A low maintenance garden is ideal if you don’t really like gardening, or if you truly never have the time to garden. Less is more when it comes to low maintenance gardens, and it’s a style that works with all sizes, especially small gardens because you’re already working with a compact space.
Want to know how to make your outside space work for you and not the other way around? Here are some simple steps to a sure-fire, easy garden.
1. To get a truly low maintenance garden, there’s one simple, but radical thing to do – limit the number of different plants you have. The fewer you have the lower the maintenance will be. Try to stick to between 5 and 10 varieties – think swathes of rudbeckias or sedums or lines of bamboo or tall grasses. You’ll get to know what care and attention they need very well, and you’ll be able to spot weeds more easily and be better able to deal with them quickly.
2. Lawns need regular work and weekly cutting, so pave it, gravel it, deck it – any of these will be less work than grass. Paving takes just a sweep a week to look after, no slogging up and down with a mower. However, if you want to keep the lawn, make it a really simple shape. A rectangular lawn can be cut in minutes whilst an irregular shaped lawn can take 10 times longer.
3. The more hard landscaping you have in your garden, the lower the workload will be. When designing a low maintenance garden, aim to reduce the size of the planted areas in your outdoor space. For instance, take the beds back towards the boundaries and replace them with paving if possible – a path around the garden works well.
There’s also a rule of thumb – the ‘harder’ the hard landscaping the easier it will be to look after. So slate and slabs are less work than decking and gravel. The decking will need regular cleaning and the gravel will need to be kept in place and raked, whereas slabs can be left.
4. For beds, try top-dressing them. A good thick layer of gravel, slate or chippings will help to suppress weeds and make everything look smarter.
5. Whether you’re putting in fences or buying garden furniture, have a look at hardwood rather than softwood. Softwood will need more maintenance.
6. Always have plenty of accessible storage in the garden. The easier it is to put things away and access them, the lower the workload will be. Investing in a small, narrow garden shed is a good idea if you have the space.
7. Garden maintenance really comes down to outdoor housework, so try to make those jobs as easy as possible. Keep the brush and pan outside, with a handy place to put anything that needs to be discarded. Again, these essentials can be stored in a shed.
8. Make sure you have a lovely place to sit. If gardening is not your thing at least make sure you can enjoy your space by lounging in it. And that’s the main aim of the low maintenance gardener – to just kick back and relax in the garden. There some amazing ways to do just that: check out day beds, garden sofas and hanging egg chairs for a completely luxurious lounge.
The London Tile Co.
There are lots of plants to avoid if you want a low maintenance garden. That means no annuals and tender plants, so no bedding plants, no vegetables and no sowing of seeds. Also, avoid plants which need staking; delphiniums are the most common offenders, and you should avoid plants which act as slug or rabbit food; hostas are the worst for this.
Don’t put in climbers, they bring a surprising workload. Climbers are either self-clinging, like ivy, and will quickly run out of control, or they need support and will need endless tying in. So what’s left? Shrubs, preferably evergreen like daphne, lavender, holly and euonymus.
Jacek Wac / Alamy Stock Photo
A real treat is to find ready-planted pots, these are the sorts of things you can just bring home from the shop and place in the garden – job done.
And finally, perennial weeds are an enormous source of work in gardens – these are the ones with deep roots which seem to get into everything and always come back; things like bindweed, ground elder and knotweed. The mistake is to just keep attacking the tops; if you have any of these weeds it’s much better to take everything out of the bed and get rid of every last bit before continuing.
Rudbeckia fulgida var. deamii
Hylotelephium spectabile (Brilliant Group) ‘Brilliant’
Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectabilis
Daphne × transatlantica Eternal Fragrance (‘Blafra’)
Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’
Ilex aquifolium ‘J.C. van Tol’
Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’
Seasonal changes and what to avoid
In a low maintenance garden it is possible to have fake grass at a reasonable price, if you install it yourself. There’s plenty of advice on suppliers’ websites about how to do this. Changing your lawn to artificial grass will immediately make the garden look smart and seriously lower your maintenance hours – but do bear in mind this will not provide a habitat for wildlife.
You could also install a watering system; it doesn’t have to be anything complicated. A leaky hose system is just a hose from the tap and then a connector to a hose which lets the water seep out across the beds. It’s simple, inexpensive to install, works really well, and saves so much time.
Other low maintenance garden ideas includes arches, arbours and pergolas – theses are all easy to install and they don’t have to be hugely expensive. The great thing about these structures is that they instantly transform an area and, most importantly, don’t add to the garden maintenance.
