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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Style Tips for a Low Maintenance Garden

If your garden was a joy to look at, fun to lounge in, and easy care would it enrich your life? A peaceful retreat from the “busyness “of living can bring peace and serenity to our lives.

DeckWhen we have time to stop and reflect we become the people we want to be …. Not the cranky, stressy beings that we become when there’s not enough fun.

Managing our time these days involves a constant assessment of priorities and a complex juggling of resources. Adding a garden into the clamour of a busy life, could cause real stress if it is not carefully planned to suit your lifestyle. The idea of the garden is to provide rest and not create more work!

 

WHAT DO I NEED?

A thoughtful design approach is needed involving an assessment of our needs, including our available time or a calculation of our monetary resources.

 

START WITH A LIST

  • What must your garden provide for you? Beauty, play space, fruit and veggies, entertainment areas or is it a Meditation space or private retreat?
  • Do I want to be outside, or just enjoy looking at the green space from the comfort of my lounge?
  • What’s my style? Minimalist or overflowing? What style will suit the house?
  • What level of presentation will you require? Is every fallen leaf for you, a charming addition to the pattern of nature, or an intrusion on the perfection of the design? Each person has a different expectation of tidiness and it is important to be realistic about your own standards before embarking on a style of garden.
  • Can I afford a gardener or a lawn mowing person?
  • What’s my budget? Will an easy care garden add value to the property?

When you have a list, the next thing to do is to start thinking design and layout. Spatial layout can affect maintenance issues but material choices and their use will have the biggest effect.

 

BREAK THE GARDEN UP INTO ITS ELEMENTS

The choice of building materials is a primary consideration for a low maintenance garden. The more natural materials, such as stone and weathered timber, will require minimal maintenance compared to the constant upkeep of painted or plastered surfaces. With clever design, these more simple materials can be incorporated into the most modern of gardens without appearing heavy or rusticated.

 

Coxes Bay coloured concrete slabs opPAVING

Hard surfaces require comparatively little maintenance, so generous paved areas are a good start. Large areas of paving can be broken up with small blocks of planting so the garden does not appear to be a sea of concrete or tiles. Be aware though, city councils have regulations restricting impermeable surfaces, so don’t go overboard with paving.

Think about the weathering process and whether your chosen product will deteriorate with age or whether the aging process will add character. Choose harder denser, non-porous paving to reduce maintenance. Softer materials will absorb moisture and hold it inside its structure, where algae will grow and turn them black from the inside. Only complex chemical cleaning will solve this problem, and water blasting will exacerbate the problem. A more dense material will need surface cleaning.

Choose a good quality stone, concrete, porcelain tile or choose from the ever increasing special finishes on ground concrete. Sealing these products will help make cleaning easier but a yearly clean at the end of winter will probably be necessary.

 

DECKING 

Unstained timber decking can be relatively easy-care on a day to day basis. It’s elevation above ground, however slight, means leaves will often blow elsewhere and small dirt particles tend to fall through the cracks, consequently requiring less sweeping than a solid surface. Decking should, however, only be used in the sunny drier areas of the garden as it does get slippery when constantly wet. To keep your deck looking good, it will require a yearly chemical clean. A gleaming naturally silvered deck without the black algae growth inside the timber is a lovely addition to the garden. A stained deck will require regular re-application which is expensive and time consuming.

 

PATHWAYS IN THE SHADE

Gravel or shell pathways are a high maintenance option, if you wish to keep them tidy and beautifully raked. Nevertheless, they are the best option for shady, little used areas because they won’t get slippery with algae as will most paving materials in the shade. An occasional rake to dislocate any mosses and gather slippery leaves off the surface will keep them safe and functional. If you choose a slightly heavier stone, a leaf blower will be an easy clean-up too.

 

WALLS AND FENCES 

A natural stone wall is about the only material that will always look good without regular cleaning. These are expensive and out of most budget reaches, so the best tips for low maintenance fences are:

  • Darker or more natural colours will make life easier both on masonry and timber finishes.
  • A black stain on a timber fence will disappear in its own shadows and will show very little wear. Dark browns or greens just draw attention to the fence and they cease to be a backdrop, becoming rather unseemly feature walls.
  • Plant cover means a fence is not seen therefore cleaning is unnecessary.

 

LAWNS 

Sahara S&G 012 opA beautiful lawn is high maintenance and requires specialist care but, if you are ok with an average lawn, then designing your garden with larger lawns and smaller planted areas can be timesaving, especially if you hire someone to mow your lawns for you. This can be a simple cost effective way to reduce your time involvement even further.

Creating well-drained, near level lawns, without shade issues will make maintenance easy. Simple lawn shapes and mowing strips of at least 100mm wide at the edges of the lawn will reduce extra trimming, save you time and look sharp. 

 

PLANTED AREAS 

Healthy plants = little care = success and low maintenance!!!

Some essential rules for success with your plants

  • Create the best possible growing environment for your plants. Add natural fertilizers and compost!!
  • Buy only good quality plants, staying well away from the bargain bin.
  • Provide drainage as necessary, wet feet = straggly plants
  • Provide irrigation to remove plant stress
  • Choose plants from a list of tried and true.
  • Ask for advice!