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Old 06-21-2010, 01:15 PM   #1
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Help with low maintenance landscaping in Oregon.


I know, everyone hears it all the time, "Well what could you do that would be low maintenance?" or even worse, "What could you do that wouldn't require any maintenance?"

I'm not looking for a magic bullet.

Short Version (summary) at bottom.

Long story: I do, however, have a friend who would like me to do some work in her back yard for her. I've done plenty of gardening labor for friends and family before, but I've always avoided learning about plants for some reason. I guess I was afraid I would get too into it and spend a lot of time learning about plants, gardening, landscaping, farming, you name it--I hear it's a wonderfully never ending journey.

Last year I opened up my friend's 20,000-35,000 sq ft back yard by weed whacking black berries and a few thistles and patches of grass, and then hand digging every last blackberry root I could find. Not only is this safer for her daughter who is now playing back there than spraying would have been, but only about 3 or 5 vines out of the 1000s I dug up came back at all, and they did so very feebly.

Her backyard is on a slope. It slopes away from her house at about maybe a 15-20 degree angle, I know it's huge. I build a pathway for her last year and had to terrace it, by hand because there is no way to get anything larger than a lawnmower back there without using a crane.

I planted some strawberries and a raised bed for non-fruit bearing veggies (since the soil hasn't been tested and is in a city and likely to have something that would get into the leaves, tubers, roots, stems, w/e of veggies.)

THIS YEAR: I've come back and checked on the plants, which are doing mostly fine. The ferns, heather, a few rhododendrons, and other similar sized shrubs are doing well, but the grass and thistles are back with a vengeance (I didn't bother to pull all of them). I've pulled them out of the beds and weed whacked the rest. But I'd like to do something to keep them from coming back, especially in the veggie gardens. Someone suggested that I use straw, does anyone have any experiences with that? (FYI she doesn't want me to use landscaping fabric, or black plastic..)

Also I'm looking for some low maintenance ideas for landscaping. She didn't want to spring for an irrigation system, but I can temporarily setup a soaker hose on a timer(normally used for the veggies), until the plants are healthily adapted.

Short version (summary): I would like to know,
  1. Does straw around veggies work to keep weeds down, or slow their spread?
  2. What are some good, inexpensive, low maintenace shrubs and bushes for the Willamette Valley in Oregon?
  3. Any advice on ground cover in Willamette Valley in Oregon?
  4. Any inexpensive trees that thrive in Oregon?
  5. Any good privacy barrier plants that are good for fence lines?

Thanks for taking the time to read.

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Old 06-22-2010, 11:42 PM   #2
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Help with low maintenance landscaping in Oregon.


Fellow Oregonian here. I've found it's difficult to keep weeds down in the Willamette Valley, but using mulch from the lawn, straw or even bark nuggets always helps. If you're going to be laying mulch from the lawn around vegetables, make sure it hasn't been treated with weed'n'feed, or similar.

I'd say the lowest maintenance shrubs to use are those that are native to the area - Rhodies are great, obviously, but so are Oregon grapes or huckleberry plants - both can be found growing wild all over the state. Whatever you do, avoid planting invasive plants like Ivy, etc.

As far as ground cover goes, try lithidora - thrives in our climate and is beautiful.

For fence-lining shrubs, I'd go with Rhodies or Bamboo. Both are low maintenance and grow relatively quickly.

Good luck!

Fellow Oregonian here. I've found it's difficult to keep weeds down in the Willamette Valley, but using mulch from the lawn, straw or even bark nuggets always helps. If you're going to be laying mulch from the lawn around vegetables, make sure it hasn't been treated with weed'n'feed, or similar.

I'd say the lowest maintenance shrubs to use are those that are native to the area - Rhodies are great, obviously, but so are Oregon grapes or huckleberry plants - both can be found growing wild all over the state. Whatever you do, avoid planting invasive plants like Ivy, etc.

As far as ground cover goes, try lithidora - thrives in our climate and is beautiful.

For fence-lining privacy barriers, I'd go with Rhodies or Bamboo. Both are low maintenance and grow relatively quickly.

Good luck!

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Old 05-17-2014, 06:01 PM   #3
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Help with low maintenance landscaping in Oregon.


Whatever you do, don't EVER plant a maple tree in your yard.

