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Creating a Low-Maintenance Feng Shui Garden

You can achieve a beautiful Feng Shui garden even if you don't have a lot of time to devote to gardening. Keeping a garden low maintenance is easy if you plan carefully and keep up with chores so they don't get out of hand (turning a one-hour chore into a ten-hour chore). For instance, you can pull small weeds from your front flowerbed once a week or you can skip it and end up spending an entire weekend in July hacking through a jungle sized weed patch where you can barely see your plants.

As you plan your garden, determine how much maintenance each type of plant needs. For example, a tree may require pruning, leaf cleanup, and mulching. A garden shed could need annual painting or a deck may need annual sealing. Factor these time demands into your garden planning.

A large lawn obviously takes a lot of time to mow, edge, and trim; so if you can limit the amount of lawn (and keep it in a regular shape, like a square or rectangle), you spend less time mowing.

Choosing carefree plants

If you plant only those plants that thrive in your environment, you have fewer gardening chores to keep up with. Remember these tips for easier caretaking:

  • After a native plant has been established in your garden (a year or two), you don't need to water it. (Or at least, not very often.) So choose drought-tolerant native plants and dump the garden hose.
  • Substitute groundcover for grass, particularly in those areas where you have difficulty getting grass to grow.
  • Eliminate plants that are susceptible to pests and diseases in your area. Check with your local extension agency.
  • Even though annuals are replaced, um, annually, choose those that work best in your area to reduce maintenance.
  • Shrubs can be low maintenance if you choose healthy, native plants.
  • Choose plants that produce less litter. Crab apple trees create crab apples, and someone has to pick them up (or, if that someone is a kid, throw them at passersby). Pinecones may make festive centerpieces, but again, someone has to collect them. Choose trees with small leaves (less raking) and avoid fruit trees to reduce maintenance time.

Selecting simple garden structures

Keep your garden structures low maintenance, too. This reduces the amount of time you spend repairing, painting, and replacing objects in your garden. Here's how:

  • Don't paint or stain garden structures. Naturally weathered wood looks good and doesn't require much upkeep.
    One pair of gardeners bought a certain house largely because of the huge deck in back, on which they envisioned hosting lots of parties. Well, they got to host their parties, but they didn't love it so much when they realized the original homeowners had painted the deck and now they had to re-paint it every year or it looked terrible!
  • Choose dark-colored wrought-iron furniture for low-maintenance tables and chairs.
  • Install a self-contained fountain or birdbath rather than a pond. Ponds require much more maintenance and are more difficult to install.

Growing a garden with minimal effort

If you've chosen suitable plants and have reduced maintenance time on sheds, furniture, and other garden structures, you're well on your way to keeping gardening demands to a minimum.

Now, place the right plants in the right places, and you reduce maintenance needs even further! For example

  • Create beds of plants. Don't mow and trim around four different beds if you can mow and trim around one (albeit a big one).
  • Group like plants together. Plants that need like amounts of water, for example, can be placed together to reduce maintenance time.
  • Place plants where they grow best. So plant sun lovers in full sun and shade lovers in shade.
  • Avoid unnecessary pruning by knowing how big a specific plant grows and planting it where it has room to reach its full potential. Tomorrow comes sooner than you think. Consider the case of the gardener who planted a pin oak as a sapling when he first purchased his house. His wife said, "You're planting that too close to the house, aren't you?" and he said, "It'll be 25 years before we have to worry about that." Well, before he knew it, he was chopping down that pin oak because it was dropping branches on the roof. Remember, conscious and deliberate placement and planning are important in Feng Shui. A Feng Shui garden isn't meant to be enjoyed for just one season but for many years to come.
  • Keep more delicate plants in containers. That way, you can simply bring them indoors instead of having to create elaborate protective measures for delicate plants in the ground.
  • Prioritize maintenance jobs. Make sure that the most important jobs — the ones most beneficial to your plants — get done. The others can wait.
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