Many people would like a garden that looks good but finding the time and desire to create and maintain one is another matter entirely. No garden is ever work free, plants live and die, weeds grow - a garden is a living, breathing, changing entity.
There are, however, ways to minimize the time you need to spend in your garden to keep it looking good.
Keep your expectations realistic. All gardens take time to become established so be prepared to spend more energy on them in the first couple of years and donít expect a low maintenance garden from the moment the plants go in.
Itís important to plan your garden. Make a wish list but keep it simple and donít try to pack too many features in - try not to be overambitious. Consider your garden site itself. Are there any hot or dry spots? Boggy or shaded areas? Whatever the varying conditions are, plant accordingly. Choose plants that suit your garden site and local climate. Time taken to get the optimum plant for the growing conditions will be time saved in the end.
When deciding what to plant, research what grows well in your area. Go for walks, look at whatís flourishing in your neighboursí gardens (especially those that arenít obviously well cared for). Go to your local garden center, and ask every gardener you know what grows well where you live.
Next, find out what the needs are of the plants youíve seen or had recommended to you. Do they need regular watering and feeding? Are they susceptible to many pests or diseases? Do they need pruning to keep them looking good or to flower/fruit well? You also need to consider such things as their eventual size or whether theyíll self-seed, spread prolifically or shed leaves (only a problem if you donít like the look of a leaf mulch!).
Think about how your garden will look in the winter and avoid large bare patches of earth. Include some evergreens and look at the silvery grays and yellows. You donít need to have lots of different types of plants as group plantings can look very effective. Consider shrubs and ground covers which often need less care and attention than bedding plants to keep them looking good. Masses of flowers take time to maintain.
Before planting prepare the soil well and try to rid the area of any perennial weeds. Add lots of well rotted compost and manure or if you have the time and patience add lots of unrotted organic material and leave the earthworms to do their thing before planting. Regular turning and mixing of the materials will speed the process up, as will warm weather and a little moisture.
Plant at the appropriate distances. Although itís tempting to plant close together you may end up with deformed looking plants that havenít had enough space to grow, or you could be faced with constant trimming.
To help keep weeds down and moisture in, mulch. Mulches such as peastraw will do wonders for moisture retention and will eventually break down and improve soil structure. Bark will also eventually break down but take longer . Otherwise you could look at more permanent materials like river stones which wonít aid the soil but will help keep weeds down.
Most of all remember that itís easy care, not no care. And for those that want a garden but donít like gardening - beware! You may actually develop a taste for it in the process!