Establishing a
Low Maintenance Garden

As many of us lead pretty hectic lifesystyles, creating a low maintenance garden makes perfectly good sense. With a little careful planning and thought you can still enjoy all the benefits that gardening has to offer with just a minimal amount of work.

The first step in creating your garden is to take time to prepare the soil before planting, this inital step although requiring some work to begin with will pay great dividends in the long run.

Soil that is in good shape offers the most effective start for plants and flowers, allowing them to grow strongly and be in a far better position to resist attacks from pest infestations and diseases. You will find that healthy plants and flowers will need significantly less attention than unhealthy ones.

The next project to create your low maintenance garden is to clear all those pesky weeds. In the event your soil is comparatively light and crumbly weeds can be removed easily by hand as you dig the soil. Use tools that are meant for the job and your workload will be will be less intensive.

However on heavier soils you may find it easier to kill the weeds, which can be done by covering the soil for a number of months with impermeable mulch, such as a polythene sheet, or as a last resort by using a weedkiller.

As you dig over the soil it opens it up, which makes it a lot easier for newly planted roots to establish themselves and take up vital nutrients. The application of organic matter such as garden compost or well rotted farmyard manure will be of benefit to all types of soil, improving drainage in heavy soils, and water and nutrient retention in lighter ones.

Tips For A Low Maintenance Garden...

Low Maintenance Garden - Feeding

This truly does pay dividends. Everytime you see a garden with lush and healthy looking plants, the likelihood is they have been well fed.

Slow And Controlled Release Fertilisers

By making use of slow or controlled release fertilisers, you will find that you can feed your plants just a couple of times annually. Both types enable the nutrients to seep out into the soil over a period of several months, however controlled release fertilisers are impacted by the temperature of the soil. Nutrients are only released when the soil is warm enough for growth.

Feeding Beds And Borders

The majority of established plants, but particularly roses, really benefit from a yearly feeding. A slow or controlled release fertiliser should be applied in spring or early summer, scattering it around the bushes. Care should be taken to keep it away from the leaves and stem, sprinkling it further out where most of the active root growth occurs. Hoe it into the surface the water it in, unless rain is expected, to make the fertiliser active more quickly.

Feeding The Lawn

The quickest way to feed your lawn is with a wheeled spreader. Individual models vary, but you can usually adjust the delivery rate. Test the rate on a measured area of path first, then sweep up the fertiliser, and weigh it to ensure that the application rate is correct.

Feeding Container Plants

Plants grown in containers require supplementary nutrients to keep them healthy. You can mix controlled or slow-release fertiliser granules into the potting soil when you plant, or slip sachets or pellets beneath individual plants as you plant them.

Low Maintenance Garden - Weeding

It is entirely possible to have a beautiful low maintenenance garden where weeds are seldom a problem. The trick is not to allow any space where they can gain a major hold. Reducing the amount of bare earth in your garden and introducing harder landscaping will reduce the area where weeds can grow in.

In beds and borders dense planting and ground cover will blanket the ground so well that weeds are unlikely to gain a foothold. Where young plants have not yet reached their maximum spread, applying a mulch to patches of bare earth will ensure that weeds cannot grow.

Using Weedkillers

Pulling up perennial weeds by hand is time-consuming and often ineffective as they usually grow again unless you remove every piece of root. Digging them up may not be possible in an established bed or border, and you may have to resort to a contact weedkiller. Beware, as most weedkillers will kill or damage whatever they come into contact with.

Deep-rooted perennial weeds, such as bindweed, can be very difficult to eradicate and are best treated by painting on a translocated weedkiller, such as one based on glyphosate. Other contact weedkillers may not kill all of the roots, but this chemical moves to all parts of the plant.

Mulches For Ground Cover

Mulch is a layer of material that will cover the ground completely to suppress weeds and conserve moisture in the soil by preventing loss of water through evaporation. It can be purely functional or it can be decorative, and it can be organic or not.

Always prepare the ground thoroughly before applying mulch, taking care to eliminate perennial weeds and work in plenty of organic material such as well-rotted manure or garden compost. Make sure that the ground is wet before applying mulch; soak it first if necessary.

Loose Mulches

Most loose mulches, such as chipped bark, cocoa shells, gravel, garden compost and rotted manure, are more visually appealing than sheets, and the organic ones rot down to improve the soils structure and fertility. They need to be applied about 5cm (2 inches) thick.

Sheet Mulches

Woven plastic mulching sheets are effective and economical, but unattractive. However, they can be used in combination with decorative loose mulch, which can then be applied more thinly than the recommended depth. Sheet mulches are useful for a low maintenance garden where shrub beds and newly planted trees are used, both of which can be left undisturbed for several years.

Planting Through Sheet Mulch

Make a slit around the edge of the bed with a spade, and push the sheet into this. At each planting position make a cross-shaped slit in the sheet. Fold the flaps open to plant, and then fold back into place.Small plants can be planted using a trowel, but for shrubs you will need to use a spade.

By applying some or all of the suggestions you will be able to enjoy a beautiful, low maintenance garden for many years to come.

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