Lynn Barber illustrates how lazy gardening can limit your results. (Photo courtesy of Jaclyn Rivas.)

A recent article covered how you can have a beautiful landscape while maintaining a lazy gardener lifestyle. This one explains the limitations to lazy gardening.

Mulch: It takes a little work to put it down, but it saves a lot of time and effort in the long run. Mulch regulates soil temperature, adds organic value, inhibits weeds and retains soil moisture. Pine bark, pine straw/needles, eucalyptus, melaleuca and leaves are good options. Cypress is not because when cypress stands are cut down for mulching, the habitat of native birds and animals is destroyed.

Fertilizing: First and foremost, read the fertilizer ordinance for your county so you know when you can fertilize. Use slow-release fertilizer. To be really lazy, don’t fertilize until you are sure of light rain for activation. Water-based fertilizers leach through the soil after rain or irrigation.

Why Prune? Reasons to prune include training the plant to grow in a certain direction and improving health by removing diseased stems, creating better air circulation; increasing flowering, allowing for bigger fruit on some types and more abundant foliage; being able to restrict growth and keep the plant in the boundary of available space; and you can remove dead flower heads from a plant to encourage further blooming.

War on Weeds: A weed is the wrong plant in the right place, right plant/wrong place or a plant with nine lives. Using mulch (depth 2-3 inches after it settles) helps. If you chose to fight the weed war, you can cover weeds with newspapers to smother them and/or point, aim and squeeze with an environmentally friendly weed killer spray.

Pests—Biting, Sucking and Chewing: We have aphids, caterpillars, slugs, snails, scales and spider mites. Less than one percent of all bugs are bad bugs. “When we kill off the natural enemies of a pest, we inherit their work,” said entomologist Carl Huffaker. The first step, however, is to properly identify the insect to be sure it is a pest versus a beneficial insect. If you must, use a nonchemical and least-toxic product. Spot-treat plants as needed, not the entire landscape.

Lazy Pest Management (LPM) Alternatives: Use two pinching fingers to squish pests, hard-spray with water and/or prune off infested sections and place those sections in your household trash, not your yard waste, which could be recycled elsewhere. For more info on nonchemical solutions, go to: ‘Ask IFAS’ Managing Yard Pests.

Inefficient Irrigation: If you have an in-ground irrigation system, do you have broken heads, plants or other materials blocking the spray pattern, and/or a rain shut-off device that does not work? Do you have program A, B and C set to run subsequently? Are the times that are set for each irrigation zone appropriate? Is your water bill for more than 20,000 gallons of water per month? If yes and if you are a Hillsborough County water customer, call Paula Staples at 813-744-5519, ext. 54142 to see how she may be able to help you decrease your water usage.

Right Plant, Wrong Place: Site conditions are very important when making plant selections. Consideration should be given to light (sun/shade), soil pH and texture, water, wind and other conditions. An invasive plant is never the right plant in any place. Not sure if it’s invasive? Go to ‘Ask IFAS’ Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas. You have the ‘opportunity’ to move the right plant to the right place in your landscape, or you can take the time and expense of replacing it after it dies.

Rewards of Laziness: Reading, golfing, sleeping, cooking, crafting, outings with family and friends, more gardening, attending an Extension workshop … your choice.

Lynn Barber is the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ agent for UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County. Contact her at

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