Shutterstock / By Agatha Koroglu
Have you always wanted a garden, but were discouraged by the lack of time or by the Herculean efforts that often go into creating one?
Or maybe you’ve rented a property with a garden, are tasked with looking after one, or are completely new to the world of gardening?
If anything above sounds familiar, the low maintenance garden is just what you need! Here, a big emphasis is placed on hardscaping features, perennial plants, and other laid-back elements that don’t require your constant attention to create a garden that practically takes care of itself.
Since you’re probably already itching to create your own version of this maintenance-free paradise, let’s examine what goes into making it a reality, starting from the very beginning.
How to Create a Low Maintenance Garden
Keep plant variety down to a minimum
It’s simple math – the less plants you have in your garden, the more free time you will have to enjoy it. You can even go one step further, remove all plants and lay a gravel garden. There’s hardly anything more low maintenance than that! Of course, if you’re not fond of such extremes, there are still some options.
For example, you can plant evergreen shrubs like lavender and euonymus, or you could add some colour by introducing a few (emphasis on a few) plant containers. Just make sure to stick to a maximum of two types of plant to cut all work down to a minimum.
Leave your lawn out of the picture
Lawns demand lots of attention, so it’s no wonder they’re branded as public enemy number one by low maintenance gardeners worldwide. But how can one replace such a crucial feature?
- Plant native or regional plant varieties around the trees in your lawn. Pick species that won’t interfere with the trees’ roots, for example spring bulbs like scilla or crocus.
- Create gravel paths, 4 to 8 feet wide. They will prevent weeds from growing and will help excess water drain faster. Add pavers or flagstones for improved looks.
- Create seating areas at key locations near your paths. Transform designated compost, trash, and/or tool storage areas into graveled land for your benches. Use vinegar products or flame weeders to keep these spaces neat and free of overgrowth.
- Replace what remains of your lawn with wide plant beds. For an all-year-round good looks, plant evergreen and native border shrubs, grasses, bulbs, and perennials.
Spend your time where it counts
The art of low maintenance gardening is to get the most out of your green space with the least amount of effort. And to do that, you need to make every minute you spend outdoors count. Look around and note all garden features that you find yourself interacting with the most.
Whether it’s a small vegetable patch or a water feature, make sure to focus your efforts on one particular thing and minimise maintenance work everywhere else.
You can do this by replacing the lawn with paving, swapping needy plants for shrub borders and so on. You can also position maintenance-heavy plants next to your home entrance or shed to drastically reduce the time spent carrying things around.
Scratch “weeding” from your to-do list
All that precious time spent in uprooting weeds can be saved if you replace some of those flamboyant (although pleasant to look at) perennial beds with shrubs. Here’s why:
- Shrubs are way easier to plant through a weed-suppressing membrane.
- Unlike their colourful cousins, shrub beds don’t require regular watering.
Then, all you need to do is add a mulch layer on top (bark and gravel will be perfect) and you can spend the next several seasons in blissful denial of the existence of such invasive plants.
Show the soil in your yard some love
Sure, feeding your plants is important, but did you think of what you can achieve if you do the same with your soil? Cover this important aspect of low maintenance gardening by enriching your soil with compost.
This will allow soil tilth to build up which, in turn, will help your plants “digest” their meals more easily. And the best part is that you only need to do this once a year! Just scatter the mineral supplements under the annual compost layer and you’re good to go.
Apply mulch the low maintenance way
This essentially means covering all your plant beds with a mulch blanket that is approximately 4 to 6 inches deep. This method serves a double purpose – not only will the mulch suppress the weeds, but also conserve some of the moisture. For best results, use well-rotted dairy manure and spread it from October all the way up to April (advisable only during snowless winters).
Let technology do all the work for you
No garden is truly low maintenance without an automatic sprinkler system. Simply install it at a location that will benefit as many of your plants as possible, sit back and enjoy a beverage of your choice as the sprinklers do all the field work for you. Just make sure to maintain them every now and then to be certain that your plants will be getting their vital sustenance on time.
Build your garden with hardscaping in mind
When you really think about it, it all makes perfect sense – the more inanimate objects one garden has, the less maintenance said garden will require. In other words, consider replacing your lawn with paving and reduce the number of plant beds in favour of slate paths.
Not all forms of hardscaping are easy to keep in tip-top shape, and this goes double for pretty much anything labelled as “softscaping”. For instance, deckings need to be cleaned quite often, while gravel-laid areas will require regular raking to keep the surfaces even.
Fill your kitchen garden with perennials
Sure, perennials take their sweet time to blossom, but they also basically take care of themselves. This latter quality makes them a perfect low maintenance gardens material.
By opting for perennials, you will also spend much less time researching your garden’s soil type, worrying about your local climate, or dabbling in frequent pruning activities.
Here are some contenders for the low maintenance crown that you can plant in your kitchen garden:
- Salad burnet;
- Wild rocket;
- British gooseberry.
6 Big No-no’s in Low-Maintenance Gardening You Need to Avoid
- Introducing containers to your garden. Looking after container plants is a very demanding task since it involves regular feeding, watering, and occasional repotting. If you do opt for container gardening, choose larger containers that hold more compost since these won’t have to be watered as frequently.
- Planting tender plants en masse. For example, such are winter wrapping and lifting which need to be relocated in a protected environment for propagation each year. You should also scratch bedding plants, vegetables, and seeds from your planting list, too. Instead, grow vegetation that will not need any special treatment once planted outside.
- Disregarding your plants’ needs. You can’t place shade-loving plants in direct sunlight or vice versa and expect them to thrive. Before you do any sowing work at all, make sure to pick plants that are well suited to your local climate and your garden’s soil type.
- Growing plants that need artificial support. A few examples would be delphiniums or any climbing plant in agricultural history. The reason? They are tricky to maintain, and ivy in particular can quickly grow out of control and suffocate the surrounding plants.
- Painting and staining your fence or furniture. Yes, the final result will look impressive. In the world of low maintenance gardening, however, doing this is impractical since you will have to eventually refresh the paint again, and then again, and then… you guessed it. So, make it easy on yourself by leaving your fence or furniture’s natural colours intact.
- Plants that serve as food for snails. Most snail species are herbivores and will happily devour your garden if it happens to be a snail paradise. Avoid tender and succulent-leaved plants (broccoli comes to mind) in favour of natural snail repellents, such as bellflowers and cyclamen.
A Few Final Words
Everyone deserves a nice place to relax and by now, we hopefully helped you change the way in which you view gardening as a whole – as a fun activity as opposed to an insufferable chore. Just remember that less is always more when it comes to creating a low maintenance garden.
Of course, as with all artistic outlets, gardening should always be done with passion, a pinch of good mood, and at least a tiny bit of effort as no garden deserves to be neglected by its owner!
Did you find this information helpful? Can you think of other low maintenance gardening tips & tricks that you’re willing to share? Let us know in the comments below and keep on gardening!