How Do I Create A Low Maintenance Garden?

March 2022
Anton White

This is a really huge topic right now!  With the Covid related challenges we’ve all experienced over the last 2 years, one of the biggest trends has been turning our gardens from just an area of mossy grass behind our house, into a relaxing and inviting ‘oasis of calm’ for family & friends to enjoy!  From stunning new decking areas, to incredible outdoor kitchen and even cool mini-pubs, the garden enjoyment trend has really taken hold, and is undoubtedly here to stay!

Something that has changed in the way we think about gardens, however.  We’ve all seen the 20 year old garden that is a tangled, overgrown mess of old lawns, paths buried in dirt and leaves, and collapsed, rotten old furniture and trellises; it’s always hard to believe, but without exception every one of these gardens was once all brand new, perfect looking, and thoroughly enjoyed by its owners!  Let’s look at some examples of this unhappy scenario…

So what went wrong?  OK, this may be seen as a slight generalisation, but the problem with these gardens is they were not created as ‘low-maintenance’ gardens!  Look at it like this; everyone gets enjoyment from a beautiful, well designed garden, right? (if not, they are probably slightly strange!)  But how many of us were ever realistically going to spend countless hours every week, for say 20 years, keeping our beautifully designed but unsustainably ‘over designed’ garden looking like new?  5% of the population?  I know that I for one am in the 95% who would prefer enjoy my garden with friends and family than be cleaning, clearing, painting and maintaining – week in week out!  So in the last few years, the focus has increasingly been on how to actually create a genuinely low maintenance garden; not just until the garden ‘novelty wears off’, but a consistently well maintained and enjoyable garden for many years to come.

So let’s dig a little deeper (no pun intended).  In this article, we will look at the 7 key critical elements to creating a truly low maintenance garden:

  1. Avoid ‘over-designing’ your garden
  2. Avoid using timber where possible
  3. Use modern, low maintenance materials
  4. Create clear borders & boundaries
  5. Make your lawn the big centrepiece
  6. Plan your planting carefully & realistically
  7. Build in covered garden space

If you are planning a garden makeover, but you can’t be bothered to read a long article, ask yourself if you’d rather spend 5 minutes reading now, or 1000’s of hours over the next 20 years doing annoying jobs in your garden?  I thought so😊  Happy reading!...


  1. Avoid ‘Over-Designing’ you garden

I cannot stress how important this one is.  Of the type of run-down messy old garden we spoke about earlier, I would suggest the majority of these were caused by ‘over-design’ in some shape or form.

What if you are employing a garden designer?  Well in the UK, we have a exceptionally ‘rich’ garden design industry.  Some of the world’s best garden designers are British, and some of the world’s most beautiful gardens are in Britain!  So I have great respect for quality garden designers, but please watch out for garden designs in which the overriding characteristic is it’s complexity, intricacy, or ‘uniqueness’.  The more ‘design’ that has gone into a garden, the more time someone has spent on this ‘design’ and therefore the more money someone has spent on this design.  At garden design stage, adding complexity can mean a) a more expensive design (good for the designer, not so good for the client), and b) more ‘uniqueness’ and ‘selling points’ that can be used to ‘Wow’ the recipient.  Beautiful, intricate designs look so stunning in 3d visuals, but ask yourself honestly; can you realistically maintain this look for even the next 10 years?  If you find that thought a tad daunting, then it’s very likely you need to consider simplifying the design.

If you are designing your own garden, exactly the same principles apply.  You just happen to be both the garden designer and the garden maintenance person.  Build something stunning, something utterly beautiful, but be sure it will still look like this, or even better, in 10-20 years time!


  1. Use modern, low maintenance materials

When designing your garden, you’ve got a huge head start compared to doing it 20 years ago – today, there are so many incredible low maintenance products on available which were barely existent back then!

If you haven’t already, do some research on Composite Decking – there are many really good quality composite decking products on the market which won’t rot, twist or fade like timber; you’ll even find some with a 25 year warranty!  Watch out for the usual warning signs, the cheapest products that are manufactured in China for example will not be at the same level of quality as more expensive products made in UK, Europe, or the USA.

