• Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

At this time of year many of us want to make the most of the outdoors by having a nice garden which is practical and can be used for entertainment purposes, preferably all year round. In other words what we really need is a low maintenance garden.

Black Sheet Weed Control

Black Sheet Weed Control

I am planning to have a go at a low or no-maintenance gardening since I actually have two small gardens located in different areas and it’s difficult to maintain both.

In fact my English garden is the main focus of my gardening efforts whereas my Mediterranean French garden really needs to survive on its own.

Whatever works for my dry Mediterranean garden should also be useful and applicable to my English cottage style garden particularly since climate change seems to makes us prone to extreme weather with spells of dryer weather and hose pipe bans.

So where do I start?

I have found some inspiration in a great garden which I visited last year whilst on holiday in Morrocco: the Majorelle garden.

I first heard about the Majorelle garden in a BBC television programme called Around the world in 80 gardens which included some of the best gardens in the world and was presented by Monty Don last year.

I particularly liked its relatively simplistic approach with a focus on plants that survive the draught. Whilst I am not planning to copy a specific garden I intend to pick and mix different ideas, i.e. experiment at my level! I have never really done this before so I cannot guarantee what the results will be.

Step 1: Weeding

For starters I need to find a way to tackle weeds effectively. Unfortunately my Mediterranean garden is plagued by a tough weed called the horse tail weed. It is extremely difficult (some say impossible) to eradicate that weed from a garden.

I am not keen on using chemical weed killers – in this particular case the best Weed killer which I have heard of is: may damage the current fruit trees which are in my garden such as nectarine trees and apricot trees. So the only solution I can see is to cover the bare areas of my garden with a black weed stopping plastic sheet.

I have found this type of sheet from a local garden center and I intend to try it out in my garden.

The idea behind covering the ground with a black plastic sheet is that the weeds cannot come out and also the lack of light hinders their growth.

Step 2: Plant selection

I have been searching for plants that are draught resistant and easy to care for. This will probably mean that most of my lovely cottage garden favourites such as Delphinium, sweet peas or lilies which I grow in my flower borders will have to be excluded.

I think that I am likely to include a lot of succulent plants and herbs since many of them thrive in poor soil and hard conditions. So far I have listed the following plants which may be suitable : agave, cacties, echeveria, aeoniums, semperviums and sedums.

I will also be looking at portulacas and other annuals which won’t require any watering.

I shall also include bushes and trees since they are able to grow deeper roots in order to find moisture in the soil. My focus will be on local trees since they are more likely to thrive in their natural environment.

Step 3: Garden design

The Majorelle Gardens were an excellent souce of ideas for me, showing how good garden design could help reduce the work needed to keep a garden looking great. In particular I found that some areas were covered with different types of pebbles or rocks which brings a lot of advantages.

Firstly they can form a nice texture around the plants and enhance their quality. Secondly they tend to keep the moisture in and slow down the growth of weeds. Therefore they could be a good mulching solution for a dry garden.

Step 4: Get gardening!

I have started to get my hands dirty as you can see in the above picture.

I shall try to post regular updates of how I get on with my low maintenance gardening attempts in this diary very soon.

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