How to get Low Maintenance Garden Borders
Our aim is to help you make your garden better. Here we discuss how to get low maintenance garden borders with simple, practical, sensible advice suitable for every standard of gardener. So, welcome to PlantPlots and thank you for visiting.
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Creating a low maintenance garden is all about understanding what YOU need your garden to do for YOU. Get that right & gardening will not feel like such hard work.
So, what does ‘low maintenance’ mean?
it means, what is low maintenance – FOR YOU.
Gardening is only ever a pain if you have to do ‘stuff’ you don’t like doing. If all the work in the garden is stuff you don’t mind doing, the garden won’t feel as though it is a lot of work!
Consequently, no two low maintenance gardens will ever be exactly the same.
So, in order to create the best garden for you; start by working out what you don’t like doing and find ways to minimise that.
How do gardens cause unnecessary work?
Take this border; it may have been planted with a number of ‘easy care’ and low maintenance shrubs, but collectively it will cause an awful lot of work to keep it looking manicured.
In the garden, most of your time will be taken up with:
- Clipping and Pruning
- Tying things in or stopping plants flopping over
- Stopping one plant taking over the garden!
- Looking after plants that can’t look after themselves
- AND lastly but most time consuming of all MOWING THE LAWN
Creating your list of dislikes is a much better way to start planning any garden border, at least you know you are reducing the unwanted chores.
If you are going to plant and you want to minimise the maintenance, then follow these tips: (see also How to Garden)
- 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’!
- 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 one is an annual that will die after one 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.
- Keep bedding and annual plants to a minimum
- 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.
- Use larger pots – small ones dry out too easily
- 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.
- Weed it properly, yanking off the weed leaves will not kill the weed, you need to dig them out.
- Weed properly BEFORE planting anything.
- 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 will means starting again.
Here for example, the border does not look it’s best.
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!
I’ll bet you didn’t think the border was actual that small. 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
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!
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!
You know a garden like the one above will keep you really busy, but so will a garden that looks like this…
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”.
Visit our Shop now to see our range of Low Maintenance Designs that would be just perfect for your garden.
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!