The Low-Down on Low-Maintenance Gardening by Sue Sargeant, Passionate Gardener, Novice Writer
Moving away from a time-consuming garden to one that is low maintenance might be one of those “in your dreams” scenarios. Here’s how you can turn that dream into reality.
There’s a perception that achieving a lovely garden is expensive and involves hard work, lots of it. Most of that is true but there is another point of view.
Our plot of 5700m² was a blank canvas 15 years ago. We started small and used the materials we had on site. Lots of stone for raised beds, huge tree stumps for ferns and succulents, and logs for edging woodland paths and borders. It took hard work to create the overall structure but, today, about half of the garden is low maintenance.
The design features such as paths, raised beds, fences, arches and other permanent structures will be defined by your terrain, as well as your ability to construct the overall plan.
Here are some ideas to help with the creation of a beautiful, low maintenance garden.
Taking out any dead or diseased trees is quite a hard task but it will give light and space, enabling the existing trees to thrive. The old wood will make a perfect habitat for insects if stacked in a quiet corner of the garden. Mow grass paths through the area and sow wild flowers in any sunny spots. Shady areas can be transformed by planting Hardy Cyclamen, Aconites, Cowslips, Blue Bells and Snowdrops. These will naturalise very quickly and provide splashes of colour all year round, especially in a low maintenance gardening environment.
In our climate a dry garden is one of the best performers when looking at low maintenance gardening. Lay gravel paths edged with stone, old roof tiles or ground cover plants such as Stachys Byzantina (Lambs Ears) to hold back the gravel. The borders should be planted with suitable drought tolerant plants such as Verbena Bonnariensis, Salvias, Phlomis, Gaura, Euphorbia and Sedum.
Ornamental grasses also work well in these areas and often need little or no water. I have many grasses but some do better than others in dry conditions so check when you buy.
Once the structure is in place and the shrubs and plants are in, the first year when managing low maintenance gardening will be the one where you must be very attentive.
This must be a priority for new plants to ensure the roots become established. Plant deep and keep watered.
Dead-heading will give you a second flush of flowers but you can leave the heads to self-seed and feed the birds over winter.
There are so many varieties of Iris to add wonderful colour to the spring garden. Whilst they never need watering, they can be labour intensive over time as they have to be dug up, divided and replanted every three years or so.
The mulch will supply some nutrients but, if you want rapid growth, use a slow release fertilizer in the spring to promote healthy plants.
Gravel paths look and sound wonderful in a garden. Generally, paths that are well trodden keep weed free but those with less footfall can become infested with seedlings and weeds.
In autumn we blow the leaves onto the beds to provide winter warmth and the seedlings of flowers tend to stay in place. Some weeding does have to be done but it is very minimal in comparison to other garden areas.
You can find Sue’s perfect recipe for compost on our website
First published in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of The Local Buzz