With a busy work and home life, maybe you are thinking it's time to consider alternatives to that high-maintenance lawn or all those plants that need regular pruning or fertilizing. It's never too soon to plan ahead. Whether you are looking to change your existing landscaping or have a blank slate for a backyard, here are some design options to consider for your 2013 garden.
No matter where you live in the country, going native means less work for you and happier plants for your garden. Not only will plants native to your climate thrive with minimal care, keeping a sense of place is something to consider. Think of palm trees used in desert southwest landscaping. Once thought of as providing an "oasis" ambiance, now they just look strange and foreign.
Native plants will not need supplemental fertilizing, since they will be adapted to your soil type. And they'll have fewer pest and disease problems often brought on by trying to make a plant grow where it doesn't want to.
Not sure what is native? That's the easy part. Check with your local Cooperative Extension System office. They can help or direct you to the best resources.
Get rid of the lawn
Grass has its place; there is nothing wrong with having a patch for the kids to play on or adding a touch of lush green to your backyard. The reality is, however, grass is a lot of work. Between watering, mowing, fertilizing, dethatching, and controlling pests -- think of all the time that could be spent on other gardening tasks.
Here are a couple of approaches to reducing the size of or eliminating a lawn:
- Remove part of the lawn around the edges, creating informal planting beds with low-maintenance ground covers or native grasses.
- Remove the whole lawn and create a path for foot traffic edged with low-maintenance native shrubs or ground covers.
Move the vegetable garden to the front yard
While this may sound odd, before World War II front yard vegetable gardens were very popular. Why the front yard? Gardens stimulate friendly conversations with passersby, and you can also share the bounty by inviting the neighbors over to help tend and harvest. This is a great way to bring a neighborhood together while also teaching kids how to grow their own food and introducing them to nature.
If you live in a warm climate, your front yard garden will be in production almost all year. If you live in a colder climate, hide the garden part with shrubs on the street side or strategically placed solid fencing.
Be sure to find out if there are any restrictions either in your community or homeowners association before planting a front yard vegetable garden. If there are, don't give up hope. Many people have fought and won the right to plant vegetables in their front yards.
Linda is a landscape architect and certified arborist in southern Arizona. With over 20 years experience in landscape design, she also has a passion for all plants and gardening. As a freelance writer for a number of websites, she has produced hundreds of articles on plants, plant care, and design.