Tag Archives: low maintenance garden

How to get a Low Maintenance Border in your Garden

A Low Maintenance Border in the garden that looks great all year…yes please!

So can you get something that looks fantastic without spending hours tending to the garden? Well the answer has to be yes, otherwise there’s no point in reading the rest of this article!

If you haven’t time to read on, download our free 11 page guide to making your garden easier to look after.

 

 

 

 

What actually does ‘low maintenance’ mean?

Well, low maintenance is all about not having unwanted garden chores or at least minimising these as much as possible. So one person’s low maintenance garden may not be the same as someone else’s.

not a low maintnenance border

In the garden border, most time is taken up with:

  • Clipping and Pruningdesign-garden-sidebar
  • Tying things in or stopping plants flopping
  • Weeding
  • Deadheading
  • Stopping one plant taking over the border
  • Digging up unwanted seedlings
  • Planting plants only to have to lift them up at the end of the year
  • Daily inspections for the signs of bugs and diseases

There’s lots of advice further down this page to reduce your garden maintenance burden.

However if you just want to know what plants to put in that won’t take over the garden….

 

We have loads of border designs available to download. Our designs are created to  minimise the amount of unwanted maintenance.

We understand that although most of us would love to have a beautiful garden – many of us simply don’t have enough time to garden.

Our designs use ‘well-behaved’ plants that not only look good, they do good too; so bees and butterflies will love to visit too.

Why not have a browse through some of our lower maintenance designs…

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If you are going to plant and you want to minimise maintenance, then follow these tips:

Shrubs:

  • Use evergreen shrubs
  • Avoid thorns…!
  • Check the size in 5, if it will be 10ft tall in 5 years, then it grows pretty fast and will need constant trimming.
  • If it says the diameter of the plant will be 80cm for example, then plant it at least 40 cm away from a wall or fence.
  • Don’t squash shrubs into tight spaces, like a skirt that’s too small – you’ll end up with a ‘muffin-top’!

mini-makeovers

Climbers:

  • Use self clinging ones – so you don’t have to constantly tie in tendrils.
  • Make sure the trellis is big and sturdy enough. A plant won’t get to the end of your trellis and stop – it will keep on growing and flop!
  • Hang the trellis onto a bracket attached to the wall. This leaves space for growth and you can lift the trellis off the wall if you need to.
  • Don’t mix different climbers on the same trellis – unless 1 is an annual that will die after 1 season.
  • Plant a climber in a space that fits the ultimate size. Montana Clematis for example will swamp most garden trellis or arches in a very short time.

 

Plants:

  • Keep bedding and annual plants to a minimumplants to avoid 1
  • Avoid overbred flowers or overly large flowers – they require lots of food and water to keep performing.
  • Use bulbs rather than bedding plants to fill up spaces
  • Look for a AGM medal on the plant label – it will be a good performer and have better disease resistance.
  • Avoid tender perennials – these will need winter protection to stay alive in winter.

Pots:

  • Use larger pots – small ones dry out too easilygood garden plants
  • In sunny spots use water retaining granules in the soil.
  • Use a mixture of topsoil and compost, plants grow better in soil.
  • Raise the pots off the ground to help with drainage.
  • Have a pot collection in one place, watering is quicker.
  • Mix slow release fertiliser into the soil mix before you plant, then it’s done and you won’t have to remember to liquid feed every week.

 

The Ground:

  • Weed it properly, yanking off the weed leaves will not kill the weed, you need to dig them out. And it’s easier to do this before you plant anything else.
  • If the soil is really poor and you don’t want to add lots of compost or manure, then choose plants that thrive in tough places or those that have shallow root systems like grasses that won’t need much extra food.
  • Bare soil around plants is fine, if you pack too much in, then all the plants compete for light, space and food and only the toughest (normally weeds) win. So give your plants space to get going. Any weed seeds are easy to see and quick to remove.
  • Don’t let anything set seed unless you want more of them. 1 plant can set thousands of seeds, weeds throw out millions, so snip off seed heads before they ripen.

