Whether you’re a novice gardener or lifelong green thumb, you’ve undoubtedly learned that gardening requires dedicated upkeep. But as someone who loves to garden—and help others do the same—I’m always on the lookout for easier ways to get better results. If you’re interested in ways to make your garden successful with less effort, here are some tips to try this summer.
First, choose the right plants to fit your needs. If you’re planting mostly in sun or shade, realize you’ll need to select appropriate plants for the sun exposure they’ll have. Or if you regularly forget to water or your planters aren’t easily accessed with water, choose drought-tolerant flowers that don’t need a lot of care. For instance, one of the most low-maintenance flowers available is also one of the most versatile: fibrous-rooted (or wax-leaf) begonias. Full sun to full shade, these hardy plants require minimal water and little care—and they’ll look great all the way until frost.
Secondly, choose plants that continue to bloom freely through summer without the need to deadhead. One of my all-time favorites for containers, hanging baskets and even in the ground is calibrachoa, or million bells. Available in a plethora of colors, these miniature petunia-like flowers require no deadheading to keep blooming all summer.
Two of my favorite colors that have come out in recent years are Superbells Lemon Slice and Grape Punch. From a distance, Lemon Slice appears a soft yellow, but up close it has a vibrant, bright yellow flower with prominent white stripes. Grape Punch also has a two-tone appearance, but with a deep purple center on each bloom ringed with a lighter shade of lavender. If you’re looking for that extra something to make your containers pop, either of these calibrachoa are an easy way to add color with minimal care.
Third, understand that while very few plants will grow and flourish without fertilizing, feeding your plants doesn’t have to be difficult. Slow-release fertilizers are great for shrubs and perennials, but for high-powered bloomers like summer annuals, a water-soluble fertilizer supplies nutrients much faster and will keep your plants growing and blooming strong throughout the season.
Fertilizing with a water-soluble plant food can be a daunting task, however, especially if you have lots of flowers or containers around the house. Who wants to mix a dozen watering cans of fertilizer once a week when you can just drag the hose around and give them plain ol’ water instead?
To get great results from feeding weekly without the need to mix all those batches of fertilizer, I rely on a simple, age-old tool: a fertilizer siphon. This basic contraption attaches to my outdoor faucet between the faucet and my garden hose. A small feeder tube draws concentrated fertilizer solution from a bucket set next to the faucet and adds just the right amount of plant food right into the hose—and voilà, I can drag the hose around and still feed my plants at the same time.
An alternative to the siphon is a hose-end fertilizer sprayer, but until now, most sprayers applied fertilizer unevenly, starting with a high dose of plant food and slowly watering it down as you sprayed. A new sprayer, though, solves that problem by creating a fertilizer solution and applying it evenly through the duration of your feeding. The Exact Mix sprayer, made by JR Peters, is an easy way to feed as you water—and you’ll know that all your plants are getting the right dose of fertilizer.
Although gardening is work, it doesn’t have to be difficult, and with the right knowledge and proper tools, you too can achieve gardening success with minimal effort this summer.