New Practices for Healthy Gardens

By Benjamin Vogt, Houzz

For decades we’ve had landscape principles in place that might hinder us from creating thriving, sustainable landscapes. I’ve covered some of these principles, or rules, in the past, but there are more to consider amending as a new garden season is upon us.

Here are some ways that we can rethink some gardening practices so that our outdoor spaces can be what we’ve always imagined them to be — places where wildlife and people connect and grow together.

 Jerry Fritz Garden Design, original photo on Houzz

1. Plant shorter flowers, grasses and ground covers among larger ones to mimic nature. There’s a tendency to think of garden borders and beds as tiered levels: short up front or on the outside edge, medium-height stuff in the middle and tall plants in the back. But our landscapes don’t need to look like bleachers at high school football games.

Go ahead and plant shorter things among taller stuff. Grow a sedge (Carex sp.) or tickseed (Coreopsis sp.) that reaches 1 foot to 2 feet tall among some 3- to 4-foot-tall little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), meadow blazingstar (Liatris ligulistylis), stiff goldenrod (Oligoneuron rigidum) or Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum). The shorter plants will also act like a living mulch, mimicking what nature does by letting plants duke it out to find some equilibrium.