brer(Zone 7)March 7, 2014

I have a sizable perennial garden. As I age, I'm realizing I have too much to keep up by myself. I'm not willing or able to hire a helper.
How do I downsize so that I don't have to go to grass, but don't have so much upkeep?
Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

find if there is a local garden club or two ...

and offer them any plants you dont want ...

thereby reducing the shear number of plants..

sometimes you can find people willing to help in your garden.. for free plants ... especially younger newbies.. who want and need your knowledge ...

and then start looking for plants that are truly carefree .... such as shrubs.. rather than perennials e.g. ....


    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 11:15AM
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I dont know your garden lay out,

so just some general ideas could be

Rather one larger than several smaller beds, that's less edging

Get rid of foufou- plants/ divas ( no staking, winter protection...)

A friend of mine, facing the same question, will get rid of perennials and switch to smaller, flowering shrubs in lawn.

Perhaps you could give some more details in order to get suitable approaches.

Good luck with your project,

Bye, Lin

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 11:18AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I am gradually adding more small flowering shrubs, flowering trees - or shrubs pruned into trees form, and editing perennials to focus on ones with lots of 'presence' and that don't require fussy care. Re beds - a few years ago in the sunny, front garden I put a brick edging - with a metal grass barrier on the grass side! - to eliminate the manual edging chore, which needed doing three times a year. The big front bed has several paths through it to break it into smaller pieces so it is easier to access the plants for maintenance. There are also paths between/around the subsidiary beds. In the backyard there is no edging required because there are mulch/sand paths on the outside of the beds, between the lawn and the beds. Because the backyard is shady, that helps reduce maintenance. Tree seedlings are the biggest weed problem.... :-) You can see our garden and how we maintain it at the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: maintenance manual

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 12:27PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I'm thinking about doing the same thing, as health issues and work just don't leave me the time and/or energy to keep up my garden as is.

I haven't given it that much thought, as this will be a gradual (few years) transition for me, but one of my first thoughts is changing over to more shrubs - evergreen, deciduous, flowering - and more reliable, lower-maintenance perennials.

Of course, I still want my vegetable garden and I can't do without my annuals for bouquets, but I figure if I make the perennial beds easier to care for, and attractive year-round, I can devote the majority of the time I have in summer to the veggie and blooms.

I like woody's idea about the hard edging, to cut down on work. I just don't think I've ever really seen one that truly works. You are happy with your edging system, woodyoak?


    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 5:34PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

P.S. to woodoyoak - WOW! I just looked at your link. You are much more organized than I am. I get intimidated just thinking about what you WROTE, never mind about your garden, lol!

Seriously, great job on organizing your thoughts, notes, chores, etc. I wish I had more time (and more self-discipline to better spend the time I do have) to write up something like this. Great job.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 5:39PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

LOL Dee! I am disabled, home full-time, and winter is boring! So have lots of time to put something like that together.- it was a winter garden project of a few years ago and now I just update it once a year in the winter to account for changes made in the previous summer.

Re the edging - I'm basically happy with it although since I did it myself and I'm disabled, the base under the bricks isn't sufficiently compacted, so the bricks have gotten a bit wonky/not level over time. This spring (assuming spring ever arrives!) a 19-year-old nephew is going to use his young, strong back to help lift the bricks, add more base material, compact and level it and replace the bricks. He's also going to help us put down a new layer of mulch/sand mix on the paths. He's a handy kid to have around :-)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 8:28PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

I'm having a similar problem. My downfall has always been that I'm a "collector" At one time I had a greenhouse two shadehouses with over 500 plants in pots!! For me I eliminated all the grass from the grow area ,hire the front lawn taken care of and hardscaped the paths . have tried to eliminate the high maintenence plants but find they are my favorites lol Much more to do but note that I have cut daily maintence by half.
Did eliminate most of the vines clipped hedges deciduous trees and of course much of the lawn which is the most work lol I kind of favor the "jungle "look anyway lol Good luck gary

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 5:43AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Over the last years I have slowly replaced many perennials with shrubs and small trees. Just lessening the amount of cutting back in season and at the end of the season has made a considerable difference. I've also increased the groundcovers in some areas and use bulbs in them where they allow it--leadwort, for example (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides). And leadwort can be mowed with the mower at the end of the season. I also long ago eliminated perennials that need regular division or beating back every few years.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 6:47AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

How about more power tools? I use my hedge trimmers to trim all the old perennials into about six inch lengths, rake it out into the lawn and then run over with the lawnmower to bag it up. I've been known to just run over the perennial beds with the mower on mulch mode when I'm really short on time.
There are always little bits and pieces in the lawn and beds, but in a week or two you'll never notice, so don't kill yourself picking up every last leaf.
Like Laceyvail mentioned, groundcovers are great. Thicker ones such as pachysandra can give a nice green cover and absorb most of the fall leaves that blow in or onto them.
And did I mention power tools?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 11:47AM
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