Maintenance
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7 Tips for Low-maintenance Landscaping

By Neil Diboll
Published: May 1, 2006
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Photo by Cabin Life, Cabin Living
The last thing most of us want to do when we arrive at our lakehome or cabin for the weekend is to fire up the lawnmower and mow the grass. And why should you, when you can plant native wildflowers and ornamental grasses that require far less maintenance? Once established, these hardy perennials tolerate heat, cold, drought – and return year after year with a minimum of care.
   
You can establish your prairie garden or meadow using either transplants or seeds. Transplants provide faster results than seeds, which may take two years or longer to bloom. But transplants need to be watered regularly for the first few weeks after planting, while seeds typically do well without irrigation.
   
Here are a few tips on establishing prairie plants and seeds on your property:

❂ Select the right wildflowers and grasses to match your soil and sun conditions. Pick drought-resistant plants for dry sandy soils and clay-tolerant plants for heavy soils. Choose shade-loving species to grow under trees and sun-lovers for open areas.

❂ Eliminate all plant competition in the area to be planted. Smother the area for one full growing season (April to October) with black plastic, cardboard or newspapers. If newspapers, top with six inches or more of leaves, lawn clippings or compost. Or you could judiciously use a broad-spectrum herbicide such as “Roundup.”

❂ Sow seeds in spring or early summer. In dry, sandy or rocky soils, you can also seed in the fall (not recommended for steep slopes due to the danger of soil erosion over the winter).

❂ When seeding on slopes, make sure to include a fast-
growing annual “nurse crop” such as annual rye or oats to hold the soil in place. Steep slopes that are subject to erosion should be covered with an erosion blanket to prevent seed and soil loss.

❂ Install transplants as early in spring as safely possible to reduce heat and moisture stress.

❂ Mulch your plants by surrounding them with a 3- to 4-inch layer of clean straw (winter wheat is best) to keep down weeds and hold in moisture.  

❂ Seeded areas will need to be mowed once or twice in the first two years to a height of six to 12 inches.

– Neil Diboll

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