For the lowest maintenance garden, plan the landscaping well ahead of ground – works and building, to avoid trouble later. Protect the roots of plants and topsoil from compaction by fencing them off. Ensure no one swills cement over the flowerbeds as the lime can leach into the soil, turning green leaves yellow. Avoid disturbing unduly the natural drainage on site — this will cause waterlogging.
Your dream garden might feature a manicured lawn. If so, leave a mowing strip round the edges to get a clean cut. That is, unless you go for the lazy option of realistic artificial turf. Either way, you’ll need to clear the lawn of leaves if the trees overhang it.
To keep your patio tidy, choose materials carefully. Smooth, not grooved, decking is much easier to sweep clean. If you enjoy a barbecue, seal the patio surface and select harder grained timber or more naturally resistant stone such as slate or granite. I’d advise against cheap sandstone, as it sucks up oil and grease, greens quickly in the wet, and often cracks and flakes in frost and ice.
For a more natural landscape, you might lay informal paths of bark or stone chippings, or pebbles. But to protect floors indoors, avoid gravel that’s sharp and/or fine enough to stick in the soles of your shoes — it will scratch. Remember: lay a weed-suppressant membrane first, to save chore time later.
Colour and texture in the planting will mark the success or failure of your landscape scheme — as will the time spent on pruning, deadheading and sweeping leaves. Leaving seed heads and berries on will provide winter food for birds. Letting autumn leaves lie creates a natural organic mulch to protect and nurture the next year’s growth.
Mulch also reduces evaporation and the need to water. Other options to ease irrigation include permeable paving and – above all – choosing the right plant for the right place.
Click on the attachment link below to download Jackie’s low maintenance plant chart, which details in what conditions different types of low maintenance plants and trees will thrive in your garden.
Jackie Herald, Director of The Extra Room, has been a landscape designer for seven years. Tel: 07714 234808