Busy lives, multiple demands on our time or perhaps a change in circumstances mean that, for many of us, a garden that’s low-maintenance is a must. But if you thought low maintenance meant bland or, worse still, a garden paved over and bereft of plants, think again.
Growing a gorgeous garden that’s easy to look after just requires a little forward planning...
Let’s start with the lawn. Small, awkward-shaped areas of lawn take longer to mow. Simplify things by straightening or smoothing edges. Lawns with paved edges are easier to mow.
Use a mulching mower and leave the clippings on the grass – that way there’s no need to dispose of them, and they’ll feed the lawn too. Even better is to replace out-of-the-way areas of lawn, of any size, with beautiful wildflower meadows that only need strimming occasionally. Opt for a native wildflower mix, suited to your local conditions.
Planning a Low Maintenance Garden
Keep the shape of borders and beds straight or gently curved. Raised beds clearly delineate vegetable and herb growing areas and can help to bring the growing area closer to the gardener, so they’re easier to tend.
Position elements of the garden requiring more maintenance closer to where you’ll access them, or next to your tool store or shed so there’s less lugging about of tools and equipment. Replace narrow, winding paths with wider, straighter paths with edges flush to the lawn for quick mowing.
Thirsty plants such as salad leaves need regular watering, so grow these closer to a water outlet. If you have little time to water then consider installing an automatic irrigation system. You can use our Garden Planner to help you efficiently design an irrigation system suitable for your garden. Select the Irrigation option from the selection bar drop-down menu, then add everything you’ll need to your plan. Flexible components like soaker hoses can be curved by clicking on and dragging their centre ‘handle’, and you can click on the Parts List button to see exactly how much of each component you’d need to buy.
Pots can require a lot of maintenance – all that watering and feeding! Grouping containers together, or using fewer, larger pots, slows the rate at which they dry out while making watering much quicker.
If you’re looking to save time then grow bigger vegetables that don’t need regular maintenance. For example, pumpkin and winter squash need little more than occasional watering once they’re planted, while a block of sweet corn will outgrow any weeds and can normally be left to its own devices until harvest time. For easy-going salad leaves, chard and perpetual spinach will give a steady supply of leaves with little fuss for anything up to a year.
Soft fruits like currants and fall-bearing raspberries are a great choice for the low-maintenance garden because once planted they only need pruning once a year. Similarly, free-standing fruit trees such as apples and pears need minimal pruning and will give years of service in return.
You can use the Garden Planner to select low-maintenance crops. Click on the Filter button to the left of the plant selection bar, then select the ‘Easy to Grow’ option. Click OK, and the selection bar will now show only undemanding plants that will to make growing worry free.
Low-Maintenance Garden Plants
Trees and shrubs tend to be the lower maintenance choices in most gardens. Pick ones suited to your soil and climate, as they’re more likely to thrive without any special care. Common low-maintenance garden shrubs include euonymus, berberis, magnolia and hardy herbs such as lavender.
Many grasses require cutting back just once a year, for example miscanthus or carex, while ground-covering perennials like bergenia, geranium and periwinkle will leave little room for weeds. Don’t forget bulbs, many of which will naturalize and pretty much look after themselves!
Keep on top of weeds with thick mulches of organic matter such as bark chippings, which will help to feed the soil and the plants growing in it as they gradually rot down.
Going low maintenance isn’t about sacrificing what makes a garden special – it’s about getting smart with your layout and carefully choosing what you grow. Please share your own tips for making life easy in the garden in the comments section below.