Given the demands of today’s busy lifestyles, devoting time to our gardens does not always feature top of our agendas as work, family and life commitments take priority over dreams of achieving a Chelsea inspired vision.
But if you are someone who loves spending time in their garden, rather than the hassle of looking after it, then creating a low maintenance garden will help cut back on those time-consuming chores of pruning, watering, weeding and mowing.
Ten tips for creating an easy to maintain garden
Whether you are starting from scratch with a complete garden makeover or have an existing garden that needs more TLC than you’re willing to give, there are a number of ways you can introduce some time saving features.
1. Plan out your garden
When it comes to low maintenance gardening, it’s a good idea to start by deciding what you want to get from your outdoor space (a place to play, retreat, exercise, relax, work, or entertain). Before planning how you can achieve this.
Begin with a wish list of what you want in your garden. Do you want an area for entertaining? An outdoor kitchen? A sheltered area for relaxing? An office for home working? A vegetable patch? A children’s play area?
Once you have your list, you next need to draw out a scale plan of your garden. Including details of existing trees, shrubs, plants, and features that you want to keep. As well as showing which way your garden faces (north, south, east or west) and which parts of your garden get sun and shade throughout the day.
You can then decide where best to place any new features such as paths, an outdoor office, kitchen or gym, patios, decking areas, veg plots, greenhouse, borders, sheds and hot tubs.
Enlisting the help of an experienced garden designer at this stage is extremely helpful as they bring a wealth of knowledge and clever ideas for making the most of your space.
2. Introduce items for convenience
When planning out your garden, remember to include things that will help bring convenience to your life. For example, consider whether any areas of your garden need outside electricity points to power lighting, music systems, hot tubs, garden equipment or office equipment. Water points for tending plants, feeding irrigation systems, washing cars or sports equipment. Or phone points for Wi-Fi.
Are there things you use every day that need to be easy to get to, or close to where you will need them? Do you need to create new paths leading to these areas, so they are quick to reach without any tricky obstacles to negotiate?
3. Allow for enough storage
Well organised, uncluttered storage will save you time (and stress) when it comes to finding things you need quickly. Or putting things away easily when you need to protect them from sudden showers or winter weather.
You will need storage for garden tools (even low maintenance gardens need them). As well as items such as bikes, paddle boards, children’s toys, outdoor furniture, lights, BBQ and hot tub equipment.
When deciding on where to place your storage points, position them strategically so that they are close to where you are most likely to need them so you’re not wasting time carrying or moving things around the garden.
For example, it makes good sense to position a log store near to the house, or a bike store close to a back gate, the garden shed close to your lawn and flower borders.
4. Hands free watering
Gardens are naturally thirsty and even the toughest of plants and lawns will need a regular drink during dry spells. This job is made easier by making sure you have sufficient watering points and equipment to give all areas of your plot a regular water. This might be as simple as ensuring you have an outside tap and hose with spray and sprinkler attachments. Or placing water butts around the garden to provide adequate access to rainwater.
However, the ultimate solution for low maintenance watering is to install a water irrigation system. Once installed these systems will give the whole garden a soaking at a flick of a switch or can be set to run on a timer. Making these a great option for time-poor gardeners or those that are often away from home.
5. Choose plants that look after themselves (as much as possible)
When it comes to planting a low maintenance garden really does need some careful choices. Annuals need planting and replacing each year. Perennials need staking, regular deadheading, dividing, and cutting back to keep them looking at their best. Shrubs and trees will require pruning to keep them looking neat. Then there are some plants that are more prone to pests and disease. All plants will need watering and feeding.
It can feel like a bit of a minefield when selecting the right plants. But, there are some general rules of thumb to finding suitable candidates:
- Choose those that are best suited to your soil (you can buy simple to use soil tests from your local garden centre to find out if yours is acid, neutral or alkaline).
- And those that are best suited to the position you want to place them in your garden (sun, shade, partial shade, exposed, sheltered).
- Make sure the plant you choose won’t outgrow its space or overwhelm smaller neighbouring plants (look at final height and growth to limit the need for pruning or moving later).
- Select some slow growing hardy evergreen shrubs to provide year-round interest and structure to your garden.
- Potted plants require more feeding, watering, repotting so it makes sense to go for fewer larger containers rather than lots of smaller pots.
- Choose fully hardy plants and avoid tender plants that need lifting, moving, or wrapping over winter.
- Don’t be tempted to purchase large specimen plants for instant effect. Smaller versions of the same plant are easier to establish, require less care and will soon grow to the size you need.
- Avoid plants that require regular or specialist pruning such as espaliered fruit trees or wisteria.
- Seek out the help and advice of more experienced gardeners to help you make the right choices.
6. Suppress the weeds
Even the most die-hard gardener finds the back breaking job of weeding tedious. There are plenty of options for chemical warfare to take on perennial offenders. But this is destructive to garden wildlife and can also adversely affect your plants.
Instead think about applying a weed suppressing membrane to your beds and borders and top dressing with gravel, slate, or chippings. This will help to keep weeds in check naturally, moisture locked into the soil and give an attractive appearance.
7. Laid back lawns
A pristine lawn is something many a gardener aspires to, but very rarely has the time needed to achieve it. After all, these well-tended patches of green are labour intensive, needing regular mowing, aerating, scarifying, feeding, and watering.
For those less inclined to becoming a full-time green keeper, there are several low maintenance lawn options:
- Replace your lawn with hard landscaping such as patios, gravel, or decking.
- Choose a more durable hard-wearing lawn variety that does not need much maintaining.
- Edge your lawn to make it easier to mow and to stop it creeping into flower borders (limiting weeding required).
- Swap grass for artificial turf that looks just as good as the real thing.
- Turn your patch of grass into a bug friendly wildflower meadow.
8. Swap fencing for hedging
When it comes to screening ourselves from nosey neighbours, or marking boundary lines, our instinct is to turn to timber fencing. But our Great British climate means that this type of fencing requires regular repair and replacement.
An alternative is to use slow growing evergreen hedging such as yew or holly. Needing only a regular trim to keep them looking neat, these hedges withstand high winds and wet weather, and make a perfect shelter for garden friendly wildlife.
9. Hard landscaping
The hard landscaping elements of your garden are an essential part of clearly delineating and aiding movement between areas of the garden designated for different activities.
Introducing hard landscaping such as paving, gravel, decking, retaining walls and raised beds provides structure and form to a garden. As well as making it easier to use and reduce the amount of maintenance required.
When selecting your landscaping materials, you’ll find choices that include wood, stone, and metal, but some will make your life easier than others. If you are a fan of wood, hardwood will require less maintenance than softwood. And paving slabs are less work than decking that will need regular cleaning and treating.
There are also new landscaping products to meet demand for a great looking result which requires minimal care. Decking is just one example where you can buy resin or composite boards, that look just like wood but are more resistant to rot, have better anti-slip properties and need less regular care.
10. Call in the garden experts
If the thought of achieving a low maintenance garden sounds like hard work, the simplest solution is to call in the experts.
Here at Thames Valley Landscape our landscapers hold much experience in creating stylish ‘outdoor rooms’ that are easy to upkeep and a joy to use.
For larger private gardens we also offer a grounds maintenance service to keep lawns looking trim, borders in full bloom, trees and shrubs in shape.