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How to create a low maintenance garden

I am writing this with no intention of putting myself out of work………….its more about designing gardens that suit our busy lives and create impact and add some significant style to your “room outdoors”

Design and planning

Start by looking at how much input you can make to the garden and the features or functions that are most important to you. Not everything need be lost. For example, if growing your own vegetables is high on the priority list, keep a veg patch that will meet your needs while minimising activity elsewhere such as replacing lawn with paving or a rose garden with a shrub border.

Also try to position features that are more labour intensive closer to the house or the shed so you’re not wasting a lot of effort walking, carrying or barrowing items up and down the garden. Consider installing a water point close to where you are most likely to need it (e.g. a greenhouse). Equally, it may be that an automatic irrigation system, especially for lots of pots and planters, could take a lot of stress out of watering.

Some design decisions will not be so obvious. This will be where I can step in and assist you. A living hedge may require clipping every year but if kept to a manageable height this might in the long run be less onerous than having to paint and replace wooden fencing.

Plant choice

There is no such thing as a ‘no maintenance’ plant but many hardy evergreens, once established, will require little care. Ensure you check the expected mature height and spread, otherwise pruning may be necessary if the space is too small for the plant.

Lawns (or alternatives to them its not my love for artificial grass, but there is a place for it )

Steps to a low-maintenance lawn

Let the grass grow long. Consider keeping a small area of short grass in the most formal area of garden but reduce the amount of cutting in other areas. Experiment with different frequencies of cut; some parts may be acceptable with being mown just once a fortnight, while some ‘wilder’ areas could be left unmown between March and September.

Introduce a sense of purpose to long grass by mowing a path through the centre or a strip at the edge. You can even add interest by introducing wildflower plug plants into the sward.

Stop collecting the clippings. By allowing the clippings to drop back onto the grass, less time and effort is needed to empty the box.

The lawn will also need feeding less as some of the nutrients will return in the fallen grass. To reduce problems with unsightly strips of brown, dead grass sitting on the surface of the lawn, mow as regularly as possible. It may be worth investing in a ‘recycling’ or 'mulching' mower which is designed to chop the clippings before returning them to the lawn.

Replace fine turf with a harder-wearing seed or turf mix. Fine or high quality turf will required more input in the form of aerating, scarifying, feeding and mowing than more durable lawn mixes. Look for seed or turf that is described as ‘amenity’, ‘multi-purpose’, ‘hard wearing’ or simply ‘low maintenance’. Some mixes include micro clovers to help reduce the need to water and feed.

Be more relaxed. Relax weeding, feeding and moss control – such a lawn will be more of a visual patchwork but will often stay greener for longer when stressed by drought or waterlogging and is perfectly acceptable for many gardeners. It is also more likely to support a greater variety of wildlife.

Install permanent edging solutions. This will reduce the need for hand edging. There are many styles and materials to choose from or at the very least look for edging shears that incorporate a collection box.