Even the keenest gardener in the world doesn’t want to be grubbing around for weeds 24 hours a day, constantly mowing and edging the lawn or endlessly watering. It makes sense to make the repetitive jobs as easy as possible, freeing up more time for the bits of gardening you really like – or even sitting down and just enjoying it! The same tips make life much more bearable for not-so-keen gardeners who still want their outdoor space to look presentable, but don’t want to be a slave to it.
The first thing I’d do to cut down on monotonous maintenance is ruthlessly get rid of teeny-tiny lawns. It’s got to be big enough to justify the palaver of getting the mower and the extension lead out – anything that can be mown in a couple of sweeps just isn’t worth it in my book! It’s true that lawns are environmentally and wildlife friendly, but if you replaced it with a weed-proof membrane, covered with gravel, and planted lovely gravel garden plants such as thrift, grasses or sea hollies, there’ll be plenty of places for wildlife to enjoy.
Next to go would be patio pots, which completely rely on you for food and water. But that would be a hard wrench; a patio without pots of colourful summer bedding would be very dull! The best solution – and it’s my new year’s resolution to do just this – is to install an automatic watering system. Little tube-fed drippers sit in each pot to deliver water exactly where it’s needed. And as they’re all connected to a hose, all you have to do is turn the tap on once or twice a day. You can even get tap timers that do this for you!
But the biggest thing that takes up the majority of my gardening time is weeding – no surprises there. Ground cover planting is a great way to reduce the problem. Make sure your borders are so thickly planted with ‘good’ plants that the ‘bad’ ones can’t get a look-in. Lushly-leaved mound-forming plants are best, so they stop light reaching the soil below and inhibit weeds from germinating.
Try hardy geraniums (shown above), epimediums, heucheras or persicaria. You could also use weed-proof membrane and plant through this, but cover it with a generous layer of bark chips to hide it – nobody wants to look at a sheet of plastic!
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A reliable skimmia that’s good in winter and spring containers with dark red buds opening out to small, off-white flowers.
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