A beautiful garden does not necessarily have to take up hours of your time. Many of us are time poor these days, and so finding garden solutions that meet our needs and look great without taking hours of maintenance is crucial. The great news is that you don’t have to give up on your dreams of growing your own if you choose low maintenance plants.
There are plenty of low maintenance plants out there to choose from. Your key goal should be to choose a wide variety of perennial plants, and combine them to create thriving ecosystems that can more or less take care of themselves.
Even in a small space that you have little time for, you will find there are plenty of useful low maintenance plants to grow. Here are 9 low maintenance plants that could potentially be combined to make a low maintenance polyculture, or guild. These plants will also provide you with a useful yield:
A Low Maintenance Fruit Tree Like an Apple Tree
Fruit trees, especially standard trees that are not shaped in any particular way, can be a perfect relatively low-maintenance choice for medium to large gardens. Even in a small garden, a single dwarf apple tree or other dwarf fruit tree could be a perfect choice. Placing a guild of other useful, low maintenance plants around your fruit tree will help lower maintenance needs even further.
Elder, Or Other Similar Low Maintenance Plants
If you have space, placing another tree or two will definitely help to enhance your low maintenance space. One of my top picks is elder. It grows incredibly easily in a range of settings, and looks good throughout the year, providing plenty of visual interest as it blooms and fruits. The blossoms and fruits are also useful – you can use them in a wide range of different ways.
Of course, there are plenty of other small trees and shrubs to choose from. Just be sure to choose one which grows well where you live. Lilac is another favourite of mine. Lilac blooms have a wonderful fragrance and look great to provide architecture and interest in a garden. Hawthorn, hazel, alder and Elaeagnus are other interesting options to consider.
Even in a small, low-maintenance garden, you could also consider growing plenty of fruit bushes. I find that one of the easiest options to grow are gooseberries. Unlike currants and other soft fruits, these are less likely to be eaten by birds or other wildlife before you get to them. They can fruit well even in the dappled shade beneath trees, though will do best in areas which receive a decent amount of sunlight. Wild gooseberry thickets are great to add depth and greenery in a wild and wildlife friendly space.
Low Maintenance Plants Like Comfrey
Comfrey is a great plant in a wildlife friendly low-maintenance garden. This herbaceous perennial will come back year after year. Even the least green fingered person will find it impossible to kill. Comfrey forms large clumps, and sends up impressive stalks with purple flowers, beloved of bees. And if you do find a little time for your garden, chopping and dropping it and laying it as mulch will help maintain fertility in your growing areas.
For shady spots, beneath your trees and shrubs, hostas are often a top pick. Hostas can look attractive, but more than that, they can also be a low maintenance edible plant. The young leaves are great in salads, older leaves are a great leaf vegetable. The rolled up leaves that emerge from the ground in spring are also a great asparagus alternative.
On the sunny fringes of a fruit tree guild, or in another sunny and free-draining spot, lavender is another of my top low-maintenance plants. It looks and smells wonderful, attracts bees and other wildlife, and can find a range of uses in your home.
Low Maintenance Plants For Ground Cover Like Mint
There are plenty of perennial herbs that will do very well in a polyculture with the plants described above. One of the very easiest to grow is mint. In relatively moist and partially shaded spots, mint will spread and create excellent ground cover around and beneath other plants. There are plenty of wonderfully fragrant options to choose from. And not only can you use mint in your kitchen, it also has benefits in the garden. It helps repel certain pests, and attract beneficial wildlife to your garden.
Another great choice for ground cover in a low-maintenance polyculture planting scheme are wild strawberries. Unlike typical garden strawberries, wild strawberries can cope with partial shade. And while the fruits are much smaller, they can be delicious too.
Finally, a low maintenance garden is one that can largely take care of itself. An important part of making sure a garden can be largely self-sustaining is thinking about how nutrients cycle through the system. One thing to consider is the nitrogen cycle. Certain plants are called ‘nitrogen fixers’ – they work with beneficial bacteria in their roots to gather atmospheric nitrogen. Clover is one such plant. It is also a great way to get ground cover, and a mowing-free alternative to a more traditional grass lawn.
Of course, the planting scheme described above would not be suitable for every location. The key thing to remember about making a low maintenance garden is that you must select the right plants for the right places. You must think about the climate, microclimate, soil and conditions where you live. The better suited the plants you choose are to their location, the less work you’ll have to do.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.