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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.