There is a popular belief that ‘low maintenance gardening’ equals very little effort and time looking after it and that you will still have a beautiful and attractive garden, all the time. Well, I think this is a myth and a con, and as such is very misleading.
…It’s all a con
So today I’m going to explain what I mean by that and hopefully persuade you to think another approach, which I call ‘Lifestyle Garden Care’.
In the Low Maintenance gardening movement, there are a few commonly used techniques that DO reduce the amount of time it takes to look after the garden. However, what is not often mentioned is that they only work if certain conditions are present and certain compromises are accepted.
Here’s what I mean…
Mulch is not a magic ‘cover up’.
The most used technique is to put a mulch onto the planted areas to keep the weeds down. A mulch, for those of you that don’t know, is the application of a loose material such as bark chips (there are also lots of other materials to choose from) which is put on top of the soil, over the whole planted area, to prevent weeds from growing there.
This does work BUT only if the soil is weed free underneath and you are prepared to remove the wind borne weeds on a regular basis. I see mulch used much more often to hide certain things within the planting bed. The mulch does make the garden look nice for a few weeks, if you’re lucky, but sooner or later, whatever has been covered up by it will re-emerge.
Only planting shrubs can be very boring.
Another low maintenance gardening technique, is to only plant shrubs. Shrubs are, indeed, very much lower in maintenance than perennials BUT, in my opinion, very much less interesting too. You are missing a big opportunity to have colour, scent, texture, variety and prolonged interest in the garden by only planting shrubs. If shrubs are not balanced with other types of planting, they can look monotonous, safe and uninteresting.
Lawns are NOT low maintenance.
People also seem to think of lawns as low maintenance which I find strange because as lawns do require regular cutting, edging and general care in order not to become a meadow. A nice looking lawn takes even more time to keep in good condition.
Another mistake that I often see is that because people regard lawns as low maintenance, there is too much lawn in relation to the proportions of the garden as a whole and the rest of the planting. This usually results in a very boring, sterile looking garden.
What this all boils down to is that this so-called ‘low maintenance’ garden is still taking up more time to look after than you have. So it doesn’t matter what techniques have been applied to the garden if you still cannot look after it as you would wish to do so. And you are probably still feeling guilty about it too.
Lifestyle Garden Care
The way to change this is to be as realistic as possible about how much time you can give to looking after the garden and then concentrate your efforts, within that amount of time, on the areas you see the most. This will usually be nearby the seating/eating areas or what can be seen from a room in the house that is used on a daily basis.
There is no rule that says your whole garden must look pristine all the time. I call this ‘Lifestyle Garden Care’ because it fits into your lifestyle, along with all the other things you do, so when you are outside in your garden, you can actually enjoy it rather than feel overwhelmed and rushed.
Have a think about this….
The photo attached to this blog is my own garden. Last year I applied my own advice, which I’ve written more extensively about in my book ‘The Garden Equation. How to make your garden a delightful part of your lifestyle‘ (Click here for more info.). So far this year, I’ve done very little in the garden, apart from keeping on top of the weeds which are very easy to get out, being small, deadheading, to prolong the flowering period and cutting the grass.