 

How to make an existing border lower maintenance:

As with anything, first you need to work out the problem, before you can find the right solution – which sometimes means starting again!

Here for example, the border does not look it’s best.

 

not a low maintenance border

 

Clearly every plant here is fighting for space, there is just too much and it has grown too big. The strappy leaves of the Crocosmia (the orange one), flop on the path ready to trip you up and the Perovskia (the blue plant) looks a bit like it’s been all night clubbing and needs a lie down!

 

You need to make a decision as to whether the border can be rejigged, or whether it’s best to lift everything and start again.

In this case…start again!

 

low maintenance border - start again

 

I’ll bet you didn’t think the border was triangular though. Aside from that, we now have a starting point. So what’s next?

What’s above & what’s below?:

You must match the plant to the position of the border and the type of soil you have.

 

Otherwise known as right plant, right place. Remember this is all about reducing garden maintenance. Read more

 

Download our free Right Plant – Wrong Place planting guides

 

Plants grow best if they are happy with the conditions. So sun lovers will be limp and feeble if stuffed in a shady corner and similarly plants that love a rich moist soil will look decidedly hungover if planted in a sun trap. All of which mean you have to tend to them more often or they die and you have to spend more money and time sorting it out.

 

Having said that, some plants will go on the rampage if you plant them in perfect conditions and so are best avoided. These tough plants do have a place, but generally you only plant them where weeds are currently thriving and then they are brilliant!

 

 

The upshot is this – if you get the conditions right for the plant, it will grow more strongly, it will grow into the shape it’s supposed to be and at the right speed. The stems will be less floppy and it will produce better flowers.

The plants will tend to look after themselves, so you don’t have to!

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Don’t create extra work unintentionally

You need a plan before you plant, the ‘stuff it in and see what happens approach’, very rarely works and can quickly become a tangled mess that needs sorting out.

 

You must look at the size a plant will become not the size it is now. Filling up the border with the small plants you have bought is not a good approach.

 

If the border is only 2m square, then you need to select plants that over time will fill up that 2m sq. Use bulbs for infills, especially small plants like crocus, snowdrops, alliums and narcissus. These are narrow plants that don’t fill ground space too much, but do fill the air above with colour!

 

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You know a garden like the one above will keep you really busy, but so will a garden that looks like this…

 

not a low maintnenance border

 

Now you may have got to the end of this article (thank you by the way) and thought, ‘OK right, I get that, but what do I actually plant, what do I put with what and how many should I fit into the space I have. That’s what I really need to know about the low maintenance bit!’

Visit our Shop now to see our range of Low Maintenance Designs that would be just perfect for your garden.

beginners

Next Week: Pots – if you like plants in pots, but wished they kept looking good, then tune in and we’ll show you how to ‘pot plant’ better!

 

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How to get Low Maintenance Paths

Paths – we’ve all got them

 

Top tips for reducing the amount of time on unwanted garden chores!

We all have paths in our gardens, but the choice of the type of path to use can really affect how much time you have to spend on unwanted chores and tidying up.

 

So what advice and tips are there for ensuring the garden paths you have are low maintenance?

 

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Paths – we’ve got to have them, but is your path causing you too much work?

1 – Most importantly – how much traffic will it get?

 

Footfall, feet, kids running up and down, the route to the bins, the route to the washing line, the bit leading up to the back door. All of these will experience a lot of traffic, so you must have a hard wearing surface, any grass path will only turn to a muddy mush in winter with all that wear and tear.

 

If you can only have grass there, you can add a grass protection mesh to the surface, this way you walk on a frame and the grass grows though it.

 

The trick here is not to mow the grass too short so you don’t see the mesh. However, it may not be the ‘prettiest’ solution!

 

grass mat

 

2 – How little sun will the path get?

 

If you have a path that experiences little or no sun then it is best to avoid any surface that is fairly smooth – green algae and lichens will quickly turn your path into a speed skating rink after any rainfall.

