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LA47
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Learning my limitations

I am not aging gracefully. My body is declining but I refuse to give up. We bought our old house this year and the yard was a blank slate...other than mega garbage! I have started my flower beds but have realized I can no longer maintain the gardens as planned. I must stop and regroup. I have to plan paths where I can use my stool to sit on to weed, trim etc. as bending for long is now painful. I have to consider the maintenance of the flowers that I chose. I am convinced I can still have beautiful gardens..with planning. I'm posting this in hopes that you can help with advise on plants that do not need to be divided often, deadheaded constantly, or otherwise high care that still have attractive flowers or foliage for shade and for sun. I have been searching the web but would like to hear from actual gardeners. I thank you now for any advise you can give. I live in zone 4b/ 5a and 5600 feet elevation.
High Altitude Gardener zone 4B or 5A

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digitS'
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I told my doctor the same story a year ago, LA47. Now, I've got 2 neighbors who want me to expand my gardens onto their land. I don't know how I will do it without a great deal of planning so as to avoid some of the work required. I've got a good idea about the work because this year (2012) I down-sized by giving up a piece of ground that was just about the same size as what's being offered. It will be a challenge to go right back to that much ground but, at least, these are expansions rather than somewhere separate.

Challenge. That is the primary reason to do this. I didn't really like walking away just because of fatigue. And yes, I've got some serious physical limitations. Just need to work "smarter" rather than harder. I mean, I could plant the dang gardens in lawn grass and just mow them. That would cover all bases - if it comes down to that. I wouldn't "gain" anything from it but the neighbors wouldn't lose a thing (except the weeds). I could walk away another year. And, a lawn might be well down on my list of what I'm trying to do but it is pretty, green - lots of people love them. You might be okay with that too if things get out of hand. Level it and plant grass in the fall or spring.

I know that isn't what you are wanting to do, LA47. I'm just suggesting an escape. I also wouldn't put too much "hardscape" into the landscaping. If you end up having to move several ton of rocks, brick, boards, etc. etc., you might feel like a failure rather than someone sensible enuf to know your limitations.

I'm always on a stool in my gardens - actually, it is one of those milk crates or an upside-down plastic, 3 gallon bucket. I've got a few of both. My paths are permanent so that I don't fall easily but still carry either a hoe or long-handled cultivator much of the time to use as a cane. And, even tho' the paths are "permanent" and the beds "raised" - there are no boards nor much of anything else in my gardens. Leveling some or all would take minimal tilling.

I'm not very fond of perennial flowers but have lots of annuals. That's pretty easy for me since I have a greenhouse. The perennials are just weed-traps and the ones I've got are TOO MUCH work! I don't care if they are pretty! Bare dirt 6 months out of the year looks as good or better to me than perennials cut down within an inch of the ground.

I took out some iris last year. They may be my favorite flower but I've read that they require more work than just about any other. I think I can believe it. I'd rather plant and dig gladiolas, for example. I'll call those an annual because that's the way I have to treat them.

Anyway, there are a couple ideas: limit the perennials, don't lug a bunch of hardscaping in, and be willing to just turn it right back into lawn if it gets beyond you. But mostly, here is Wishing You the Very Best of Luck in whatever you take on next year!

Steve
We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond. ~ Gwendolyn Brooks

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rainbowgardener
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Everyone has to find their own way, but my suggestions would have been all different, sorry digitS.

If you have money to spend on it, I do think putting in some hardscaping cuts down on the amount of ground to care for and can make your garden more enjoyable. You want to be sure to have somewhere to sit and enjoy your garden. A small artificial pond with fountain adds a whole lot to the habitat value and beauty of the yard. I have a pond/fountain and a firepit that sits on the concrete patio and I love both of them.

And then I would go with perennials. I start a ton of annuals from seed every year and I agree that once well established they are pretty easy care and do pump out flowers all season long. But unless you are going to buy them every year, it is fussy getting them going and then they die and leave bare ground.

For me hardy native perennials planted closely and mulched are very low maintenance, not very weedy, don't need much. Suggestions for low maintenance perennials include yarrow, milkweed/butterfly weed, joe pye weed (if you like tall), black eyed susan, purple coneflower, perennnial salvia, gaillardia, bee balm, anise hyssop. Grow some perennial herbs like sage, oregano, thyme. Very easy care, You will love them and so will honeybees if you let some flower.

It is also nice to put in some shrubbery. Gives more variety to the landscape, fills in a lot of space in the most low maintenance way. And there are lots of native shrubs like viburnum and serviceberry that have berries that attract birds.

Understand that ANYTHING you plant will require some maintenance, especially regular watering, the first year or so to get established. Once well established they will take off on their own and require very little.

What I mentioned are pretty much all summer to fall blooming. Plant a few crocus, daffodil, tulip bulbs to fill in the early part of the season and you will have a nearly effortless garden through the whole growing season.

PS the herbs I mentioned are all winter cold hardy for me in zone 6. You might be at the limit of their cold hardiness and need to either give them winter protection or grow in containers and bring in. Incidentally growing a bunch of stuff in containers is another way to have easy gardening.
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applestar
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I guess the answer is somewhat dependent on what you are expecting from your garden. You mentioned that you "started my flower garden" so my answer may not exactly match.

I, too, have health issues that can be seasonaly debilitating and can cause problems. But for me, it's a matter of getting stuff done when I feel able, and when I do, I can get many of the heavy, strenuous stuff done.

