For a Refreshing Change!

Low Maintenance

NOTE: This page is for you if you like a garden - but not really all the work!  If this is not your garden description please click back to 'Home' and read the text that describes your garden.

OK, the very first thing to sort out before anything can happen is SPACE.

When I say space, I mean a space where we can work without having to move junk about the garden on at least five occassions whilst we are working.  We would need areas to place any delivered items, we need space for the tools, and a good wheelbarrow run.

Most people are blessed with a side entrance to their property allowing easy removal or bringing in of new materials.  If you do not have a side entrance - or any other exit to take a barrow, the job will be more expensive due to the time consuming 'Manhandling' of everything through the house.  Everything listed here still has to be done, but just a lot lot slower!

An area for a skip to remove the debris generated from the works is also beneficial.  A skip can be placed on your front drive without the need for a permit.  If it goes in the road you will need a permit  - these can usually be arranged by us at an extra charge.  You have to pay for a permit to the council, we charge the same rate.

If you have no room for a skip, then removal by our vehicles to a local dump may be the only way.  Again, this would be more expensive as all the dumps now charge by the weight, and if removing water sodden clay, bricks, roots or soil the price soon mounts up.

Assuming the skips and the space is sorted we now move on ....

In a nutshell, anything that is in your garden that grows is going to need some form of maintenance. There is no such thing as a totally free maintenance garden - even if you had it all concreted you would still have to remove the leaves and twigs every Winter, and what the cat dropped, and all those crisp packets and cigarette ends and and ... you get the idea.

What you can have though, is a garden where the maintenance is minimal compared to anyone else's.  If standing out in all weathers for all of Saturday and a half of a Sunday is O.K. with you, you are reading the wrong page!   Our idea of a low maintenance garden is not total concrete or slabs, but a mix of plants and grass to keep the area looking like a garden but without all that back breaking weeding. And the total maintenance time would be less than an hour and a half per week - if that!

The following is for a garden that still has a lawn - important for the kids (and adults) to play on, and if you do have animals, it's better for them too.   A quick note about animals....

If you have a dog and you want a nice garden, this could be a battle.   If the dog is not a tearaway and just goes out and does his thing and comes in again - great!  If the dog's a bitch - I mean a girl and not a boy (i am sure you can tell the difference here!) the bitch's urine will be much more acidic and will burn the grass and contaminate the soil structure itself so grass will not grow back here for at least five years!  This all sounds so silly, but it's true!  Even if you have a boy dog and the grass is being killed, it's no doubt due to a cheap dog food - more expensive one's tend to have extra vitamins in and this actually does the opposite and makes the grass grow quicker!  - this has been the case in my garden, I have thought of bottling it up and selling it as a new grass and plant feed, but chasing my Jack Russell around the garden with a bottle would get me a quick ride in a big van!   

If the dog digs - fence off the area, dont let it on it, or failing this the very last resort is a pair of slippers for the dog and guided walks in the garden on a lead for a month training it not to go mad - after a month the training should be programmed into the dogs brain.  I was joking about the slippers by the way.

Right .... the beds.

Most people who don't like maintaining their gardens usually do not mind mowing the grass every weekend.  Some find it theraputic - some just a challenge to overcome - whilst some just like the smell of fresh cut grass.  So we shall assume the new lawn is laid after levelling (although in reality the lawn is laid last).

Shrub beds full of weeds seem to be the biggest hate with everyone we come into contact with, and righly so.  You spend all that time consuming hand pulling forking and hoe'ing to make the beds look all nice - 2 weeks goes by and it looks like you have not touched them!

Depending on the type of weed that is the problem, depends on the action required to prepare for the low maintenance route.  Again, in a nutshell, any existing weeds do need to be removed by hand, a period of 2 weeks needs to go by then to treat any re-emerging weeds that are persistant with a mild weed killer to get them down to the root.  This done, allow a week or so and then add new compost to the area.  It is important to add a lot of new compost and feed to the planted areas - read on why!

To totally stop any future weeds from growing requires 4 main things:

  • Removal of all roots of the weeds from the areas.
  • Addition of compost and slow release feed to the plants soiled areas.
  • A covering of 'Landscape Fabric' over the entire bed areas.
  • A mulch to cover / hide the Landscape Material ie: Bark Chippings, or more suitably, stone chippings and or shingle.

The idea behind all this is quite simple:  98% of all weeds that grow in the garden get there from an airbourne seed, these can be the size of dust particles up to a conker!   The only way that weeds are going to grow in your garden is if there are established roots already in the soil and will re-shoot, are dropped by birds and animals, or by airbourne seeds.

A 'Landscape Fabric' is simply a cover that is placed over the beds with slots cut into it where new or existing plants can poke through.  This fabric is just like a big sheet, but it must be able to let water through - but nothing else.  Cover the bed with this and no seeds will get back into the soil, any new small seedlings underneath will be killed off and the weed problem is sorted.  Too many people place black polythene bags or carpet to try to do the same thing - this is bad.  The soil must get water and air to encourage good root growth on the plants.  Plastic stops air and water, and breeds a white surface creeping nasty bacteria that actually encourages rot and insect harbouring - this we don't want.

With the fabric in place and neatly tucked into the soil around the edges of the prepared plant beds we now set to cover up the black fabric with something to make all pretty.

For cheapness many go for the chipped Bark option.  The drawback with Bark is it's constant renewal that is required every year as the Sun dries it out, and the good bacteria eats it away at the layer closest to the soil.  It's cheap to put down but to keep nice means maintenance - and we are trying to keep this to a minimum!

Specimen Stone chippings looks best.  The type you would use on a pathway that has each stone being an irregular type of shape - once raked out, this stone stays put and will last longer than you!  A cheaper option is the common builders type shingle.  But these tend to be rounded stones and move about too easily, turning the entire area into a very convenient cat litter tray for all the local moggies.

Whatever covering is chosen, don't go for small stones or small Bark chips.  These can move about easily in the wind and rain - and as mentioned above, are a magnet for cats.

That's it  !      You would now have a garden that has a maintenance period of cutting the lawn and a run around with a broom.  *If you do have a lot of trees in your area and leaves are a problem every Winter, invest in one of those powered blowers, but get one that sucks - this will make leaf removal from the stoned plant beds area easier, and is another reason why larger stones should be chosen as against the smaller type.  The sucker will not only remove your stones - it will no doubt make your new machine go bang as well !

If you have also decided that you do not want a lawn, but a patio / stoned area instead - it can still look nice if done thoughtfully.  Hava a look in my photo album, there are some examples shown there, but please bear in mind that patio slabs are more expensive than grass!  Time to get that calculator out again !

Seriously though, if this is the sort of thing you are after and would like a quotation, Please give us a ring (after 5.00pm weekdays please) on:

01708 375882

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