Forest Slatted Pergola Arch – Grey 7′ x 5′
And get hold of some stainless steel troughs and feeders to use as planters; this will create a modern and architectural look in your garden. Get ones large enough to avoid the need for continual watering of smaller containers.
Water features are lovely but you need to look after it pretty constantly with cleaning and clearing. Unless you want some extra work it’s not something to have in a low maintenance garden.
And remember, gardens should be real sources of pleasure; they shouldn’t have to be a burden. The biggest mistake of all is not doing anything about your outdoor space. A bit of thought and effort up front can mean that you’ll really enjoy your garden.
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15 stylish outdoor cushions to buy for your garden
Printed cushion – Outdoor Cushions
John Lewis & Partners Window Pane Check Print Garden Cushion, 43 x 43cm, Indigo/White
John Lewis johnlewis.com
Add a touch of intrigue to your garden with this beautiful showerproof cushion. It has a classic check print, and is perfect for any outdoor space or conservatory.
Grey style — Outdoor Cushions
Scatter Cushion – 50cm
Looking for a plain grey style? This simple yet stylish grey scatter cushion from Garden Furniture Centre is ideal for every outdoor space.
Perfect easy-to-clean cushion — Outdoor Cushions
John Lewis & Partners Waves Print Garden Cushion
John Lewis johnlewis.com
Jazz up your outdoor space with this unique garden cushion from John Lewis. Made of durable cotton with a coating to repel light rainfall, it is squared shaped with white piping around the edges.
Brilliant for garden benches – Outdoor Cushions
Cream Bench Cushion
Give your outdoor bench added comfort with this long cream cushion. Choose from a range of colours to find the right one for your space. Why not get the matching seat pads, too?
Recycled cushion — Outdoor Cushions
Outdoor/Indoor Chervon Woven Cushion
HUG RUG WOVEN laredoute.co.uk
Ideal for both indoor and outdoor spaces, this stylish woven cushion hits the spot. It might be made from recycled plastic bottles, but it has a cosy softness to it. Perfect for every garden.
Stripe cushion — Outdoor Cushions
Coast Outdoor Cushion – With Navy Stripe
Add some seaside fun to your garden or balcony with this gorgeous stripe style. Each cover is made from water repellent polyester fabric and can be wipe cleaned.
Floor cushion — Outdoor Cushions
Indoor Outdoor Square Floor Cushion – Soft Blush
Water resistant — Outdoor Cushions
Aruba Blue Water Resistant Outdoor Cushion
Comfortable and practical, this stylish outdoor cushion is perfect for adding a touch of colour to the garden. Best of all, it’s waterproof so will withstand a little summer shower.
Anti-fungal coating — Outdoor Cushions
Waterproof printed garden cushion
Celina Digby etsy.com
This waterproof cushion is perfect for your outdoor space. Thanks to its anti-fungal coating and waterproof lining, it’s brilliant for alfresco dining. Barbecue at home, anyone?
Comfortable cushion — Outdoor Cushions
Alexander Rose Dalia Blue Scatter Cushion
Alexander Rose gardentrends.co.uk
Give your garden that ‘wow’ factor with this beautiful printed blue cushion. With a natural feel fabric and polyester filling for extra comfort, it’s perfect for adding a stylish touch to your space.
Best heated cushion — Outdoor Cushions
Heated Scatter Cushion
Keep warm on chilly summer evenings with this heated outdoor cushion. With three heat settings and pockets on the side, it will keep both your hands and body warm when the sun goes down.
Fun print — Outdoor Cushions
Parrots Multicoloured Outdoor Cushion
Riva Home dunelm.com
Set of 2 cushions — Outdoor Cushions
Set of 2 Leaf Print Outdoor Cushions
Cotton cushion covers — Outdoor Cushions
Argos Home 2 Garden Cushion Pads – Coastal Stripe
Argos Home argos.co.uk
Refresh your outdoor space with these affordable striped cushion pads. Ideal for seating areas, they have a coastal stripe and are made from 100 per cent natural cotton.
Tassel cushion — Outdoor Cushions
Tufted Outdoor Scatter Cushion (43cm x 43cm)
View Product Information matalan.co.uk
Add some texture to your outdoor space with this boho-inspired scatter cushion. In pink and oatmeal, it’s got a tufted woven stripe front with tassel edging to finish.
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