If you want to have a look at Composite Decking for your garden, we’d love our Luxxe ranges to be in the mix!  Browse our products and get yourself some free samples:

Porcelain paving is another great product which has been rapidly increasing in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason – it’s so much lower maintenance than most natural stone paving options, with almost endless finishes, colours and textures available!  Again, there are quality levels and prices to suit all budgets, but watch out for issues with the cheapest porcelain paving products – size calibration inconsistency, inferior material content and manufacturing processes, and substandard strength and loading capacity to name a few.  Porcelain paving is still normally installed using the traditional mortar bedded method, but newer suspended systems using subframes and pedestals allow for seamless indoor/outdoor transitions and services to be run underneath.  Take a look the Ovaeda range of stunning porcelain paving tiles and get some free samples on their way:  Also, have a think about whether an elevated system would work for you

Artificial grass is an interesting one.  This is one of the fastest growing products in the garden market right now, and this is entirely due to it being maintenance-free (are you spotting a theme here😊?)  There is the visual aspect, some people like it, some people have to have a real lawn (personally I’m still a real lawn person), but have a look at some of the fantastic quality products on the market, for example Easigrass, Trulawn, Lazylawn, Marshalls Always Green, to name a few leading brands.  Artificial grass is definitely worth thinking about when planning your low maintenance garden

  1. Avoid using timber where possible

Now this is a big topic.  Timber is a wonderful material, very versatile to work with and normally the most economical way to build garden structures.  But unfortunately it does not last very long in external applications when compared to non-timber alternatives such as composite, aluminium or plastic.  In the 90’s (remember those?), timber decking for example went through a craze in popularity, but the sad truth is the vast majority of these decks have long since rotted away (not before becoming dangerously unstable and slippery for the users!) and been removed or replaced.

Since that time, it has to be said the longevity of timber has been improved through pressure-treating processes including tanalith treatment, and interested parties in the timber industry will claim timber is now a long-lasting product.  But it isn’t – it may be cheaper initially, but it will never be able to compete with non-timber products for longevity.  Any kind of treated timber is still timber, and it will eventually degrade or rot.  Stated ‘Guarantees’ of 15 years are dependant on things like hand painting all cut ends with a tanalith – in reality this rarely happens, and also, how often does someone find rotten wood underneath their decking after 5 years, and think “Wood should never rot, I’m going to claim for this!”  Very rarely, because everyone knows that wood can rot.

That’s not to say wood shouldn’t be used, that would be a crazy suggestion.  In above ground applications where there is good air flow, wood is fine for creating wonderful features in your garden.  But don’t put wood in direct contact with the ground or even in the ground, and expect it to last a long time.  And for important, high value, structural elements of the garden such as decking, fencing, cladding, you will likely want maximum lifetime value out of these, so seriously consider using non-timber alternatives.

And here’s a hotly debated topic in the decking market specifically.  Timber or non-timber for your decking subframe?  Why build an amazing outdoor area, using high quality long-lasting composite decking such as Millboard, Trex, Smartboard, or Ovaeda😉, and then install it on timber to save a relatively small money?  A decking subframe will spend it’s life underneath the decking, where it is close to the ground and moisture and humidity will consistently build up and be trapped underneath the deck, even in if you make allowance for ventilation.  Good quality composite decking will last 25 years+, but you will be lucky if a timber substructure will last 10, whatever the timber supplier says.

If you would like to consider a non-timber substructure, take a look Ovaeda aluminium subframes & pedestals

And also, remember that any timber items you do include in your garden design will normally need treating or staining every 2-3 years at least.


