When you plant your landscaping beds, take the time to lay down a layer of eco-friendly mulch or use a fast-growing ground cover to keep weeds from making their way in. That way, your maintenance will be limited to watering.
Worry-Free Vegetable Gardens
Vegetables are actually some of the most low-maintenance plants out there, but tilling soil and regular weeding can be a real time suck. A raised bed, such as a corrugated iron kit, will reduce the amount of time you have to devote to both tasks. These beds can be assembled and filled with soil so there’s no turning ground and little issue with invasive weeds.
For late season gardening, you’ll need to select vegetables that can be grown fairly quickly, and which are sturdy enough to survive the heat. While you might not have enough time for plants that have long harvesting times, like pumpkins, you can still grow some delicious edibles for your home fairly easily. The following make great choices for a low-maintenance summer garden.
- Peppers: Most peppers are fairly easy to grow and love the heat of late summer—in fact, for spicy varieties, the hotter the temperature, the hotter the pepper will be.
- Garlic: A perennial favorite, garlic is practically impossible to kill. Harvest the garlic “scapes”—the long green plant parts—for use in stirfries and soups.
- Basil: Basil is a hardy, easy-to-grow aromatic that only asks for plenty of water. Pinch the tops off occasionally to keep it from going to seed.
- Carrots: If you have the room, carrots are simple and easy to grow, and they make a great late-season choice, since they can resist chill from fall frosts. They only require watering about once a week in most climates, and can survive in sandy soils.
- Squash: Squash requires around 50 days to reach maturation, so it’s not the best choice for homes in colder areas. However, for most areas, there’s still plenty of time to get some quality squash out of the ground. This plant loves moisture, and it will grow like a weed in soils that are regularly watered.
There’s also the issue of watering. If you’re feeling ambitious, a common garden hose with a soaker nozzle is fine—but be forewarned, vegetable gardens need a lot of moisture to grow lush, juicy food. If you don’t think you can commit to dragging the hose out and spray the plot down manually at least every other day (no shame, if you can’t!) then a sprinkler on a timer may be a better option.
Weeding is another problem. To combat wayward weeds in your garden, a little planning is needed before you plant. Organize your garden into rows, with seed spaced regularly every six to ten inches. Cut a piece of landscaping fabric to your garden’s dimensions, and punch holes to match your seedling spacing. This will help cut back on weeding and keep the soil more moist, as well as making it extra easy.
Flower Beds for the Perpetually Busy
Flowers can add a beautiful pop of color to a front yard, keeping your home full of curbside appeal. Unfortunately, many common florals are delicate and require more care in order to survive, especially throughout the hot summer months. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of flowering plants that can survive warmer weather—or a forgetful caretaker. For some fret-free cultivars, try out one of the following:
- Verbena: This stalwart herbaceous flower loves heat and humidity and can flourish in a wide variety of soil conditions. It’s also drought-tolerant, so it can survive if you happen to skip a watering or two. Try giving yours a soak with a hose once a week to keep it in optimal condition.
- False Indigo: A tall flowering plant, false indigo, or Baptisia, as it’s also known, is moderately drought-tolerant, and grows well in high heat and humidity. Deer also won’t eat it, making it a good choice for rural areas.
- Bluestar: A North American native, bluestar can survive light conditions from full sun to partial shade. It prefers hot, dry climates and can prosper in almost any kind of soil.
Or, Forget the Plants Altogether and Try Hardscaping
For truly incurable black thumbs, hardscaping is an alternative that requires hardly any upkeep at all. Stone beds, arranged into designs and punctuated by a few interesting pieces of pottery, are on the rise in the homes of busy people. In dryer areas, few sturdy succulents, like a yucca or agave, can provide a nice accent here as well, and require little looking-after to flourish. As you can see, there are plenty of alternatives that can make gardening a little easier when you’re short on time, or if you’re new to plants.
Remember, like any hobby, it takes time to learn the ins and outs of successful gardening, so don’t be too frustrated by a few failures. It’s all a part of the learning process!