 

  • Avoid any decking or wood stepping stones (unless you love pressure washing)
  • Concrete paths can be OK as long as they are not too smooth (but they will still go green in shade)
  • Avoid lighter coloured stone paths – you can’t stop the green algae growing, you’ll just notice it less on darker colours!

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3 – What is likely to drop onto the path?

 

This may not be an obvious tip, but your path will accumulate stuff, stuff blown in by the wind, stuff dropped by overhanging trees and also ‘stuff’ dropped by our feathered friends!

 

You need to decide not only how much stuff is likely to drop, but how much time you want to spend clearing it up!

 

  • Stones especially larger decorative stones are nigh on impossible to rake all the leaves  and other debris off, you need a blower or a leaf hoover of some kind. All of which take time. So under trees – have a path made of sweepable slabs or pavers.
  • If the birds roost in trees above any path, you will have bird poop. Beautiful crisp clean paving will show every dropping in all it’s glory. Shingle is a good alternative to disguise the pooping, but it needs properly edging in so you can easily rake it.
  • Will the soil wash off the borders onto the path
  • Are the plants hanging over the path and will they drop seeds into it?(weeding!!)

 

This path will have a lot of leaf fall and debris, on the plus side, there are raised edges to prevent soil falling onto the path, the planting does not spill onto the path too much. On the downside, the stones are too large to easily rake so you need a blower and although the light colour does lighten the space – you also see every bit of debris onto the path.

 

path-1463406

 

4 – Do your Edges properly!

 

All paths have edges, obviously, but what the path edges onto will also determine how time consuming any maintenance will be.

 

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This may look attractive, but

a) the grass will creep over the stones;

b) it is tricky to edge the grass with shears and

c) the stones will camouflage themselves under grass ready to shoot out at breakneck speed onto your shin when you mow!

Any stone path need a proper edge that sits above the height of the stones to keep the stones where you want them and stop soil being washed onto the paths that will allow weeds to flourish.

 

shingle 1

5 – Weeding, make it easy for yourself.

You will not stop weeds growing, but not getting the path type right can allow more weeds to grow that you would want! There are some simple rules to follow

  • The more joins you have, the more opportunity for weed seeds to sprout through the cracks
  • If you use block paving anywhere – don’t plant self seeding experts near or upwind of the path….think ornamental grasses, forget me nots etc!
  • If soil can get washed into the path (especially shingle or stones), it provides a perfect growing medium for new seedlings to pop up.
  • Make sure before you make a path, you HAVE dug out any roots that are lurking underneath especially ground elder, couch grass and bindweed, amongst others.
  • If you lay concrete paths near large trees, the path is likely to crack as the ground moves with the amount of water the tree is using, so use a path that can cope with ground movement
  • Do not plant plants that spread via underground roots anywhere near your paths unless you have either planted them in pots or you have a really good root barrier in place.

shingle 3

 

So there you have it, you will not be able to reduce unwanted path maintenance, but you can reduce the amount of time you have to do, tidying up and trying to keep the garden looking it’s best.

Next week we are looking at hedging and making that a low maintenance task!

For some more ideas on paths and pathways, see our pinboard on Pinterest – although not all these are low maintenance, some are rather lovely!

 

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What is a Low Maintenance Garden – part 2

How to actually create one!

We all love the idea of having a low maintenance garden, it conjures an image of lazy summer days spent in your garden watching the bees buzzing and you just relaxing. The reality though, generally involves you spending far too much time on mowing the grass, trimming the edges, weeding paths and taming the triffids!

But with a little planning it is achievable – honestly! So how do you go about it?

more hours mowing

Well if you read last week’s post, part 1, you know some of the hard landscaping pitfalls to avoid and the idea that creating a low maintenance garden really involves creating a garden that minimises the stuff you don’t like doing.

This week we’ll take a closer look at what in your garden creates the maintenance, so you can avoid it!

Design tips for low maintenance gardens

The aim of a low maintenance garden, is to reduce the time you spend doing stuff you don’t like doing. So take a look at your garden, jot down how much time and effort you spend on certain tasks.

