Low maintenance gardens

Here are some options for keeping your garden chill.

Don’t do seedlings

If you buy starter plants in April, you don’t have to fuss with indoor seedlings, and your plants are already going strong from the moment you put them in soil. The downsides are:

  • Plants are more expensive than seeds. But honestly, in a small garden, the cost difference isn’t that much, especially if you factor in the cost of your time.

  • Your selection is limited to whatever your local garden shop sells. On the other hand, in an ideal world your garden shop only sells varieties that work for your environment. (I have not found this to always be the case in NYC, so definitely look up each variety before buying.)

Ditch veggies and fruit

If you just grow herbs and flowers, you’ll have a beautiful, useful garden (bees and butterflies will thank you!), and you won’t have to water nearly so much.

Even if you definitely want some veggies and fruit, consider balancing them out with other more low maintenance plants.

Start small

When you’ve been living that urban lifestyle and you finally get your own small patch of outdoor space, it’s tempting to pack in as much as possible. But it’s better to start with a few varieties you’re really excited about, and then add a few more each year. That way your garden grows with your experience, and you don’t get overwhelmed.

Catch problems early

Get in the habit of checking your plants frequently. The more familiar you are with your plant babies, the more easily you’ll recognize issues like diseases or pests. If you catch those when they start, it can save you money and hassle later on.

Buy bigger pots

If you’re in containers, the bigger your pots, the more stability they’ll offer both against wind and drying out. Go for plastic or metal pots, which dry out more slowly than ceramic and terra cotta.

Look into sub irritation and drip planters

Sub irrigation (aka SIP, reservoir, or self-watering) planters have a reservoir of water at the bottom of the container that wicks up into the soil. Hypothetically, this reduces the frequency with which you need to water. I use these for my indoor plants and they’re great. I have yet to make this work for outdoor plants (notes on my first attempt coming soon), but there’s plenty of evidence on the internet that it can work. It’s also is a great way to reduce water runoff which can stain your balcony and irritate any downstairs neighbors.

On a similar note, I’m interested in slow-watering with larger bottles. I’m going to test out self-watering terracotta spikes in 2019 and will report back!

Katie Arathoon