Keeping garden maintenance to a minimum

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LOW MAINTENANCE: Cordyline is a colourful foliage plant that is easy to look after.

THOSE with busy careers may often find it hard to schedule time to work on the garden.

Often homeowners invest a lot into landscaping the lawn, colourful flowerbeds, and other garden features only to find they do not have the time to maintain the plantings. Gardens are soon overgrown with weeds and sometimes homeowners resort to getting rid of what they invested so much in.

Most of my clients have no desire to mow the lawn or even water and fertilise plants around the garden. When I work on my own garden, I find that times have indeed changed as I can no longer lift heavy objects, potted plants or stones, or trim the grass with a brushcutter.

However, with a little planning, home gardens can actually remain beautiful with minimal maintenance.

Avoid overcrowding

After a garden is established, it can be easy to confuse lush with congested. When planning the garden, ensure you know what the plant will look like when fully grown. How much space will it need when mature? Cluttered planting can actually cause health problems as the roots struggle for space. Replant to other sites or choose the healthiest specimens and get rid of the less healthy plants.

In the shade

Shady areas are often more difficult to maintain well because plant options must be well thought out. Choose plants that are bold with structural or textural interest and bright colours. These are also good sites for water features.

Containers

Potted plants are easy to install and can be moved quickly if not too heavy. When your annuals begin to droop, simply move them away to sunny areas for a new burst of colour.

Containers can also formalise the look of your garden. Plant an even number of raised urns with a simple yet bold colour palette such as coloured foliage plants to give the garden an instant decorative look.

Border success

Use plants for edging or borders. Consider adding some rocks, bricks or compact gravel such as karangan stones to prevent weeds from encroaching. A good border will mean less maintenance and can work wonders.

Take advantage of foliage

When selecting new plants for the garden, choose ones that have colourful or textured foliage to provide interest even when not in bloom. Examples include cordyline, croton and begonia.

Substitute annuals

The long-lasting power of perennials can be utilised when planting gardens. Try to use them in the background first, then add a few annuals in front for colour.

Perennials are like old friends, they grow more beautiful as the years go by. They can be the backbone of the flower garden because they have staying power. Fine examples are hibiscus and bougainvillea. Shrubs like muraya and yellow bells are also common decorative plants for most home gardens.

Use carpet grass

Planting pearl grass involves mowing and weeding. The grass leaves space to allow noxious weed seeds to germinate and grow at a faster rate.

Weeding by hand is a very tough job and will become almost impossible if not nibbed in the bud. Many lawns are totally spoilt because of weed infestations.

It is wiser to choose carpet grass. Philippines and Zoysia grass have very thick and well-textured roots. The leaves are compact and plush with deep roots to drive out unwanted growth and stop weeds from germinating.

This grass is also less demanding when it comes to water and fertiliser. It requires less cutting than cow grass. Once in three months is good enough, so it saves time, money and effort.

Change wet areas

Quite often ground drainage is forgotten. This leaves areas soggy and can easily become a mess when stepped on. Install PVC pipes or snake pipes to resolve the problem. Put stones around the pipes and ensure the gradient is sufficient for drainage.

Get a professional to cover the pipes with seepage nets lest roots and sand block the tiny holes, which will prevent ground and surface water from draining.

Use landscaping techniques to create spaces covered with karangan stones and pebbles. This is easy to maintain provided it is done well.

To protect against weeds, first place an underlay of good quality plastic sheeting. Then pile on pebbles to about 10 centimetres. Weeding will be easy if proper measures are taken from the beginning. A herbicide spray can be used in case of an infestation.

Simplify watering

Here I am referring to an automatic sprinkler system using micro-sprinklers or a drip system. The frequency of watering can be timed according to need. The only maintenance necessary is to replace the batteries if the system does not run on electricity.

Hopefully you can adopt some of these methods so that it will be easier to look after your garden. Do send me an email for further details.