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Advice For Low Maintenance Gardening

Leigh Hunt

Leigh Hunt



Let’s be honest, we’d all love a gorgeous garden that would blossom with just the wave of a weed-wand. But I can’t be the only one who finds that a few minutes pottering turns into hours of pruning, trimming and raking at times. 

While I think the enjoyment and results are always worth it – particularly on a sunny day – there are definitely ways to cut corners time-wise without losing out on the garden looking good.

Firstly, and I can’t over state how important this is, choose the right plant for the right place. I’m not just talking plants that survive in a bone dry bed or on heavy clay, I’m talking about plants that grow to the right size. Often I’ve noticed that fellow gardeners plant things that quickly grow taller than they want and then spend successive seasons trimming it back, getting grumpier each year. Easier all round to choose plants that only grow to the height and spread that was really wanted. Of the smaller, slower-growing shrubs, some Pittosporum will only reach about 1.5m (5ft) after 10 years. The variety ‘Tom Thumb’ is a rich, glossy dark purple and ‘Golf Ball’ is a light silvery green that is an attractive alternative to a box ball.

Taller shrubs can act like mini-trees, reaching around 4-5m (12-15ft) tall. The double white flowers of Philadephus ‘Virginal’ are deliciously scented of mock orange blossom. For winter fragrance and pink pom-poms of flower, Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn’ reaches out neatly with its upward-arching stems.

Once the secateurs are side-lined, it’s time to cut down on the watering. Pots and containers are a great way to brighten up a grey patio, but they do need watering every day from May to October. That’s why, where ever possible, I’d rather plant in the ground. Where pots are required, using water-retaining gel and slow-release fertiliser pellets mixed in the compost will reducing watering for the first two-to-three months and eliminate the need to liquid feed entirely.

Lastly, when I do have time to go out in the garden, I want to get out and get started, rather than spending time gathering all the tools together. A standard bucket or trug holds all the basics: a trowel, secateurs, string, wire, plant labels, gloves, slug controls, plus anything else regularly used including salad seeds. Then there is a wheelbarrow or trolley with a spade, fork, shears and edging shears, along with a big green waste sack. Pop the bucket in the wheel barrow, and I’m ready to roll. 

So, the next time the sun is out, I will be out gardening in seconds. There’s always room for low-maintenance, but making the time to be out there enjoying it is the best part.

Top tips:

  • Rather than raking up leaves off the lawn in autumn, mow instead. This will pick the leaves up at the same time as clipping the grass.
  • Dahlia can be left in the ground if you have a light soil – no need to lift and store each year. Likewise, you can swap tender fuchsias for hardy ones that can stay in over winter.
  • Mulch weedy areas. A 2-3in layer of fine or coarse bark will discourage many weeds from growing. 
  • Focus your attention. Often the areas you see immediately outside your window are the areas you notice – spend more time keeping these trim, as a background of slow-growing shrubs will just help set them of.

Photo Credits: RHS/ Tim Sandall

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