I have tended to forego flower beds in the strictest sense. I have clearly identified the growing conditions in different parts of my garden, and plant plants that are suited to those conditions. I have sunny, well drained beds, sunny heavy clay beds, swampy wet areas, deep shade areas, etc.

By matching plants to their optimum growing conditions, you take a lot of effort out of maintaining them, except to trim when they become overgrown. I mostly don't plant flowers that need deadheading.

My garden has suffered the transition. My roses have died one by one -- fussy hybrid teas were the first to go -- until I now have only one David Austin English rose that bloom and sheds petals and grows hips without any help from me. But seeing those apricot colored blooms gives me a lot of pleasure, even if they only appear here and there, and not cover the canes.

I have put more effort into planting native plants, with emphasis on multi-season multi-purpose interest. Most provide fragrant or nectering butterflies/hummingbirds/insect flowers in season, fruits or seeds for wild birds, and/or colorful foliage in the fall. By attracting wildlife, the garden provides entertainment even when I can't be out there to tend to them.

I enjoy planting edibles for humans too. Annual vegetables are not difficult if you can get them planted at the right time. Even at worst with weather not cooperating and with health issues, I feel rewarded if I can get out there and harvest some things for the table, even if the amount or quality is not the very best they could have been had they been given full care. Forgotten or lost squash among the weeds, ripe tomato among the spoiled ones are like buried treasure. :D I am slowly adding perennial vegetables to the mix.

I have planted a lot of fruit trees and berries as well -- only buying highly disease resistant varieties and planting them in their optimum locations to avoid need for heavy-handed care. Sometimes, I don't get around to protecting the harvest and the wildlife gets most or all. But usually I have some for the family to enjoy, and sometimes, I can do everything that is needed and have fantastic harvest.

Oh, the newer fruit trees are all pruned in espalier style to keep them within reach, and brambles are trained against a fence and wall to keep them within bounds. :wink:

Finally, if you haven't switched to organic growing methods, I highly recommend that you do. I really feel my garden is protected by the diverse living wildlife and microbe biosphere/ecosystem. There are plenty of predatorial insects, etc. that form my "Garden Patrol". I make use of my own compost -- which is not tended that often at all -- and make AACT (actively aerated compost tea) which cultures the beneficial microbes for the soil and for the phytosphere foodweb. That one remaining rose is treated to milk solution spray during the worst seasonal humidity as preventive against fungal disease.

Moreover, I strongly feel, though this is my opinion based on personal experience, that the chemicals that are used in the garden can exacerbate ill health. Avoidance of many chemicals commonly used outside and inside the home could make a difference, and it's something to be tried if you have not done so already.

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ElizabethB
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LA47- join the club. At 59 after an accident in 04 - multiple surgeries and lots of hardware I am no longer able to what I want to do. The worst thing is that physical limitations can lead to depression which makes everything worse.

You are correct about planning. What works for me in south Louisiana would not be much help for you. GO for a messy look. As long as your plants have the same soil, water and sun requirements just put them out there. I like humming bird and butterfly friendly plants. Also consider bloom time. Combine early season, mid season and late season blooms in your garden. I can deal with the dead heading but weeding kills me. I am blessed with friends that have a lanscaping company. Bobby will come out twice a month in the summer and once a month in winter with 3 helpers. They take care of weeds spending 1 - 2 hours in the yard. All for the very reasonable price of $100 per visit. While they are here they weed eat the fence line and hardscapes and blow the grass off. I would pay at least twice as much if they were not friends who have taken a liking to me. I get a sister-in-law deal.

Many plants that are annuals in other parts of the country are tender perennials here. As long as we do not get a hard freeze many plants either survive the winter or self seed. Makes color easy. Of course self seeding plants show up in odd places but it works.

Good luck LA. Don't let your body get you down. Your mind and heart are still good.

Take care.
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

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rainbowgardener
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PS again. I never deadhead my black eyed susans. Their dark seedheads as well as providing for birds are attractive in the landscape this time of year and will be even more so against a snowy background, if we get some snow.
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rainbowgardener
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rainbowgardener wrote:PS again. I never deadhead my black eyed susans. Their dark seedheads as well as providing for birds are attractive in the landscape this time of year and will be even more so against a snowy background, if we get some snow.
Absolutely agree with applestar about being organic. I hear people fussing about schedules for fertilizing, spraying, etc etc. Besides being bad for the environment, bad for people, it all sounds like a lot of work. I am convinced that my plants grown all higgledy piggledy with flowers and veggies and herbs together in very diverse plantings, with lots of mulch and compost and nothing else are way less disease and pest prone than more traditional row gardens with chemicals.
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LA47
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I don't have the words to thank you for your advise and especially your support. I have practiced organic gardening for over 30 years, I just didn't know it at the time. More a case of lack of $, manure and straw was free and so was hand picking insects off. Anyway, I am inspired now and thankful that I haven't planted a lot of things yet. Shrubs are an excellent suggestion and I plan on mainly depending on them with just a couple of small flower beds close to the house. Thankfully hubby is in still going strong and helps with digging and planting but restricts his weeding help to the veggie garden only. There, he says, he knows what the good plants look like. :lol: Thank you for your encouragement.
High Altitude Gardener zone 4B or 5A

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digitS'
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LA,

Do you have a greenhouse?

Do you have a good indoor area for starting plants?

Steve
We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond. ~ Gwendolyn Brooks

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ElizabethB
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Kind of off the subject but I love winter beds. We have Thanks Giving at my sister's house. One of my normal task is flower arrangements. I love the seed pods, spent blooms, dried grasses, so much beautiful stuff if you just look.
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

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