Low Maintenance Gardening

By Wendi Hartup

Low maintenance gardening means you try to spend less time working in the garden and more time enjoying your garden!

Keep low-maintenance landscaping in perspective. All landscapes require some maintenance. Plants are living organisms that require routine care to thrive. Planning the landscape is the key.

Before selecting plant material, consider these questions while creating your landscape plan:

How will you use your outdoor spaces?

play areas for children

area for pets

vegetable garden

attract wildlife

screen home from street or neighbor’s property


What are your site conditions?

soil type, pH

full sun, part sun, shade

water front; salt spray


sprinkler system

power lines; septic tanks; underground utilities

existing plantings

noise pollution

How do you select plants?

suited to site conditions

size at maturity

maintenance needs: water, fertilizer, pruning

grass vs. ground cover

use of trees to save energy

avoid use of invasive exotics

consideration of native plants

What are some common mistakes in plant selection?

too many plants

plants too close to the foundation

plants too tall for the house

scattered plantings vs. in beds

adding unneeded nutrients and not getting soil tested (NC Department of Agriculture  tests soil for free most of the year; December through March for just $4!) to see if  landscape needs nutrients.

Several hours of planning and thought before planting can prevent maintenance headaches for years to come! Those new to gardening, “plant killers,” and even seasoned gardeners can learn more about low maintenance gardening by contacting your local County Cooperative Extension office. Workshops, lectures and informational publications are provided either free of charge or with a small fee to cover costs of materials.


You can bring any plant related problem, weed, insect, or suspicious looking creature to your County Cooperative Extension office? The Forsyth County office is located in the Agricultural Building, 1450 Fairchild Rd. in Winston-Salem (336-703-2850). They will diagnose your problems and give you recommendations to correct it. You can also bring in your soil to be tested for fertilizer and lime needs, too. These and many more services are provided to you courtesy of Forsyth County and NC Cooperative Extension through NC State University and NC A&T State University.

Wendi Hartup is formerly a natural resources extension agent and is the stormwater manager for the Town of Kernersville. You can contact Wendi at shorelinegardengirl@nullgmail.com.


Use mulches – Use two to four inches of mulch around plants to minimize weeds and conserve moisture. Other benefits of mulch:

Erosion control.

Reduce soil compaction.

Moderate soil temperature.

Add organic matter to the soil.

Eliminates need for mowing around
trees and shrubs.

Managing insects, diseases and pests:

Check plants regularly. Walk around your yard and observe your plants and lawn for signs of problems.

Avoid routine applications of pesticides. Treat only affected areas rather than spraying your entire lawn or yard.

Use environmentally-friendly pesticides:

Use non-chemical approaches to pest control or use horticultural soaps/oils.


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