It’s rare that we find a client that doesn’t want a low maintenance garden. Many people think low maintenance means no maintenance, which is typically not the case in most gardens. In general, a low maintenance garden would be one that you wouldn’t need to fuss with more than 1-2 times a year although everyone’s definition is going to be slightly different depending on level of comfortability in the garden, plant knowledge, time, money, etc. These are a few of the things we consider when we’re planning a low maintenance garden.
What do you want your garden to provide for you?
Besides being low maintenance, we like to know if you need to screen any views or noise, if you want edible plants, if you want to attract wildlife, if you like a lot of color, or if you want plants for cut flowers. The answer to these questions helps us determine our plant palette so we make sure all the boxes are checked while making sure we’re not giving you anything you don’t want to deal with.
What is currently on site that is and isn’t working for you?
Knowing existing site conditions (drainage, slopes, sun exposure, wildlife, etc) and what plants are currently in the ground and what you like or don’t like about them helps us know what to avoid. Knowing these things also helps us brainstorm what would be good options for replacement if needed.
Do you currently or are you planning on hiring a maintenance company?
Most of the time the answer is no but if the answer is yes, there may be some plants that are fun to incorporate that you may not enjoy maintaining yourself but a maintenance company would have no problem taking care of.
Do you enjoy gardening?
If you like tending to and spending time in your garden beds, then you likely don’t mind a little extra upkeep. Our goal is to maximize the parts that you enjoy doing while avoiding extra irritations that make play feel like work.
How will you be watering your garden?
A hand watered garden is going to be planned a bit differently than a fully irrigated garden. If you’re hand watering, we’ll not only plan for more drought tolerant plants but also choose potential locations for new hose bibs if needed so you’re not having to drag hoses everywhere. Irrigated gardens can provide more certainty and can allow for an expanded plant palette since water becomes a dependable component of the garden.
Providing plants with multiple seasons of interest helps cut down on maintenance so you’re not constantly deadheading or cutting back after every season. We focus on the balance between evergreens and deciduous and if a client wants the least amount of maintenance possible, we lean heavily on evergreen trees, shrubs, and perennials where possible. While evergreen plants will require some maintenance as they grow, it does cut down on seasonal leaf cleanup while providing structure throughout the entire year. Native plants are also a great option since they are already suited to the local environment.
Not only does your garden need good soil, but good topdressing in all your planting beds is key to keeping weeds to a minimum. Mulch also helps the soil retain moisture throughout the year. A low maintenance garden wouldn’t be complete without it.
Hardscaping & Material Choices
A low maintenance garden doesn’t start and stop with just plant choices. Choosing materials that are durable and easy to clean will limit how much time you have to spend maintaining patios, paths, decks, etc or having to buy and replace things.
As you can see there are many factors to designing a low maintenance garden and all of them are going to be client specific. What one person considers low maintenance may be high to another and vice versa. It’s important to consider all of your constraints (time, physical, money, etc) when planning out your garden so you know what you can and can’t take on. This will ensure you’ll enjoy your garden as much and as often as possible. As temperatures cool and we head into the fall season, keep an eye out on our blog for a post about fall maintenance tasks.