Don’t have much time for gardening? An expert reveals how to create a garden that needs just 30 minutes of care a week.
ADAM Woodhams, horticulturist and Victa ambassador, reveals how to create the perfect green space for time-poor gardeners.
Probably the single most common comment I hear from people is, “I’d love to have a nice garden, but I just don’t have the time”. That is a perpetuation of the great gardening myth – that beautiful gardens swallow up all your time.
The fact is, with some smart planting choices and maintenance habits, you can have a fabulous garden that should take no more than 30 minutes a week to look after. Here’s how.
Must-have elements for a 30-minute garden
Easy-care plants: Often called the ‘landscaper’s mates’, these plants practically thrive on neglect. Once established, they need minimal maintenance and will be relatively pest- and problem-free. Think liriopes, cordylines, buxus, sasanqua camellias, star jasmine climber or creeper and clumping bamboos.
Mulched garden areas: When you mulch your garden, you reduce the need for watering, fertilising, soil improving and weeding, and your plants will remain looking brilliant through hot and dry weather.
Sub-mulch drip irrigation system on a computerised timer: This will keep your garden watered, even when you’re not around. No effort required – just set and forget. These systems are also super-efficient and will help you save water too. For a more budget-friendly option, consider using a basic mechanical timer, but you’ll need to turn on the tap for this one. Expect to pay around $120 for a drip system with 50 metres of hose that would suit a 10 x 3 metre garden. A basic mechanical timer costs around $20.
A balance between lawns and hard surfaces: Incorporating paving or decks into your garden means less mowing. Saying that, I’d still advise having some lawn area; it has a lot of benefits, including allowing water to penetrate the soil, which helps keep your entire garden watered. Lawn is also far more pleasant to lay or play on than hard surfaces.
Quality tools: You want reliable power tools that will help you perform gardening chores quickly, quietly and efficiently – Victa’s 82V range is powerful and versatile, making it one of my favourites.
Why? When plants become self-sustaining, they need less care. A sustainable garden needs less watering, fertilising and pruning, and if the plants have been well selected, it will remain relativity pest- and problem-free. Mulch also keeps out weeds, looks after the soil and protects plant roots from drying out in extreme weather.
Time-saving gardening tips
Mowing and edging: Edge first, mow second. This means no time wasted cleaning up edging clippings. Run your mower in mulching mode as this means you won’t have to empty clippings, and it keeps your lawn happier and needing less fertilising and watering.
Lawn care: At the very least, feed your lawn in early spring, but ideally in mid-summer and autumn too. A well-fed lawn will look more lush, will keep out weeds and need less maintenance. The average lawn only takes 10 minutes to feed using a hand-spreader. Use a quality slow-release lawn fertiliser (one of my favourites is Scott’s Lawn Builder).
Watering: With your garden being cared for by a drip-irrigation system on a computerised timer, the most you’ll need to do is keep an eye on it. Don’t forget to adjust the watering pattern to suit the seasons and the climate. To maximise watering efficiency further, apply a quality soil-wetting product to both lawn and garden at least once a year.
Fertilising: Forget complicated feeding regimes; apply a quality, balanced controlled-release fertiliser once a year in spring. You can supplement this with an occasional application of a hose-on organic-based seaweed product too – this feeds the soil, which in turn helps feed your plants.
A battery-powered pruning and trimming tool: A battery-powered hedge-trimmer makes it quick and easy to keep hedges, shrubs, climbers and even larger perennials in shape. Don’t worry too much about tidying up clippings. In garden areas, just let them fall to the ground and top up your mulch; on hard surfaces, sweep them onto garden beds; and on the lawn areas, suck them up with the lawn mower or a blower set to vacuum mode.
Tidying: A battery-powered blower is your best friend if you’re short on time in the garden – use it to quickly and efficiently move fallen leaves and clippings from your lawn or garden. Where possible, blow clippings onto the garden to supplement mulch. If you have a lot of autumn leaf fall from deciduous trees, invest in a blower with a vacuum option so you can vacuum up large volumes, shred them and add to the garden as mulch.