Many people don’t think that they have time to garden and grow their own food. A polytunnel can help. But these low maintenance garden hacks can help create a garden that will require far less work:
Garden Like a Forest For the Ultimate Low Maintenance Garden
Creating a range of symbiotic relationships between trees, shrubs and perennial herbaceous plants can create a self-sustaining ecosystem that, once established, requires little maintenance. A forest garden can be large or small, as long as all the plants chosen are appropriate (the right plants for the right places).
Get Plants To Work Together in Your Low Maintenance Garden
Growing traditional annual vegetable crops will require a little more work than a forest garden. But you can reduce the amount of work you will have to do by creating polycultures in your vegetable beds too. (Plants work together, helping each other in a range of different ways (as in the traditional ‘three sisters companion planting scheme’, with corn, beans and squash). Implement companion planting for a more low maintenance garden.
Enlist the Help of Garden Wildlife
As gardeners, we do not work alone. A range of beneficial wildlife, both in the soil and in the surrounding environment, help us to grow our plants. Attract and aid beneficial wildlife by:
- Always gardening organically and avoiding harmful practices.
- Planting the right things – certain plants will attract pollinators, predatory insects, or other beneficial creatures.
- Creating habitats by making wildlife ponds, brush piles, bee, bug or butterfly ‘hotels’, bird and bat boxes, bird feeders, bird baths etc..
The more we attract and aid wildlife, the more balanced the garden ecosystem will be, and the less work we ourselves will have to do to maintain our gardens.
Make Watering Easier in Your Low Maintenance Garden
Harvest rainwater to garden sustainably and reduce the effort of watering. It is a good idea to set up an edible garden system that is irrigated in some way, so your plants do not depend on you watering by hand. You could consider:
- Creating swales (on contour ditches) and basins to retain rainwater.
- Channelling water through drip irrigation (connected to a rainwater harvesting system).
- Making wicking beds (a form of hydroponics) that can be self-watering.
- Using plastic bottles to make automatic waterers for pots and containers.
- Sinking unglazed clay pots into the soil around plants to use water wisely and reduce watering needs.
- Installing a water irrigation system can take the effort out of watering your plants
Choose ‘No Dig’ Gardening Methods
Don’t dig your garden. Instead, leave the soil ecosystem as undisturbed as possible. The fungi and bacteria in your soil will do a lot of the work for you, and it will also be a lot less effort. Make your own compost and use this as a mulch around your plants, along with other organic matter spread as sheet mulch around your growing areas.
Enlist Help in Making Your Compost
Composting is something we should all be doing at home. It is easy to recycle food waste and other compostable materials. But in a low maintenance garden system, you can make it even easier by enlisting some help. Make or buy a wormery and enlist some red wrigglers to help you in making a great quality compost that will help your garden grow. You could also consider investing in a compost tumbler, so you can make compost more quickly and easily.
Embrace Weeds & Wild Corners
When your time for gardening is limited, gardening organically means embracing weeds and wild corners, and being a bit more relaxed about a little natural chaos. Weeds can be plants that are ideally suited to your garden – that is why they do so well. They can be great for wildlife and, what is more, they can be useful for you too. Learn which weeds you can eat, and all the other ways that weeds can be beneficial additions to your garden.
Upcycle Items for Quick and Easy Solutions To Garden Problems
Upcycle household rubbish and other reclaimed items for quick and easy solutions to a range of garden problems. For example:
- Not enough space? Use wooden pallets, shoe organisers, old shelving or other items to make vertical gardens. Use upcycled kitchen colanders and other such items to make hanging baskets. Make stacking towers from plastic bottles or other household waste.
- Problems with pests? Stop them from eating your plants with cloches made from old plastic bottles or other food packaging.
- Nowhere to store tools? Get organised and upcycle some old furniture for the purpose, or make storage storage shelves or tool boards from old wooden pallets or other reclaimed wood. Being very organised can be a great time saver.
These are just a few simple hacks to help you create a low maintenance garden, and grow food in your garden year round even when you have a full time job and other obligations to contend with.
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.