I was working on a garden project a couple of weeks ago when the neighbour asked what work I specialized in to which I replied I’m a landscape gardener. She then went on to ask “what exactly does that include” and so I explained that we offer services such as laying patios, artificial turf, garden fences, raised flower beds…” and before I could finish, she interupted me and said “so you build low maintenance gardens”. It hit me. I had never looked at it that way before. I mean, yes we provide real grass but not on a scale that we lay artificial grass, and yes we provide raised flower beds, but even that is to help manage the plants in the garden and make it easier for our customers to manage their gardens. But I mean, 80% of what we do really is build no to low maintenance gardens. I guess that’s what the majority of us hard landscapers do.
Thinking of what to write for my next article and that lady popped into my head. “I will write about low maintenance garden ideas” I thought. So a quick Google search to see what others are writing about and there is a lot of articles out there that don’t really provide a solution. Maybe they are just copying other peoples articles. Maybe they just don’t understand the meaning behind having a no to low maintenance garden. Of course there are some websites that offer great articles on creating a low maintenance garden but how are we (you) suppose to know which one to read. There is so much online that it would take a lifetime to read through them all!
What I am saying is that I really am a professional landscape gardener. I really do deal with everything I write about everyday. I’m a grafter by day and a writer by night. A workaholic? Maybe. But I enjoy sharing my experiences and I want to give my own low maintenance garden ideas. Ideas that are real. Ideas that matter. Lets get started!
Let’s start with…patios!
I hope no one in the Hertfordshire area is reading this bit, as I am sick of laying patios! I’m joking really. But it is the back bone of my business since word of mouth for paving seems to go a lot further than any other garden & landscaping service that we offer. We don’t get many jobs where we are taking up old patios, but are always laying new paving slabs where a lawn once was. From cutting grass to having a nice seating area to spend your summers with family and friends. Easy!
I wouldn’t say that having a patio is literally no maintenance as there will still be yearly, or every 2 yearly maintenance required, but it still gives a great low maintenance garden. Whether you have your garden partially paved or the hole garden, you will still be reducing maintenance compared to mowing the lawn. It is important to know however that if you are paving your hole garden then really think about drainage and having the use of a soakaway or proper drainage channels installed.
What maintenance is needed for patios
Particularly if you are having natural paving installed such as Indian sandstone then it is best to have your patio pressure washed on a yearly or 2 yearly basis. Exposed to the elements, they stain easily and develop black spots known as lichen. I have written an article explaining how to remove black spots from your paving here. You could pay a professional to pressure wash your patio for you, but if done reguarly then there is no need and just a cheap pressure washer will do the job just fine.
You can avoid stains such as lichen by sealing your patio every 1-2 years (check the patio seal purchased for confirmation) as this will give it a protective layer. We seal new paving as soon as we are finished laying it.
Although still a very low maintenance garden idea, the only other thing easy to forget is that the pointing (cement between the paving slabs) doesn’t last forever. I would say that you have a maximum of 3-5 years before you start to see cracks and weeds start to grow through. If your not very hands on but would prefer to avoid paying professional fees then you can always use a sweep in jointing compound. I’ve written a review on the Sika fast fix jointing compound here.
Is artificial grass a good low maintenance garden idea?
Ofcourse fake grass is going to give you a lower maintenance garden compared to having real grass, but that doesn’t mean that it is completely maintenance free. As well as this, if you are looking to have artificial grass just to save money on paying a professional gardener then you may be surprised to see just how expensive artificial grass is. It is lower maintenance, but it will take a long time to see a return on investment compared to paying a professional gardener.
Typically you would pay around £15 per squared meter of artificial turf for a good quality one and granite dust will set you back around £50 per bulk bag, covering up to and no more than 8 squared meters. For a 50 squared meter area, this will set you back over £1000 and this is before paying for skips to remove the old turf, timber to create a frame as well as the most expensive part, professional labour costs. You would be looking at £3000-£5000 all together. If a lawn of this size would cost £50 per Fortnite to maintain, then it will take 2-3 years to see a return on investment, saving money compared to paying a gardener to maintain your lawn.
If you would like to lay artificial grass yourself to save money, then I would recommend seeing our full guide here.
What maintenance is needed for artificial grass?
Although artificial grass is a great low maintenance garden idea, I would be lieing if I said it is completely maintenance free and the biggest issue, believe it or not, is weeds!
When laying your artificial grass, please make sure you use a weed prevention fabric such as membrane. I have seen artificial lawns layed without this and the weeds coming through have been horrendous! You see, fake grass has air/water holes every squared foot or so, helping to drain the rain away. It’s these holes that allow for weeds to grow, but the weed prevention fabric will help stop this.
Unfortunately there is no absolute way of stopping weeds from growing around the edges of the artificial grass completely. This is because the fake grass is usually (the best practice) screwed into a timber frame. But weeds will always find a way to get into the tiny cracks. In fact, I’ve even written an article here on how to prevent weeds from growing on an artificial lawn.
