Even if you have expansive perennial gardens, yard work does not have to be hard work Just ask Kathleen Nelson, whose gardens now cover almost two acres. Kathe, like you and me, hates to weed-so she rarely does. Fact is, she rarely has to. She’s got her low-maintenance, anti-weed method down to a science. But it’s not rocket science. It’s simple stuff-stuff that saves her so much time that right now she is off planting more and more flowers.
Kathe fought tenacious invaders for two years. "Then a friend brought a truckload of mulch. That’s when the garden began," she says. "For me, mulch was the key. I couldn’t stop myself from having huge gardens. With mulch, I could keep weeds under control-so I could have even more gardens."
"When I first started gardening, I just kept weeding," says Kathe Nelson. "I had an incredible mess, and I struggled." Then she discovered the wonders of mulch.
Mulch keeps water from evaporating, deprives weed seeds of light, and prevents germination, Kathe says. She recommends at least an inch of mulch in flower beds, and as much as two.
But don’t overdo your mulching, she cautions: Huge piles will prevent deeply buried roots from receiving oxygen. Kathe uses several kinds of mulch: sawmill chips, shredded tree trimmings, bagged pine chips, buckwheat hulls, and on occasion, crushed rock. And if you’ve ever wondered about wood chips depleting the nitrogen in your beds, Kathe says, relax. "That hasn’t been a problem," she says. "My plants are so happy to not have weeds that they don’t notice any nitrogen problem." A
A blanket of plants prevents sun from reaching soil, so weed seeds can’t germinate between them. Drifts also reinforce themes and knit a garden together.
Kathe doesn’t believe in being able to see the dirt in her beds. She plants her flowers thc, covering every inch of soil with perennials in a kind of living mulch.
Kathe replenishes mukhes, such as these barkfree wood chips (left), every fall. While this tall switch grass covers a lot of territory by the end of the season, it starts in spring from ground zero.
A native bowman’sroot (in flower above) is skirted by two hostas, which in turn are surrounded by a ground cover. See any dirt? Of course not.