Take these steps to create ... LESS LABOR ON YOUR LANDSCAPE

BY Marilyn McKinley

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

I have come to the conclusion that it’s time for me to have a plan for low maintenance. It should have been done years ago. I have been slowly moving in that direction, but I have to get serious about it now!

I was overwhelmed. Break it down old girl! I sat down and made a list of things and actions I thought would help me in my quest to still enjoy a beautiful garden without all of the back-breaking work.

What did I really want? I developed a pro and con list. I took some pictures, measurements and surfed the net for ideas. I divided up our property into sections (beds) and made sketches. Then I came up with a list of problems that needed a solution.

By this time, I was getting overwhelmed again, so my next step was to make a list of assets – of what I have, like, and want to keep. That made me feel much better about my quest. I realized that taking these steps – one at a time feels more doable.

As a final step to taking action, I started thinking about what kinds of plants and things I could add or take away that would truly lend to decreased garden chores. Now, it’s time to attack! So, here’s what I’ve come up with:

Reduce headaches

Take out problem areas. Cover with newspaper and just mulch them.

Encourage pollinators

I will plant more perennials that are pollinator-friendly and native.


I will add style and interest. Just a couple at a time.

Ornamental grasses

I am planning a bed of grasses. Grasses provide food for birds during the winter months.


I am always on the lookout for different flowering shrubs, ones that need little or no pruning. Ones with berries for the birds.

Ground covers

Pachysandra does not thrill me, but the thought of a newer, low maintenance ground cover sounds simple.

Objects & art

I am using more objects for color. There is a fine line that varies, according to your taste – and maybe your neighbors , and between junk and accents.

Curved lines

There is something about not squaring off beds that makes them so much more appealing. They make the property “flow” better and make them easier to mow around.


I need to hear water. Even a tabletop fountain can make a big difference.

Big containers

They need watered less often, but must be close to spigots. They offer color year-round.


I am undecided about areas of just mulch, but have seen some very attractive pictures of gardening with mulched areas, no plants, but rocks were used.

A messy area

Leave a messy area. Easy for me, great for insects, good ones only – please!


We all need to eat better. I’ll go vertical and use more containers.

My overall goal is to spend more time enjoying and less time letting the landscape dictate to me. Is this too much for an old lady? Probably. But, just having a plan, setting goals and knowing I don’t have to do it all at once gives me hope as I grow older. See ya in the garden.

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