Many homeowners want a garden on their property, but fail to actually get one built because they don’t think they can commit to tending a garden day-in-day-out. And it is an understandable concern – gardens need looking after. If not well-taken care of, a garden would be the stuff of ecological nightmares.
Thankfully, for people who want to embrace gardening out of necessity or preference, but don’t feel confident that they can commit to the kind of work and attention a garden needs, there is the option of starting a low maintenance garden. All it takes is careful design and a little bit of elbow grease.
Designing an Easy to Manage Garden
The first step to a low-maintenance garden is to decide how much effort you are able and willing to put in. You also need to make note of the garden functions that are most important for you. This will be useful when deciding what to prioritize on. For instance, if your priority is to grow your own vegetables, then you need to allow a vegetable patch large enough for your needs while minimizing other activities, such as paving lawns or designing a shrub border for a rose garden.
You should also ensure that the most labor-intensive parts nearer to your house or the shed, as this would make the garden easier to tend to by reducing the time and effort it takes to bring items back and forth.
It is important to think of crucial design choices like this before starting, as they could be costly and time consuming to change later on. For instance, an automatic irrigation system will help save a lot of time that would have been spent on manually watering plants, but you can’t just move them around if you already have the garden set up.
Low Maintenance Plants
Plants require maintenance. There’s no getting around it. But you can help reduce the amount of work by choosing plants that require less care, such as many hard evergreens. Choosing low-maintenance plants are also ideal for people who have very little or no prior experience with gardening since it will provide more leeway and you don’t have to worry about killing your garden with a simple mistake.
Low Maintenance Lawn
The lawn, or what you’re going to do with it, is an important part of a garden and will most likely take up the most amount of time at first, so you need to do a few steps to ensure a low maintenance lawn:
- Allow the grass to grow long – instead of always keeping the grass short, you can experiment and try to keep some areas short while leaving the rest unmown between March and September. You can even turn some of them into a path by mowing a path through the center. This not only lets you turn the grass themselves into decorative elements but also reduces your need to mow.
- Do not bother collecting the clippings – when you mow the lawn, let the clippings drop back onto the grass. This will reduce the amount of work normally used in emptying the box, but will also ensure that your lawn will need less feeding, as some of the nutrients will return in the fallen grass. If shopping for a lawnmower, choose a “recycling” or “mulching” mower in order to make this part easier.
- Dial down the frequency of weeding and moss control – the lawn will be less neat-looking but will be more sturdy, as they can stay greener for longer during drought or waterlogging. This type of lawn is also more conducive to a great variety of wildlife.
- Use artificial turf – for gardening purists, this may seem like a taboo subject but if you really want to reduce maintenance as much as possible and you’re not really that serious about gardening, you can make do with an artificial turf. In the past, this may seem like a big deal because artificial turfs look obviously fake, but these days you can find turf that are reasonably realistic.
Use Shrubs for Borders and Weed Control
A lot of work goes into weed control in borders as well as in maintaining the herbaceous perennials. If you want an easy to maintain garden, you can replace most of the perennial beds with shrubs. Shrubs are easier to plant through a weed-suppressing membrane. If you overlay it with decent-looking mulch, you will drastically lengthen the time between weeding or topping up of the mulch. This is because weed struggles to grow in the mulching material, and those that do find a way can be easily removed with a hoe. These types of beds also require less watering.
Avoid Putting Fish Into a Pond
If you incorporate a pond into the garden, you can greatly reduce the need for pumps and filters by not introducing fish into the water. Fish will require close maintenance and may even contribute to blanket weed and algae problems. You can even convert ponds into a bog garden so that you don’t have to worry about maintenance or buy a great looking water feature that has almost no maintenance.
Avoid These Shortcuts
While most of the steps we take in order to design an easy to manage garden are considered shortcuts, there are a few things that may seem like shortcuts at first but actually, need to be avoided.
First, do not use lots of containers. From planting up to watering, handling, and even repotting and feeding, containers generally require a lot of maintenance. If you’re going for planters, choose larger ones with more volume of compost since they take longer to dry.
You should also make sure that you’re planting the right plant in the right place. For instance, don’t try to grow rhododendrons on chalky soil or bog plants in a dry garden. You can do some research on plants first before planting them, as mistakes in this area would result in more work as you struggle against a perpetually dying garden.
Finally, avoid planting semi-mature plants. It may seem like a shortcut when you buy plants that are already half-mature, as it’s almost akin to buying an instant garden. But you’ll find that this is actually harder work because the aftercare for semi-mature plants is more tedious. Younger plants are better because they establish faster and require less maintenance during watering and staking.
All of the above tips will help you achieve an easy to manage garden, but always remember that easy to manage does not necessarily mean there’s no work involved. As gardening by nature is work. This guide lets you reduce the amount of work needed, but do not be surprised when you still need to put in work later down the line.
Contributed by http://www.midlandstone.ie/