Not all of us are avid gardeners or have the time to devote to primping and pruning. If you're maxed out or are a self-confessed "lazy" gardener, don't fret. It's possible to keep duties to a minimum but still maintain an attractive yard. Divide your spring garden wake-up tasks into these manageable chunks over four weekends from mid-May to mid-June. Then, with our five easy-care plant picks, you'll breeze through the season with a good-looking garden that only needs watering and regular lawn cutting.
Weekend 1: Get ready
Clean trowels, rakes, spades and forks with water and a brush, then coat with a thin layer of mineral oil to prevent rust. Sharpen spades; clean and oil pruners. Next, do some spring cleaning: rake fallen leaves from lawn and cut back dead stalks of perennial flowers. Prune overgrown evergreen shrubs. Deadhead spring bulbs (daffodils, tulips) after flowering.
Weekend 2: Treat your soil
Mulch is the lazy gardener's best friend: it reduces the need for irrigation by half and discourages weed seeds from germinating. Available in a variety of materials, inorganic mulches (gravel, small colour-coordinated stones) work well in formal gardens; organic mulches (shredded bark, wood chips) are better in casual settings. Before applying mulch to the soil surface, first rake in two centimetres of compost or composted manure to feed the soil. Then apply the mulch to a depth of four to seven centimetres to all flower beds and around the base of trees and shrubs.
Weekend 3: The lawn
Regardless of its critics, turf grass is one of the best low-maintenance plants for large areas. First, get your mower serviced by a pro; have blades sharpened and positioned so grass can be cut six to seven centimetres high (which encourages deep, drought-resistant roots). Leave clippings; they'll feed the lawn, cutting fertilizer needs in half. Fix bare spots by reseeding or patching with sod. Spot-weed, the priority being weeds about to set seed.
Weekend 4: Shopping spree
Now it's time to reward yourself with a trip to the garden centre. First make a list of the plants you want to purchase to avoid being overwhelmed once you arrive. Select healthy-looking specimens with no signs of insect damage. Choose groups of plants (perennials or shrubs) that work well together, and plant in threes and fives (aesthetically more pleasing than even numbers). Match plant needs (sun/shade, dry/moist soil) to the area you intend to put them.
Five easy-care plants
No need to sweat it this summer. These plants will provide colour for most of the season, don't need deadheading, are drought tolerant, and are resistant to pests and disease. And all but the petunia will grow in poor to average soil.
1 Hardy geraniums
Not to be confused with your grandmother's windowsill Pelargoniums. New hybrids of these perennials bloom continuously from early summer to autumn. Look for cultivars like 'Ann Folkard,' 'Okey Dokey,' 'Purple Pillow' and 'Rozanne' for their dependable floral display. (Perennial, part shade to full sun.)
2 Zebra grass
A striking, non-invasive grass "striped" with horizontal gold bands. Hardy to -30°C. A fast grower that adds instant architecture. (Perennial, part shade to full sun.)
3 The 'wave' petunia series
Available as single- or double-blooming plants in a wide range of colours, each plant can spread to one metre in width. Blooms don't go soggy after rainfall like old-fashioned petunias. (Annual, part shade to full sun.)
Many new, large-flowered, multicoloured cultivars are available (avoid the old-fashioned orange daylily as it's invasive). Buy an assortment of early-, middle- and late-blooming varieties to keep the show going all season. (Perennial, part shade to full sun.)
The most forgiving of all shrubs because it will grow almost anywhere, including dark corners where nothing else will survive. Doesn't require frequent pruning. Bonus: provides deep green colour with red berries in winter. (Evergreen, shade.)
Spruce up your boring urban garden with our easy tips.
Horticulturist Stephen Westcott-Gratton is the author of several books on gardening, the host and creative consultant of HGTV's Flower Power and a regular contributor to Canadian Gardening.