Top tips for a low-maintenance garden
Creating a low-maintenance garden may require a bit of set up, but once everything is in you can sit back and let it rip.
Sometimes, we want the impossible – but is an attractive, tidy-looking garden that doesn’t require weekly maintenance one of them?
Certainly not. With some careful planning you can put in place a garden that requires minimal work and will look good year-round. But note that no garden will ever be maintenance-free; living things require care and attention, even if it’s yearly mulching rather than weekly mowing. With that in mind, here are some dos and don’ts.
Do some planning
Your first stop should be your local nursery. In fact, this is the most important step you can take when setting up a low-maintenance garden. The team there will be able to tell you which plants will fare best in your soil and your weather, and may also be able to offer advice on how to structure your garden, which plants work well together and any pitfalls to avoid.
With that advice in hand, take some time to plan your garden. You don’t need centimeter-perfect maps and diagrams – in fact you don’t need a drawn-up plan at all – but you definitely do need to have a clear of what you’ll be planting, what you’ll be building or laying down, and how it will all come together.
Decide what to plant
Where would the low-maintenance gardener be without succulents? Whether you like Aeonium, Agave, Crassula, Echeveria, Sedum or some other variety, you’ll find a stunning range of colours, shapes and textures. Succulents require infrequent watering and even the least-green thumbs find it difficult to kill them.
You should also make sure you’re planting perennials. Perennials are plants that grow and flower all year (as opposed to deciduous plants, which shed their leaves and flowers during winter). You’ll save yourself a lot of raking, blowing and mowing, and have a garden that looks good in every season.
Native plants are a popular choice for a low-maintenance garden. After all, they grow in the wild, so surely they can thrive in your backyard without too much stress, right? Well … maybe. The difference lies between ‘the wild’ and ‘your backyard’ – one requires regular maintenance, the other doesn’t. You’ll find your natives to be hardy and resilient, and certainly low-maintenance – but like the rest of your garden, they’ll still need at least a little TLC.
You’ll also want to give some thoughts to how your plants will fit together. You can plant in clusters, which is an easy way to give your garden some structure. You should also think about the relative heights of your plants, to make sure you’ve got the short ones at the front your garden beds and the tall ones at the back.
Think about colours too – you might want bright flowers springing out of your succulent ground cover, or perhaps some red and brown tones to complement your lawn and gravel. The good news? Low-maintenance plants are usually tough to kill, so if you decide to do some re-arranging, they should survive being dug up and moved.
Leave out the water features
Whether we’re talking about a swimming pool, a fish pond or a simple fountain, water features add cost and complexity to your garden. Beyond the installation costs, pumps and filters and hoses need regular maintenance, pools need regular cleaning or your trickling stream and fish-filled pond will become a mosquito-ridden swamp.
Speaking of which, remember that if you have fish in your backyard pond they’re not ‘set and forget’, they’re domestic animals that will need regular attention. Goldfish and Koi are your best bets, or you might consider a native species like the Pigmy Perch or Western Minnow if you’re a frog fancier (the introduced species will eat their eggs).
Minimise your lawn
This is perhaps the ultimate low-maintenance garden trick. The lawn is the single highest-maintenance part of any garden. It needs regular edging and mowing as well as periodic seeding, weeding and aerating. And few things make your garden look unkempt faster than a lawn that’s even a week past its mow-by date. So start off with a hardy, drought-resistant species like Couch, Zoysia or Buffalo. They don’t need as much water as other varieties, and will stay green for longer if water is scarce.
To help reduce your lawn area, lay down deep, densely planted garden beds and wide garden paths. Gravel pathways take some work to set up but are a great, low-maintenance addition to any garden. Be sure to dig out a bed, treat the soil to prevent weed growth and lay down a deep layer of crushed rock, otherwise you’ll soon have weeds growing up through it. And keep the chunks large or else you’ll find them all through the rest of your yard. Other than that, it’s pretty much set-and-forget.
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