Ways to Save Time and Money in the Garden

Have an attractive, more useful garden with less time, effort, money and resources.

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Small shade trees for cooling in the summer, that drop their leaves for allowing winter warmth from the sun

Landscaping to Conserve Energy

Try planting small shade trees for cooling in the summer, that drop their leaves for allowing winter warmth from the sun.

Photo by: Photo by Felder Rushing

Photo by Felder Rushing

Try planting small shade trees for cooling in the summer, that drop their leaves for allowing winter warmth from the sun.

There are a few pretty simple concepts for making your garden more comfortable while dramatically cutting energy costs. They fall into four general categories: Providing summer shade, taking advantage of warm winter sun, blocking cold north winter wind and encouraging cool summer breezes. A fifth could be going “green” in your general gardening practices. 

Shade and Sun

In our country, the summer sun rises in the east and northeast, and sets in the west and northwest; in the winter it stays low in the southern sky. Take advantage of this by planting shade trees or putting up arbors or vine lattices on the east and west, but make sure those on the south side are small, to catch rather than block cool summer breezes. 

Put up an inexpensive arbor, and plant fast-growing annual vines such as gourds or moon vine. Ready-made wood or vinyl lattice, or home-made wire frames, can be attached a few inches away from walls and sitting areas, and planted with vines to keep sun off without damaging stucco or wood. 

For close to houses or sitting areas, plant fast-growing small trees which provide shade without tearing up paving or creating leaf litter. Make sure they are deciduous, so they drop leaves in the winter to allow warm sun to stream in. 

Everyone knows how to find a warm spot out of cold winds. Create these spots in your garden by putting up thick hedges or walls on the north and west sides to deflect cold winter winds, Keep in mind that in general, a solid wall or hedge can throw wind over an area that is about twice as deep as it is high; a six-foot wall high can protect an area about ten or so feet deep. 

Reduce or Lose the Lawn

One of the most important ways to save time, energy, fuel, or the cost of hiring someone, is to reduce the size of your lawn. Make it an easier shape to cut and edge without having to turn or back up. Mow at the right height for your type of grass, fertilize only lightly, and trust that it is not necessary or helpful to water more than every week or two, regardless of what you’ve been told or what your less informed neighbors do.

Go Green

Avoid plopping single plants here and there – go for groups of trees, shrubs, and groundcovers, and fill in with perennial flowering plants. Mulch deeply, using leaves from your own trees and shrubs when possible. 

Cut down on watering by choosing native or well-adapted plants proven to thrive in your climate and soil. Reduce pruning time and effort by allowing some overgrown shrubs to go naturalistic or even become small trees, or replacing them with those that grow the size and shape you prefer. Choose disease- and pest-resistant varieties to eliminate the need for pesticides.

Other ways you can reduce energy use and costs include creating a leaf pile if not a compost system, installing a rain collection system, building a less expensive lean-to greenhouse that is solid on the north side to eliminate heat loss to the north wind, and setting up a discreet clothesline.

Oh, and grow some of your own food, especially for fresh vegetables and herbs. Like they say, “There are no food miles like no food miles!”

All these are just concepts, with many approaches to each one. Take a walk around and see if or where any of these can be implemented in your own garden.

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