Last edited: Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sustainable garden method sees the gardener as the "servant of nature" not the "wife beating master" of nature. The Lowest Maintenence garden design uses a combination of Dry Shade, Vigorous Disease Resistant Plants, Drip Watering and Cutting Back.

We grow flowering shrubs including roses without the use of fungicidal sprays in order to produce plants for our customers that are proven disease resistant. Go to the introduction to the Azalea House Flowering Shrub Farms Retail store that tells what we sell and when we sell it. Further links at bottom.

Sustainable garden method sees the gardener as the "servant of nature" not the "wife beating master" of nature.

The Lowest Maintenence garden design uses a combination of Dry Shade, Vigorous Disease Resistant Plants, Drip Watering and Cutting Back.


weeding 1-2

watering 3-4

soil improving 5

designing with sustainable practice 6

Before going into too much detail we should come to some determination; what is sustainability?

In the book Ecological Design by Sim Van Der Ryn and Stuart Cowan the authors suggest that Ecological sustainability involves finding alternatives to methods that have helped cause the global environmental crisis (Van Der Ryn & Cowan, 5). They suggest we have to rethink transportation, resource use etc. in order to have a minimal impact upon the environment.

The process of creating sustainable garden design must involve a reduction in water, fertilizer and insecticide use (not just chemical but organics too). The runoff from all these chemicals are poluting lakes and streams as well as killing or mutating water life (organics pollute to). This web page tries to address garden methods which are sustainable.

1. In many gardens gardeners pull out any plant (weed) that doesnt exist in their overall plan (pulling dormant weed seeds to the surface which germinate).

2. In a sustainable garden we often leave the plant till it flowers and if we find it undesirable it is cut back to the ground (SP) so it wont develop seeds and proliferate.

Weeds are suppressed by planting desirable plants in masses that overshadow the soil, preventing germination. Sometimes weeds are suppressed under a weed mat by suffocation (but weeds germinating in the mulch you cover the weed mat with will root down through the mat. The holes that are created by the roots can then be used by weeds growing from below the mat). Most often we suppress weeds by taking away their apical dominance (cutting back).

3. The lowest maintenence technique uses dry shade (SP). We Water with a drip irrigation line (which waters only what we choose to water using an absolutely minimal amount).

5. In the beginning I rototill raw amendments into the soil and after a couple of weeks just as new seedling sprout I till again. This rids the soil of the maximum amount of dormant weed seeds and provide fuel for bacteria and worms in the soil (SP). I never rototill again

6. When I design a sustainable garden there are a number of steps that have to be carefully thought out. First a drawing of the garden should be made showing the locations of the house, paths, the direction of good views, landscape problems like trees that may have to be removed etc. Shade at different times of the day and year should be plotted as well (Even a small garden should be planned carefully). Next we plan to grade different areas as flat as possible so that water drains through the soil not off of it. A short and abreviated change from one level to another can easily be affected and then covered with masses of Spiraea bumalda 'Goldflame' or other plant that suppresses weeds (30 inches tall with dense foliage). Over time a plant mass moves with the soil, retaining walls must be rebuilt.

The next step is to plan out your lawn areas and your planting areas. I generally create several gardens around kidney shaped lawns that make the best use of the sunlight available at the time of year they are in bloom or production. My lawn is a combination of clover, grass, chives, thyme etc. Trees are planted in the garden areas only taking into acount the shade they will cast at maturity. The trees are planted in masses so that while their stems and lower limbs allow passage between and beneath, their branches combine together in a network to overshadow the soil. I never choose trees that are invasive seeders unless the seeds are eaten by wildlife. A good choice might be Burr Oak as the Acorns are so sweet it is said that even your dog may find them tasty. In our area another tree to use is white pine planted closely together for optimal shading of the soil and then thinning them out (cutting some to the ground) as they grow. Pine needles mulch the soil. The edge of the planting beds are composed of a low hedge on a drip line, I use Spiraea bumalda 'Goldflame'. I also try to have the majority of bloom in one area of the garden. Determine what rooms in your house you use at different times of the year. The view from that room should contain most of the flowers for that season in your garden. This allows you to cut back on watering or fertilizing some parts of the garden and allow it to go dormant. Another suggestion would be to have small theme gardens that are secluded enough that by the simple expedient of walking out and shutting a garden gate you can cut off that part (Gertrude Jekyl did this with her fall aster garden). You could take your lawnmower in and mow down the flowers after they started to look ratty. Then go out and shut the gate until they looked better next year. Quite often plants do better when they dont have to look good all year (with the addition of a dry season).

Areas of the lawn where nothing grows well should be mulched but still regularly mowed. Areas of bare ground have to be in dry shade or mowed regularly or you will start to produce crops of invasive, undesirable plants, whos seeds can remain dormant in the soil for 70 years (weeds). Lawn areas should remain small enough so that they can easily be mowed altogether in an hour or less.

Trees should be selected for utility whenever possible. Utilities can include; firewood, nut-crop, fruit, berries and more. A forest that is well utilized is a healthy forest.

I am attaching a drip line to the eves of my front porch so that I may have many hanging baskets that are fed and watered whenever I turn on my drip lines (they will be for sale through Azalea House too). I often use Espoma granular Organic fertilizers (They break down slowly from bacterial action).


7. The plants in a sustainable garden should be large and vigorous enough to over shadow and croud out their less desirable neighbors and be hardy as well as disease resistant (SP).

My espalier of Apple trees (Liberty and it's cross polinator Nova easygrow) is underplanted with Wooly Yarrow, Thyme, chives, lemon balm and other flowering herbs that attract beneficial insects. Each apple is covered with a white paper bag that protects it totally from insects.

Ecological Design by Sim Van Der Ryn and Stuart Cowan copyright in 1996 by Island Press, 1718 Connecticut ave, N.W., Suite 300, Washington, DC 20009

ISBN 1-55963-388-3

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