Those helicopters that come off....they ALL grow. Its a gorgeous old tree...but what a nightmare for yard care.

I'm trying to keep the grass growing where the tree shades the yard.
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Old 05-18-2014, 10:42 AM   #4
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Help with low maintenance landscaping in Oregon.


Straw does work and help. However, using paper products, such as cardboard, newspaper and paper bags, offers the ultimate weed control. Trim all weeds to no more than 6 inches tall, then lay down layers of paper or cardboard. Weeds should not be removed. As they decompose beneath the paper, they return valuable nutrients to the soil. Cardboard is perfect for keeping vegetable garden walkways weed-free with no work. To keep paper products in place, top with any other mulch option.

Here are some plant suggestions for you that are low maintenance.

‘Snowflake’ oakleaf hydrangea - Oakleaf hydrangea is one of my favorites because its large leaves look great on their own and in combination with other plants. Large, oakleaf-shaped leaves contrast well with smaller-leaved plants, but it’s the white flowers on large panicles, which change to pink as they age, that makes ‘Snowflake’ oakleaf hydrangea a winner. Its blooms are double, hose-in-hose, which means that, as the new white petals come out of the middle of the flower, the older petals hold on and fade to pink, producing complexity and depth to the flower. The show continues through fall, as the foliage turns red, attaining deeper hues on plants located in full sun. The flowers persist through winter to complement the shrub’s exfoliating bark. ‘Snowflake’ grows up to 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide—but it doesn’t get as large if grown in the shade.

Ogon’ spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’) - Most spireas stay relatively small, which makes them useful. They can look formal if clipped, or appear wild and rambling if allowed to grow unpruned. ‘Ogon’ spirea grows 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide, with a tighter form in full sun. Small white flowers open first, followed by narrow, apple green leaves that become vibrant yellow-green and light up the summer border. Its narrow leaves contrast beautifully with oakleaf hydrangea.

Purple smoke bushes (Cotinus coggygria cvs.) - Their stems grow straight up like pipe cleaners, a habit which makes them useful additions to any border in need of diverse forms. Growing up to 15 feet tall and wide, you can keep purple smoke bushes in check by cutting them back hard each spring after the first leaves break out. They will send up all new growth, year after year. Older plants grown in full sun will “smoke” (flower) if left unpruned, and even the youngest specimens turn a striking burnished orange-purple in fall.

Knock Out series roses (Rosa Knock Out) - I’ve never been a rose fan, but I have to admit that Knock Out series roses are practically perfect plants. The blooms of these shrubs, which are 2 to 4 feet tall and wide, keep coming from midspring until well into fall. Knock Out roses require no pruning to rebloom and are disease and pest resistant. The new stems and leaves are purple, especially on the red-flowered cultivar ‘Radrazz’.

‘Emerald Gaiety’ wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’) - A 3-foot-tall and 5-foot-wide ground cover that looks wonderful when grown in front of taller woody plants. Its green-and-white foliage lasts through the winter, when it sports an attractive pink edge. ‘Emerald Gaiety’ has a compact, bushy form that makes it especially useful as a ground cover or an accent at the front of the border.

‘Elegantissima’ redtwig dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’) - The combination of its interesting red stems in winter and variegated foliage in spring, summer, and fall makes it useful and attractive all year. I wait until the shrub leafs out at the nursery in spring before I buy mine to be sure it’s the true ‘Elegantissima’ cultivar. Without its unique foliage, it’s just another dogwood. It will grow up to 10 feet tall and wide, but you can prune back the old stems in early spring to encourage more red growth for winter. It's green-and-white leaves are a great foil for purple-leaved neighbors.

Japanese skimmias (Skimmia japonica and cvs.) - Their evergreen, aromatic, glossy leaves make skimmias well worth growing. The genus is dioecious, meaning the plants are either male or female. Both sport fragrant white, pink, or red blooms, but only the females produce berries. They typically grow 3 to 6 feet tall and wide and require little to no pruning.

‘Blue Star’ juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) - It has consistently blue needles and colder temperatures bring out a silvery gray to the sleek blue hue, which holds up well into winter and looks especially lovely on frosty mornings. The spreading habit of ‘Blue Star’ is the perfect choice for the front of a border: It stays low (only 16 inches tall), grows very slowly, and stands out in a crowd.
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