Garden Maintenance – How Low Can You Go? by Nicki Jackson

Ask a client what they want from their new garden design and 9 times out of 10 the phrase ‘low maintenance’ crops up. If it’s something that is high on your wish list too here are a few things to think about that, if implemented, will start moving your garden along from the high, towards the low, end of the maintenance spectrum.

First things first though, low should never be confused with no maintenance. A garden will never be zero maintenance but with a little forethought and planning there are plenty of opportunities available that can reduce, or make easier, the maintenance activities required to keep your garden in tip top shape.

As with most things garden design it’s best to try to drill down why you want a low maintenance garden because that can help find the solution that will fit you best. So, for instance you might want low maintenance because you don’t have the time to spend in the garden or the physical capability to deal with it any more or the skillset to manage it. All three examples here might ask for the same thing – low maintenance – but the solutions for them could be very different so knowing why you want low maintenance is always a good starting point and uncovering that reason usually uncovers the amount of time you have to spend maintaining your garden too, another useful thing to know.

Next up consider the elements or activities in the garden that are most important to you to retain or create because they will be the things you’ll aim to work around.

Once you know these three main things solutions will begin to emerge. For instance, you might not have much time on your hands but you love to grow your own food so a solution that reduces maintenance needs in other areas of the garden could allow you to focus what time you do have on tending your veggie patch. It may be that you also move your veggie patch nearer to the house because that’s the most important part of your garden to you; that you think about water points and methods so watering is faster; that you bring your toolshed closer to your patch to save unnecessary mileage fetching them; that you reduce lawn space in other areas so the regular and intensive lawn care regime is no longer an issue, that you plant shrubs because they need less attention than many other types of plants, and can still look stunning.

Or you may be time rich but struggling physically to bend down and maintain your flower borders but you do love your floriferous planting and lawn so it may be that a raised bed system could still allow you to retain your flower borders and continue to tend them because they’re far more accessible than they used to be and you don’t have to bend down so far; you might swap fast growing plants for slow growing ones because they’ll need less attention; you could begin to grow many more perennials rather than annuals and bedding plants because they’ll keep coming back and also need less attention; you could get rid of your many containers because they need lots of attention constantly but you might be able to retain many of the plants in them in your raised bed system; you might begin to choose plants super-carefully so you’ll know before you plant them that they won’t grow too big for the space you have, thereby reducing pruning requirements; you could mulch regularly because it helps keep the weeds down and helps you to employ a no dig system; you could install automatic irrigation systems so you don’t have to carry heavy watering cans around; you could swap your fine lawn for harder wearing turf that requires less intensive maintenance or you could allow part of it to grow long and wild only requiring an annual cut that you can get someone in to do for you; you could pave between the beds so it’s easier to bring bins and tools with you without struggling.

We honestly could go on and on, there are so many things you can do that will reduce, or make easier, the maintenance needs of your garden. The trick is to maintain the feeling of a lovely garden, and of course, to do it all with style!

© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2020