So although having fake grass is much lower maintenance compared to have real grass in your garden, you will still have the odd weeds to pick at. But I would much prefer to pick the odd weed compared to getting the lawnmower out every week! Making artificial grass a great low maintenance garden idea!
Another low maintenance garden idea would be decking
Replacing a lawn with decking would be a great way to keep your garden low maintenance with the need to cut grass and pull weeds eliminated, saving you both time and money!
As well as this, decking literally suits any garden and can be specifically made to suit your needs. You can have steps, rails and you can even paint it to a colour that suits you. But with anything, there is a downside to decking which I will explain below.
What maintenance is needed for decking?
Yet again, decking is a great low maintenance garden idea but it isn’t completely maintenance free. The biggest problem in my opinion is how slippery it can be if not maintained, I can not tell you the amount of times I have been to a customers garden only to nearly slip face first when first stepping onto the decking area!
The reason that decking gets so slippery is because wet wood is a breeding ground for fungus and algae, and when wet is like walking on ice! It is therefore important that you jet wash your decking at least once per year to keep the timber free from any thriving organisms.
Although I would still recommend pressure washing your decking once per year, you can actually buy products such as anti slip decking stain to help keep the algae and fungus away. But the biggest way to help keep your decking low maintenance is to purchase anti slip decking tape or strips, which once applied will provide a much better grip compared to walking on timber alone. If you are building a new decking from scratch then you can purchase anti slip decking boards, although they do come with a higher price tag.
The next problem that you will find with decking is that over time it will rot, and the less you maintain your decking the faster it will deteriorate. I suppose the best way to eliminate the risk of this is to use composite decking when building your new project as this is a mixture if wood fibre and place, making a much stronger and longer lasting material compared to timber alone.
If using timber decking boards, then try to use a wood hardener as well as stain or paint to prevent the decking from being affected by the outside elements.
Decorative stones & gravel would be a great way to keep your garden low maintenance
Decorative gravel is a great inexpensive low maintenance garden idea they is easy enough to do for the average DIY person, helping keep costs down compared to paying a professional gardener to do the work for you.
You could replace a lawn with decorative shingle so that you don’t have to cut the grass, or fill your flower beds to save time pulling weeds and turning the soil over, all saving you time by keeping your garden low maintenance.
Not only this, but there is just so much decorative stones to choose from! I would have to write a hole separate article just to list them all in detail! But for now, some ideas to name would be plumb slate, polar white marble, dove grey limestone, silver blue granite, red granite and golden gravel.
What maintenance is needed for decorative gravel?
There isnt too much to worry about when it comes to maintaining your decorative gravel, but the most important thing to do is don’t forget to lay a weed free fabric such as membrane before applying your decorative garden stones as this fabric is the only thing that is going to keep the weeds at bay.
This being said, weeds will still find a way to root within the gravel, but not to an extent had you not used the weed prevention fabric. As well as this there is no soil to root to, so picking and pulling the weeds out will be easy.
Oh and before I forget, garden gravel gets dirty just like anything else. Some stones get dirtier than others, so to avoid stains try and hose the decorative gravel down once per month just to keep them clean! Garden stones are low maintenance, but they are not completely maintenance free, as with most things outside and exposed to the elements, some work will be needed. Although I think we can agree that it’s much more time efficient compared to maintaining grass and weeds!
Finally a low maintenance garden idea that requires no maintenance…artificial plants
All of my other low maintenance garden ideas were more aimed at covering lawns to keep maintenance down, with the exception of the decorative gravel which can also cover the earth in your flowerbeds. But what about the garden maintenance that doesn’t require a lawnmower or pulling weeds? What about the time it takes pruning our plants?
Maintaining a flowerbed, window box or hanging basket can be a huge headache! Watering the plants, to re-seeding the flower beds, watching the plants die off for Winter, watching your garden go from lots of colour to lots of nothing can be exhausting. What if there were a way to keep your garden colourful all year round and all you had to do was…nothing?
This is where artificial plants come in, and I know what your thinking. They look fake, right? But no! Not always. I’ve had a few customers opt for fake plants and especially in hanging baskets and window boxes and until they told me, I was none the wiser!
I suppose the only negative thing I have to say about artificial plants is that you won’t have the smell of blooming flowers which would be a shame. But hey! You can’t have it all right? No maintenance flowers but in exchange you will miss out of that Summer smell!
Finally, my 5 low maintenance garden ideas are complete!
In short, my 5 low maintenance garden ideas are;
- To lay a new patio
- To lay artificial grass
- To build a decking are
- To use decorative gravel
- To make use of artificial plants
I hope you have found the above information helpful! If you have any ideas then please comment below and if you have any questions, why not pop over to our gardening forum where you will find a community waiting with answers.