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Your Perennial Garden: A Maintenance-Free Zone?
By: Maureen Cook

  Perennials are not difficult to grow and maintain (after all, they regrow year on year), and they positively thrive in very difficult sites, such as shady corners or areas with permanently moist soil. But does that mean we can have a beautiful perennial garden that is maintenance-free? Well, not quite: in this world you don't usually get something for nothing. Follow a few simple plant care guidelines, however, and your perennial garden will delight you with a healthy, vigorous display for a minimum of work.

Before we look at the different aspects of maintaining a healthy perennial garden, just a few words about the importance of careful planting. The greater the care taken with soil preparation, selection of healthy plants and adequate watering at the very outset, the less work you will have further down the line. You will be able to spend more time relaxing in your garden enjoying the wonderful display if, initially, you have given your perennials the optimum growing conditions in which to thrive.

Both feeding and watering established plants in your perennial garden should definitely not be time-consuming chores. Established perennials, grown on well-cultivated land and well-watered when first planted, require little in the way of feeding and watering. An annual application in the spring of general purpose granular fertilizer or blood, fish and bonemeal should supply all the nutrients your plants will need. Care should be taken to avoid scorching leaves, flowers and stems when applying the fertilizer. 

Watering of mature plants should be minimal. Not only does this make sense in terms of conserving precious water, but also in saving you hours of work. Of course, prolonged periods of drought might call for some watering of your perennial garden. Try, though, to use "grey", recycled water or rainwater collected in a water-butt. Remember, too, when you do need to water do so later in the day and direct the water down into the roots. As with fertilizer, keep water away from the foliage: water droplets on leaves evaporate under an intense sun to leave brown scorch marks.

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