80% of your garden should require only annual attention or only a few minutes a week spent tidying up.

gdn maintenance 1

This house owner is a garden lover, there are lots of plants that require regular attention, which is fine if you love gardening.

Once you have seen which elements of the garden require regular bursts of activity, you also need to consider how long each activity takes. In the image below, there are large hedges and a box parterre. The hedging may only require clipping twice a year, but if it takes several hours each time, you can decide if really sharply clipped hedges are your thing!

Low maintenance garden 3

Size is not the key determinant of the amount of time you spend gardening, although it obviously is still relevant, the types of plants you have are also crucial. The main workload in the image below comes from keeping the grass cut and the border edges neat. The rest can be tackled pretty much with one day’s gardening a year and a few little trips in between to dead head the roses.

gdn maintenance 2

So you have identified those elements of the garden that are either regular chores or take up an inordinate amount of time that you would prefer doing something much more enjoyable!

What is next?

Changing what you have

Mowing the grass:  Reduce time and effort mowing by;

  • Keeping the shape simple, so there are no fiddly corners to mow round.lower-maintenance
  • Reduce the size of the lawn by adding in borders with low maintenance planting.
  • Do not have small lawns (especially in the front garden), where’s the benefit, you don’t need the grass to walk on so get rid of it entirely.
  • Let the grass grow, create mown paths through some parts of the grass, why do you have to mow it every week? You can add bulbs in spring and summer, so you only need to mow in the autumn.
  • Trim the edges of the lawn regularly but reduce the mowing frequency, since when did 1 inch become the height lawns MUST be kept to?

Plants and Planting: You will need to know a little bit about the plants in your garden!

  • Get rid of plants that you don’t like, for example ‘triffids’. We’ve all inadvertently got some; plants that never seem to stop growing. But they won’t ever stop growing, so if it’s too big for it’s boots get rid of it or give it away.
  • Make your borders at least 3 ft wide, it’s much easier to get a good display. The borders don’t have to run the whole length of the garden either! Creating deeper borders helps the plants grow and prevents the plants flopping over onto the grass all the time.

borders 1           borders 2

side drawing fence                       side drawing fence 2

Both images have the same ‘plants’, but the borders in the right image will grow and look much better

  • Avoid planting too many annuals, bedding plants, or plants that require staking, tying in, or lots of feeding and watering. Choose plants by how they make you feel and what you want them to be used for.
  • Don’t plant right up to the fence, all that happens is the plant grows away from your fence and will flop over the grass.
  • If you are going to plant climbers, then invest in really sturdy trellis – and allow for the growth of the climber! If it will grow to 14ft, you need to make sure there is at 14ft of trellis for it to grow on!
  • Never attach the trellis directly to the wall or fence, as the growing plants just fall off the front of the trellis. It’s much better instead to hang the trellis on sturdy brackets, that way, you can unhook the trellis if you need to get to the wall or fence.

Pots and Containers: These tend to be more labour intensive, so to keep unwanted chores to a minimum, follow these tips:

  • Avoid hanging baskets, unless you have automatic watering systems.design-garden-sidebar
  • Use a mixture of bulbs and perennials in pots, so they last for more than one season.
  • Avoid using only multipurpose compost, it dries out too easily. Use soil or a mixture of soil and multipurpose, plants will thrive better if the pot doesn’t keep drying out and soil is heavier so the pot is less prone to being blown over.
  • If using pots in sunny places, mix in water retaining granules with the soil.
  • If you are using pots with a thin skin, like aluminium, insert a thin insulating layer of polystyrene to protect the roots from heat and frost damage.
  • Keep all the pots together in collections, it looks better and takes less time to water!

Creating a low maintenance garden or at least one that minimises unwanted chores is achievable. You may need to be a little bold and decide to get rid of the elements of the garden that don’t work for you, even if it means your plot stands out from the neighbours gardens as being different – if it works for you, then it’s a good garden!

We have loads of free help and advice for your garden and we even have come up with lots of garden border designs that you can browse through as well to help get your garden the way you want it to be.

Next week: How to make your paths lower maintenance.

great garden