Low maintenance gardening

Our guest speaker last night was Steve Fry from Castle Gardens, he kicked off his talk with the statement “Low maintenance does not mean no maintenance” I like that!

A low maintenance garden does not happen overnight, it needs to be designed and should be considered a long term project (e.g. a 5 year plan). Some things to consider include:

1 Shape of the lawn – avoid awkward corners and steep slopes which will make mowing tricky

2 Do you need a lawn? – lawn mowing is a very time consuming task. Can you have longer areas of grass which are cut less frequently. Maybe consider putting an area down to an annual or perennial wildflower meadow

3 Height in the garden – a) Climbers on fences, sheds… quickly and easily give interesting cover as well as being attractive to wildlife (e.g. evergreen Hydrangea seemanii, Hydrangea petiolaris ‘Miranda’, Pyracantha saphyr orange ‘Cadange’. Gaps can be infilled during the early years using annual climbers of which there are many interesting ones (e.g. Climbing Fuchsia ‘Lady Boothby’).

b) Trees are low maintenance, great for wildlife and can add a lot of interest to the garden (plant early in your 5 year plan).

c) Raised beds – both for vegetables and borders are a consideration.


4 Low maintenance plants – consider selecting interesting cultivars of common ‘tough’ plants such as Spirea, Japanese anenome, Eleagnus and narrow leaved Hebe. Examples: Eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’, Anenome japonica Disney Princess series, Kniphofia ‘Little Maid’, Hebe stricta.

5 Groundcover – help suppress annual weeds. Examples: Pachysandra terminalis, Adjuga, Heuchera, Helleborus

6 Disease resistance – grow plants which have inbred resistance to problems, for example Carrot ‘Resistafly’ seed or Pyracantha saphyr orange ‘Cadange’ which is resistant to fireblight.

7 Pruning – Grow plants which do not require regular pruning, ‘generally speaking’ evergreens fall into this category. e.g. Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Tricolor’

Euonymus ‘Green Rocket’ is a well behaved, smart plant and may be used as a low hedge.

8 Right plant, right place – Do not make life difficult for yourself, if you do not have acid soil avoid ericaceous plants. At Castle Gardens they have a little hand book “Right Plant, Right Place” they can lend you to help you during your visit. (Steve’s prop on this subject was an unusual ericaceous plant named Calocephalus brownii). Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Tricolor’ is a good tough plant with lots of interest (e.g. in tubs)

9 Rootgrow – although expensive it helps newly planted plants to establish quickly. Particularly worthwhile if planting in less than ideal conditions.

10 Hanging baskets – these are a lot of work requiring much feeding and watering. Consider using are range of sedums

11 Reduce watering requirements – Grow plants which do not require too much watering, shrubs are a good example of this as is sedum matting which can be used on the roofs of compost bins, dog kennels, sheds…

Water retention granules are useful in containers

Irrigation connected to a timer on a tap is particularly useful in greenhouses and on new hedges.

12 Weedcontrol – consider using a solid or woven mulch where beds are not in use or plant trees and shrubs through such a mulch a) black plastic b) Mypex

Chemical weedcontrol is a big subject but Steve brought in a new product (Neudorff) which claims to be Biodegradable and effective on annuals, perennials, moss, algae & mares tail. The active ingredients being Pelargaic acid & Maleic hydrazide.

Steve mentioned the patio weedkiller ‘Algol’ which is a ‘spray and walkway patio cleaner’ (no scrubbing required!)

Bark mulches are another option for reducing weeds, Steve’s preferred material is composte bark over chipped bark, it does not last so long on the surface and will need replenishing more frequently however it acts as a soil improver and therefore increases the soil’s water retaining capacity and health. For example: New Horizon’s ‘Mulch n Mix’ is a good general purpose product that can be used either as a mulch or for potting.

13 Feeding – keep your plants healthy which will avoid other problems. Pelleted Vitax Q4 is a good product

14 Tools – Long armed tools (e.g. Wolf tools with extendable handles and interchangeable tool attachments).

Select a pair of secateurs that fit your hand, consider secateurs with a rotating handle to reduce the strain on your hand.

15 Bulbs – ‘Plant and walk away’. ‘Lasagne planting’: plant in layers. There is even a ‘cake mix’ this year, for example: Carrot cake mix which offers you a selection of orange bulbs to be planted in layers.

16 No dig gardening – this is a big subject and therefore we have Charles Dowding coming to talk to us on this on 4th February 2015


notes by Angela www.wildgardens.co.uk