  1. Create clear borders & boundaries

This one is quite simple, but makes a huge practical difference.  For example, If your decking or paving area runs into your lawn, which is surrounded by flower beds without clear boundaries, and your hedges are allowed to just take up as much room as they want – oh, and for good measure there is a path running roughly around the edge, but somehow part of it is unusable because those pesky branches have grown across it:- then your garden was not designed with clear boundaries, and was never going to be easy to keep in good condition.  Here’s some ideas to help on this with your garden design:

  • Raise your outdoor living area (often paving or decking) above the level of the garden, even just by 150mm (single step). Then you can cleanly brush along the edge, and strim the grass easily
  • Separate the lawn and the beds with low height walls if possible. Not only are these a really nice feature, they allow you to have neat lawn right to the edges, but most importantly they will always be there as a clear guide for where you trim your hedges and shrubs to
  • This might seem a picky one: don’t put stepping stones in your lawn to try and create a path! Create a proper path with some lovely paving and low height walling if appropriate, this properly segments your garden into clear and manageable areas.


  1. Make your lawn the big centrepiece

To a degree, this one is down to personal opinion.  However, most would agree a garden is not really a garden without a spacious central lawn to play football with the kids or for the dog to run around on.  Whether you prefer real grass or you want to install artificial grass so you never need to mow it, the same point applies – the best and most beautiful garden designs, regardless of garden size, are designed around the lawn as the centrepiece.  Think large lush green lawn in the centre, with shrubs and bushes in well maintained beds around the perimeter, and then if you are really lucky you’ll have some lovely towering trees around the boundary.  Then with your outdoor living spaces carefully designed in perfect positions, such as a stunning entertaining patio close to the house and a relaxing garden room nestled at the end of the garden, you’re never going to want to leave your garden!


If you would like a large lawn, but you don’t want to spend time maintaining it, there’s a couple of good options to consider; explore the option of artificial grass, or employ one of the lawn maintenance franchises, such as Green Sleeves, Green Thumb, or Lawnmaster.  I’ve used these on my lawn for several years now, and whilst it is an expense, it’s not as much as you might think, and when you see the resulting lushness there will be no going back. (Tip: trying to buy the right lawn treatments and do it yourself often ends up just as much if not more expensive, and unless you are a lawn expert, the results will not be as good)




  1. Plan your planting carefully & realistically

Quite simply, don’t plant anything that you won’t be able to look after, that goes for the lawn, flowers, shrubs, trees or even vegetables!  Clear borders & boundaries as explained in point 4 will help a lot with this, but even so, buying & planting more than you can manage to maintain is one of the biggest money wasters among consumers in UK gardens.  10 plants or bushes that are healthy and well maintained looks an awful lot nicer than 100 plants or bushes that have turned into an overgrown, tangled mess!

If budget allows, you might consider employing a gardener to maintain your garden 3 or 4 times a year, this can be a huge help in keeping your garden growth looking beautiful year in year out.


  1. Build in covered garden space

In the UK, you might have noticed, our weather is quite rubbish.  This has meant that typically we don’t use our gardens and outdoor spaces as much as homeowners in other countries do.  No-one in the history of time has enjoyed a pina colada in 3 degrees and rain.  Thankfully though, there are some fantastic products on the market today which allow us to create covered areas in the garden, such as bioclimatic pergolas and glazed canopies.  Get in touch to discuss our canopies and pergolas and how you could make use of one of these in your outdoor living area

You’re probably thinking, “what has this got to do with creating a low maintenance garden?”.  OK, how much of the year are you able to enjoy your garden?  Let’s say 3 months, plus a few surprise days of warmth and sunshine.  And what happens for the other 6 – 9 months when you are inside the house wrapped up in a blanket?  Your garden starts to fall apart without you really noticing.  By creating a covered garden area, which you can warm up and make cosy and inviting with lighting and furniture, you can use your garden pretty much year round.  And without a doubt, being in your garden for this much more time through the year will help significantly with keeping your garden in good shape



So, now that we’ve covered the 7 key things to consider when creating a truly low maintenance garden, where do you go from here?  Whether you are planning a complete garden refurbishment or you want to implement some simple changes to improve your garden, use these tips to help you create the low maintenance garden of your dreams.  We’d love to hear from you and help in any way we can, so get in touch!