Spruce up your Romeoville backyard with a garden that’s low-maintenance and that the whole family can help care for. As long as you choose the right plants, you don’t need to have a lot of time for gardening. The following plants have simple planting instructions, no pruning, and easy watering schedules, making them perfect for teaching kids of all ages how to start and maintain a garden. Focus on flowers to create a home for pollinators and add some color to your yard, or plant some vegetables to enhance your family meals.
The hardy purple coneflower is a popular choice for Illinois gardens because it’s easy to grow, even if you’re starting from a seed. Plant seeds in early spring after the frost is over, wait about a month, and you should see plants starting to grow. Coneflowers can take a while to bloom (a couple of years at most) so if you’d like to start seeing flowers this year, buy a young plant instead of starting from seeds.
You can plant coneflowers in partial shade or sunlight, and they’ll start their blooms in early summer. What’s most delightful about these flowers is that they continue to bloom throughout the fall, so you and your kids can enjoy beautiful petals for months at a time.
Also called false indigo, Baptisia grows as stalks covered in leaves and delicate flowers. Blue is the most common blossom color, but white and yellow are also available.
It’s a little hard to start Baptisia from a seed, so your best bet for an easy gardening experience is to buy and plant a young Baptisia plant instead. Once established, Baptisia do not need to be pruned, and they tolerate drought quite well. Make sure the soil is well-drained, but you shouldn’t need any pesticides. You may see a few caterpillars, but that’s a good thing, since some butterfly species love Baptisia.
The black-eyed Susan is a popular flower for low-maintenance gardeners because of the wide range of soil types it will tolerate. While these plants grow a few feet tall, you don’t have to stake them to get them to grow upright. Just plant them about 18 inches apart after the final frost of the year.
Black-eyed Susans are easy to grow in full sun and don’t require much maintenance at all. You can skip the fertilizer and prune only if you feel like it. Taking off the dead head flowers will encourage your black-eyed Susans to continue to bloom, but this step isn’t necessary. They can handle some drought, but if it’s been longer than a few weeks, send the kids out with the hose once a week to give them a drink.
Potentilla is a flowering shrub that comes in a variety of colors and is easy to grow. It tolerates drought, which means if you don’t have quite enough time to water your garden for a few days, your Potentilla should still be fine. It flowers all summer, too, which your kids (and some favorite pollinators) will love. This shrub grows 2-3 feet high and can become as wide as 5 feet, so it’ll take up a lot of space in your garden and thus limit the number of other plants you have to take care of. Flowers come in orange, white, pink, and yellow.
One benefit of Potentilla is that it can handle urban air pollution, so if you’re in a busy part of Romeoville, you can still plant Potentilla with confidence. They do best if you plant them in spring while it’s still a little chilly. They don’t need to be pruned, but you can start shaping them after three years if you choose.
Vegetables take a little more care than flowers, but don’t let that stop you from growing some edible plants in your low-maintenance garden. Carrots are relatively easy to grow and become most flavorful when grown in colder soil, making them great for growing in Illinois. Of course, pulling them out of the ground will be a delightful activity for the children to do once it’s time.
Your soil needs to be loose and well-drained, and you should plant carrots about 3 inches apart in full sun or partial shade. Plant them in spring for the best results. It takes between 50 to 75 days between planting carrot seeds and harvesting the carrots, so if you want to have multiple harvests, you can plant carrot seeds a couple of times during the spring. You will have to water them about once a week, which can be a fun activity for you and the kids to do together.
Lettuce is another vegetable that’s easy to grow because it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. It’s also a great option given how many healthful meals you can make that include it, from salad to sandwiches to wraps. Loose-leaf lettuce is a great choice for Illinois because it resists cold, meaning you can grow it in early spring or late fall. It’ll grow in summer, too, but lettuce is at its best when grown in cooler temperatures.
You can start lettuce from seeds or from seedlings, depending on how impatient you are to have fresh lettuce. Make sure to plant seedlings 5-7 inches apart in direct sunlight, although a little shade is alright. You’ll need to water it once or twice a week, which makes it a good addition to a low-maintenance food garden containing carrots. To have delicious lettuce for your salad, you can simply pull the leaves off as they begin to mature without digging up the entire plant.
Gardening is a fun activity for kids, even on a busy schedule. Are you ready to start a low-maintenance garden with your family? Let us know if we included your favorite plants on this list, or if there’s another plant your kids have enjoyed growing in your back garden! Contact Crème de la Crème of Romeoville, Illinois, so that we can add your suggestions to our list.