Four Low Maintenance Tricks for the Lazy Gardener
A homeowner’s dream is to have an attractive, low maintenance yard. Wouldn’t it be nice if your yard just got more beautiful the less time you spent on it? Yet our lawns and landscape plants need to be taken care of. We must respond to signs of drought stress, nutrient deficiencies, pest attacks, or disease infections, and then prune (or mow) our plants for a desired shape and flowering. Selecting the right plant for the right place sets us up for the minimal amount of maintenance, but here are a few more tips where doing less will lead to healthier plants, richer soils, and increased biodiversity.
- Leaves the leaves – When leaves fall from trees and shrubs around the base of the plant, don’t spend time raking, let them be! This ground layer of fallen leaves and dirt is critical habitat for insects, birds, and other wildlife. Remember more insects in yard is a good thing because they provide competition and predation for our common landscape pests. The Xerces Society has taken up the #Leavestheleaves banner. Learn more how fallen leaves provide habitat for the red-hairstreak butterfly, bumblebee, and other cool bugs!
- Let Palm Fronds Hang Out – We have a joke in the office. “Wow that’s a nicely pruned palm!” we say about a palm tree that hasn’t been pruned at all. People drastically over-prune palm trees. Your palms should
have a 360o globe of fronds — not a little tuft out of the top. The palm tree pulls nutrients from the old fronds as they die. Those old fronds protect the tree and provide habitat for bats. Our palm trees will be healthier if you skip those harsh prunings.
- Go unmowed in back corners – Mowing is the least favorite chore for many homeowners so why not forego sections of your yard that are difficult to mow and have low visibility? I’m talking about those back corners of the yard that are throwing off your mowing stride or the skinny space behind the shed that no one sees. Not mowing the toughest 25% of your yard can reduce your mowing time by 50%. Those areas will grow in with a greater diversity of forbs and wildflowers, which wildlife will really appreciate!
- Brush pile and done! – Oh the good ol’ brush pile. Take those fallen branches and sticks (they’re too big for the compost anyway) throw them in a heap, wipe your hands, and let the wildlife poke around this cool new playground. Birds, small mammals, and maybe a snake or two will love this retreat. Watching wildlife is both exciting and relaxing. Letting leaves and branches stick around as they naturally would allows wildlife to take advantage of it.
If you give these four tips, four thumbs up, then you’re ready to take the Lazy Gardener Pledge! In partnership with Cornell University’s Extension, the Yard Habitat program is encouraging you to embrace a low-key approach in your landscape, which will result in a more complete ecosystem. Visit their website to learn more or ask me for other Florida-Friendly Landscaping practices at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-665-5575.