Our top three low-maintenance landscapes
The ultimate maintenance-free landscape would consist of a single, joint-free expanse of beautifully smooth, poured concrete… not even tarmacadam; But as this could potentially lack colour and ecological value, we’ve compiled our top three easy to maintain landscape types that will increase diversity and add seasonal interest to your garden. But first…
A note about lawns
The first thing to say here is that there aren’t many landscape types more maintenance-hungry than the humble lawn. If you already maintain a lawn, you know how much work it is – just tally up the time you spend mowing every year and you’ll surely be startled. It’s true, that for kids, informal sports and general relaxation during spells of fine weather, the amenity value of a well kept garden lawn can’t be topped; But if it’s ‘low-maintenance’ you’re after, then try to keep the area(s) you dedicate to lawn well planned, purposeful and down to a manageable size. For those people who actually enjoy cutting grass, that is your choice, but for the vast majority who do not, we are here to reassure you that other options do exist!
If you have areas which you’d like to keep low-lying and open, but don’t necessarily need a manicured green, a meadow / grassland habitat could be a good shout. These types of habitat are ecologically rich and can attract a diverse range of wildlife. The types of species your site can support will depend on your geographical location, soil make-up and various other ecological factors, but once a meadow starts to establish the mix will look after itself.
To get going there are loads of different seed mixes available online or you could even try your local garden centre. Large nurseries should certainly carry certain general mixes. Choose one that seems the most appropriate for your site and follow the instructions! Maintenance-wise, depending on the type of grassland, the species mix and the look you’re going for you could end up cutting your meadow area(s) as little as once a year!
Wooded Landscape Types
If you have a large site and are looking to ‘eat up’ space whilst creating an interesting and rich landscape area at the same time, woodland habitats can be a really nice way to add interest to your site. These types of areas can be started using bare-root saplings which are inexpensive and quick and easy to plant. Use a mixture of species and over time, the area will start to self-seed and evolve naturally. Planting trees so young can make the area appear unimpressive for the first few years, but be patient and over time you’ll be rewarded.
Lay an adequate depth of mulch between the saplings to discourage weeds and minimise competition during establishment. If you’re really determined, double up with a geotextile membrane underneath to form a super-robust barrier!
Early days, aside from keeping the mulch layer topped up and the young trees watered during dry spells this type of area is already virtually maintenance-free, but once the habitat really gets going and becomes self-perpetuating it requires hardly any intervention whatsoever.
Used as an alternative to bark or woodchip mulch, loose gravel can make for an attractive planted or un-planted surface. Available in an array of gauges, tones, textures and colours the opportunities for the adventurous designer are plentiful. Use contrasting colours to create your geometry and then plant specimen trees, shrubs or hedges as highlights. For a really sharp finish, use metal edging to separate different gravels.
Paired with a good quality geotextile weed membrane, an expanse of gravel can be as low-maintenance as the next soft landscape area, just with a different aesthetic.