Ten Steps to a Low Maintenance Garden

As we invent things to make our lives more efficient, the net result is often more things on our to-do list and a greater sense of pressure to get them all done. Let's face it; some of the hottest-selling products and concepts are all about saving time.

The popularity of gardening has even taken a hit, as we find more and more competition for what would have been time spent in the garden. But whatever the reason, if 30 minutes is all you have to spend each week, here are 10 ways to minimise your time while creating a beautiful, lower-maintenance yard and garden.

1. Mulch

For the little bit of time it takes to spread mulch throughout your garden beds, the return on your efforts is huge! A seven centimetre layer works wonders, and drastically reduces weeds that need sunlight to germinate. The insulating barrier provided by mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, reducing watering time and keeping soil temperatures more even, for happier plants. Mulch even cuts down on plant diseases that would otherwise splash up onto foliage from the soil.

2. Compost

Nature's fertiliser is free and effortless to make at home from garden debris and kitchen scraps. But once you spread about a one centimetre layer around your plants and on your lawn, billions of beneficial microorganisms begin working to improve soil quality naturally. A little goes a long way.

3. Mow high

When mowing your lawn, cutting the grass at the highest preferred setting will help lawns shade and choke out weeds that compete for sunlight. Higher top growth also promotes deeper roots and a more drought-tolerant lawn.

4. Grasscycle

Why spend time bagging your grass clippings, when allowing them to return back into the soil provides vital organic matter and reduces nitrogen needs by 30 per cent? The grass clippings leave no unsightly mess, and don't promote weed growth or thatch.

5. Clean up

It takes a short time to tidy up the yard if you don't let things pile up. And by keeping plant debris cleaned up and weeds pulled, you greatly reduce the pests and diseases that would otherwise survive to return the following spring. A little time devoted to cleanup each week will save many times that in future work later.

6. Right plant, right place

One of the easiest ways to ensure a healthy, low-maintenance garden is to put the right plant in the right place. Although it may take a few minutes of research, if you position plants in their ideal environment, you'll give them the optimal conditions to thrive. A happy plant is naturally more pest and disease-resistant, and more lush, to boot.

7. Plant natives

The plants and trees you see growing naturally are the most ideally suited for their local region. The only care they get is when Mother Nature decides to provide irrigation. Native plants are the ultimate in low-maintenance because, once established, they require no significant efforts on our part to keep them growing strong. Check with your local nursery for native plants for your area.

8. Select disease-resistant varieties

Why subject yourself to potential problems unnecessarily? Many plants, especially vegetable varieties, have disease resistance built right in. It doesn't make those plants disease-proof, but it does greatly reduce the chances that they'll succumb to certain problems. If applicable, plant tags will list specific resistance information.

9. Shrink your lawn

As much as you might love the look of a lush lawn, there's no denying it can require a lot of time to keep it looking great. Even with an organically managed lawn, it still has to be cut and cared for. If your lawn is stealing too much of your precious time, consider reducing its size and adding native ornamental plants in its place.

10. Irrigate with automated timers

If you have to provide supplemental irrigation, use automatic timers. Timers are readily available, inexpensive and easy to use.

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