The low maintenance garden has become a serious trend and has had so much written about it and debated that there needs to be some clarity provided. No matter how big or small your garden is, by instituting a low maintenance approach you will save time, money and reduce stress and increase neighbour envy all in one swoop.
It is no longer only those who don’t like gardening that look to the low maintenance version to keep them out of the garden; even those who love gardening have found that this is a way to keep your garden looking as good as it can in the most environmentally friendly way possible. This article will provide some clear and simple tips on how to create as low maintenance a garden as you would like.
Understand your climate and your surrounding environment
The first step that you need to do is the research. You need to know what grows and what doesn’t in your specific soil and in your climate. There may be plants, flowers and shrubs that we love and yet just won’t do well in our gardens. Most often it’s just because the plants we have chosen aren’t suited to either the soil, the climate or the specific position you’ve put them in the garden. It can be a costly and quite a disappointing process, so ensure that before you try to do any of the tips below, that you have researched your area, the plants that are indigenous to the area and the required watering and nutrients for any of the plants that you do like.
The aspects of the garden that are best to keep minimal maintenance
The following aspects of the garden are those that all the online research shows, and the practical garden advice shows are the best aspects of any garden to keep low or minimal maintenance and will serve to save you time and money.
Gone is the white picket fence as this will require frequent maintenance in the way of painting and treating on a yearly basis and then replacing once worn. The movement towards low maintenance living and gardening has meant that it’s important to choose the right fencing for your garden and property as a whole. There are several low maintenance options presented as sustainable fencing that won’t require much maintenance, but the best advice is to find some traditional ironwork specialists who are able to provide aesthetically pleasing fencing that will last as long as the house does. Iron and steel once treated will be the most sustainable and maintenance free fencing to go with.
They take up a lot of space and perennial flowering shrubs are some of the easiest plants to look after, that add some great structure and splashes of color through the garden. The hardy flowering and evergreen shrubs are the go-to plants for many gardeners who want the space to look green and colorful and yet don’t want to spend too much time on gardening. You will need to ask for advice from your local garden center or plant nursery or do your online research and reading to ensure that the shrubs you choose are the best ones for your garden and your specific needs.
A meadow, wildflower section or room
Regardless of the size of your garden, if you want the ultimate do-nothing outdoor space, which provides a fantastic amount of interest and seasonal changes, then simply seed the area with wild meadow seeds that are local to your area. Don’t mow and let the flowers take over. You will have to weed to begin with, to ensure that the garden isn’t just an overgrown mess. But once the flowers and natural grasses seed, you will have some of the best outdoor spaces available that will need little to no maintenance to keep looking natural throughout the year, if you’ve chosen the grasses and wildflowers accordingly.
The lawn: to keep or not to keep
The first point to make as to the lawn, is that if it isn’t used, then consider other options. If lawn is a mission to maintain and expensive to install at your property, then it shouldn’t be there. The prevailing historical trend has been to plant green lawn that is water hungry and needs regular cutting, weeding and feeding to keep it in the best condition possible. There has been a shift to the use of local grasses and lawn products that don’t need as much water and are bred to grow shorter than ever, requiring less mowing and maintenance. So, the question of whether to keep the lawn, will depend on how big the space is, which lawn you choose to plant and the availability of reclaimed or recycled water that can be used to maintain the garden space.
In the current context, where climate change is producing drier spells around the world and water shortages are now a common occurrence, it will be important to ensure that the plants you choose are all water savers and that any lawned areas use local grasses that aren’t too thirsty. The manner in which you plant, will determine the amount of water that you need to use and thus the expenses related to the gardening. It is thus not simply a matter of limiting your watering, but rather about making the initial plant choices based on their water requirements and care needs. Great example are those gardens that only plant local, so succulents and cactus in those gardens that are in drier areas such as Las Vegas and Southern California. Choosing plants and ground covers based on what’s growing in the natural environment is one of the best ways to keep your garden as low maintenance as possible.
The things to avoid
Pot plants and container planting have been used in many a small garden and the initial idea was that pot plants could provide gardeners a means to plant exactly what they wanted in their garden, and as many as they liked regardless of the poor soils or lack of water. They are, however, not low maintenance in that container or potted plants need more frequent watering and fertilizing to keep the plants in good condition. Avoid too many pot plants or container plants if you intend to create a low maintenance garden. Many a homeowner, who’s looking for low maintenance will simply pave the entire space and then bring in loads of pot plants with all manner of beautiful plants and flowers. This will be the antithesis of low maintenance and yes, you may not have any lawn to mow or edges to neaten up, but you will have the pots to water, change soils from time to time and struggle to keep the plants looking healthy. It’s just too much work.
Too many tender plants
The same can be said of plants that are too tender for your area. This links to the tip provided for you to know your climate and prevailing weather conditions before you do any planting. Many gardeners go out and buy the best flowering plants that they can afford, only to have them die at the first signs of frost or intense heat. Keep well away from tender plants, no matter how beautiful, simply because they will need to be covered or protected in adverse conditions - conditions that are natural to your garden. So plant for the environment that you are in and keep the plants local and thus low maintenance.
Don’t try to grow too much veg
Many a gardener believes that they should try their hand at vegetable growing, after all they have the space and the inclination. But if you’re after low maintenance then developing a vegetable garden is simply not advised. Firstly, its way cheaper to just buy the vegetables and fruit at the grocery store and secondly the maintenance, watering, weeding and then harvesting will take more time and effort than it might be worth. This obviously depends on the type of vegetables that you grow and what you like to eat, but vegetable gardens are certainly not low maintenance.
Developing a low maintenance garden will require some detailed planning and initial research to get going. However, once you have determined the basics, such as climate and soil types then you are on the right track and the work should stop once you have decided how to go. The low maintenance garden is not just for those who don’t like gardening or who don’t have the time for gardening, even those who love to garden and want their home gardens to look as beautiful and well cared for as possible have begun to move away from non-indigenous planting, excessive water usage and artificially overly manicured lawns and gardens that are just not sustainable.
The advice provided herein will allow you to develop a plan for a garden that will not only look fantastic but won’t cost you or the planet too much in return.