8 Smart Ways to Put Your Garden on Autopilot – by Jennifer Noonan

Whether you want to be able to go away for a week without having to worry about your garden, or you just hate yard work, these tips and tricks will help put your garden on autopilot, so you can spend more time enjoying the season.

Install a Water Timer

You don’t need a live-in gardener or a fancy irrigation system to make sure your yard gets watered regularly. Instead, you can schedule your lawn or garden watering using a water timer, a handy garden gadget that attaches to your exterior tap. These devices work similarly to those light timers you set up indoors before you leave for vacation. Timers start at about $20, but pricier models give you the ability to control the settings via an app on your smartphone.



Select Self-Cleaning Flower Varieties

You’ve surely heard of the self-cleaning oven, but self-cleaning plants? These varieties boast blooms that naturally fade and fall off, meaning there’s no need to deadhead or prune away withered flowers. Columbine and baptisia are just two examples of self-cleaners that will always look fresh, without your having to do a thing!




Put Down Some Mulch

A thick layer of mulch helps garden beds retain precious moisture and prevents weed growth, so you’ll be able to spend less time watering and weeding and more time relaxing. Buy bags of mulch from your local garden center, or make your own using materials in your own backyard.




Lay a Weed Barrier

A weed barrier provides a layer of protection between you and the weeds lurking in your soil. By laying down sheets of newspaper or landscaping fabric prior to mulching, you can greatly reduce your weeding chores. Keep in mind that newspaper breaks down, so you’ll need to replace it as it decomposes to continue to reap its weed-fighting benefits.




Use Watering Globes

Potted plants dry out more quickly than those in the ground, making near-constant watering a fact of life. You can cut yourself a break, though, by employing a watering globe. These clever contrivances gradually deliver water to container plants for up to two weeks. You can purchase them at any home center, or make your own with an upcycled pop or wine bottle. Your thirsty plants will thank you.




Rely on Drought-Tolerant Plants

If you want to be able to neglect your landscaping during busy summer days, choose your plants carefully. Check each plant’s water requirements before you buy to ensure you’re making a garden you can sustain. Drought-tolerant plants don’t really need to be watered much once established, so they’re easier (and cheaper!) to maintain. From lavender to butterfly bush, there are lots of beautiful choices.




Mix in Moisture-Retaining Materials

For plants that do require regular watering, add a moisture-retaining material like vermiculite or perlite to the soil prior to planting. This simple step will help tender plants go longer between waterings without wilting in the heat.





Choose Slow Growing Shrubs

The secret to keeping front yard foliage looking tidy without constant attention? Go slow! Slow-growing shrubs require less frequent pruning than faster-growing varieties do. Not only are these shrubs less work to maintain, but you can enjoy them for years without worrying that they’ll outgrow your garden.