Lance Ellis

Lance Ellis

We all want a beautiful yard, and we know that to have an outdoor oasis of beauty it requires lots of time, energy and just plain work. This is discouraging to most people and it’s why landscape projects or gardens get neglected, half finished or never get started.

For this reason and others, it is important to look at what you are trying to accomplish and start taking small, sequential steps to accomplish it. One of these steps is to implement a low-maintenance approach. This approach to landscaping is accomplished in the details of how you go about designing and maintaining your yard.

To begin, stop and ask if there is a better or more effective way to do a job. If you can’t come up with anything, ask an expert who could give you some tips to get another approach. There is no reason to work yourself to death over a landscape.

Here are some tips to help decrease maintenance in your yard.

1. Decrease pest issues create an ecosystem with plant diversity. Certain plants attract certain insects, and planting all of one particular kind of plant could create a buffet for a destructive pest. It is better to create a good mix of plants such as evergreens, deciduous plants and herbaceous plants so that the likelihood of a disease or insect outbreak is decreased.

2. Maximize the health of your plants. Insects are naturally drawn to plants under stress, and are able to infect or infest a plant easier when it is not healthy. Adequate moisture, light, nutrients, and other beneficial environmental aspects will give your tree a natural defense against unwanted issues, and reduces the amount of maintenance work you have to do in pest and disease control.

3. Protect beneficial insects and organisms. In your garden you have good guys and bad guys. Unfortunately, when using many chemicals to control pests you are killing off the good guys as well as the bad guys. This why it is important to choose the most environmentally sound option available when dealing with pest issues. Rather than thinking the first thing you need to do to solve a pest problem is grab a spray and kill it, instead do some research, ask an expert and see if there is another option that may preserve your beneficial bugs, while reducing the unwanted intruders.

4. Create a soil that is healthy and a good growing environment for your plants. You want a soil that drains well yet has adequate water retention so that plants are not drying out to quickly. Add organic matter regularly to help loosen your soil, add nutrients, and improve the overall soil structure. A soil test can also be beneficial if problems are persistent, and remedying it will help to give you a healthy plant that requires less specialized care.

5. Choose plant material that naturally does well in your area. Putting in plants that are not capable of surviving the climate or soil type or will struggle for years before dying a miserable death is not only challenging, but also a waste of time and energy. Do your research on your particular location, and get plants suited to where you live.

6. Water appropriately, meaning in the right amounts and at the right times. Newly planted trees, shrubs and seedlings require more water more often as they do not have their root systems established, and are more apt to dehydration stress than older plants. Do your watering early in the morning, as this allows for greater water penetration into the soil, with less evaporation and water loss.

Lance Ellis is the University of Idaho Extension educator for Fremont County. He can be reached at 208-624-3102.

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