Few of us want to devote our weekends to garden chores, but every outdoor space needs a certain amount of care and attention. Paving needs to be swept from time to time and occasionally pressurewashed. Timber decks need to be re-sealed, hedges trimmed, tree branches pruned and mulch replenished. Some of these tasks are a once- or twice-a-year deal, but if you have a lawn or swimming pool, well, they demand frequent attention.

When planning your garden, there are lots of simple measures you can employ to reduce upkeep or make ongoing maintenance easier. Opt for an irrigation system operated by a smart wireless timer so you don’t have to remember to water the garden, and if you don’t like mowing, invest in a robotic lawnmower. Other good tips are to seal pavers so they are more stain resistant, place a cover on your pool when it’s not in use to keep leaf litter out, and build your deck out of a composite material that won’t need to be re-oiled or re-stained.

Choosing lower-maintenance plants, and making smart planting selections, will certainly make for a garden that is easier to care for. If you don’t want to be endlessly raking leaves in autumn and winter, don’t plant deciduous trees, and if you want to save wear and tear on your back and knees, grow plants in containers. For larger containers, place them on wheels so they can be moved without strain. Or build raised garden beds with capping wide enough to allow you to sit.

All gardens need some maintenance, so here are a few tips and worthwhile advice to keep things looking good.

Mulch Matters

Mulch is any soil covering that reduces evaporation. It also keeps plant roots and the soil cooler and discourages weed growth. Organic mulch must be replenished regularly as it breaks down. By spreading a layer of mulch on your garden beds you can prevent more than 70 percent of water evaporation from the soil. The depth of the mulch layer depends on the type of mulch being used, but as a rule it shouldn’t be any more than about 3″ (75mm) thick. If it is more than this, water might have trouble penetrating the soil beneath when it rains or when you water the garden.


From Pruning to Edging

As autumn segues into winter, there are chores that need to be done. If you have deciduous trees, there are leaves to be raked and composted. In winter, if you have roses they need to be pruned once flowering has finished. Same applies to wisteria and hydrangea. Winter is also a good time to lop awkward or lowhanging branches off trees, trim hedges and screening plants to get them in good shape before the burst of spring growth, and do some weeding. Doing the latter will be easier if you time it for after a period of rain when the soil will be softer. Having weeded garden beds, apply a fresh layer of mulch.

Installing an edge to a garden bed or lawn is an additional cost that some homeowners may not consider a necessity, but in many cases, having an edge will, in the long term, save you time and money when maintaining your garden.

Many grass species have runners that will want to grow wherever they can spread, especially into garden beds where the soil conditions may be better. Garden edging will prevent the grass from spreading into these areas and it will also give a hard edge, making it easier to cut the lawn either with a Whipper Snipper, mower or grass clippers.

Before you determine which type of edging to use, you need to consider the workability of the material. If you have a level site with a straight edge to the garden bed, there are many options to choose from. If your site slopes or the edges are curved, better to use a malleable material which is easily bent or shaped.

backyard garden plants in containers

To reduce your workload when tending garden beds, have at least some plants growing in containers


Grasss That's Forever Green

While we all like the luxurious feel of soft natural grass, it requires ongoing maintenance that not everyone has the time, or inclination, to do. With artificial lawn you can reclaim your weekends and spend time doing the things you enjoy. No more mowing the grass, trimming the edges, fertilising or watering. It’s also ideal for areas that are difficult to navigate with a mower and perfect for rooftop terraces, balconies and shady areas where grass won’t grow.

backyard garden maintenance

You can install artificial lawns over virtually any surface and once it’s laid, there’s virtually zero maintenance, although the perforated aeration holes in the weave may allow the occasional weed to find its way through. To keep your turf looking as new, just use a hand pump filled with special weedicide as needed, and give it a brisk brush with a broom to remove any leaves. It’s also easy to clean up after pets — you can simply hose it off.

Artificial grasses are of varying qualities — and you get what you pay for. “The more expensive products are generally lusher, denser and better made so will last you longer. Cheaper products may have a stiffer, more bristly look and feel,” he says. “Always look for synthetic grass that resembles the shades and colour tones of a lawn. Don’t aim for perfectlooking strands of grass all the one length in a uniform colour — it’s not going to look real.”

Artificial grass will cost more to buy and install than natural grass. But unlike natural grass, you don’t need to buy fertilisers or replace worn grass in high-traffic areas every few years.

artificial grasses

Why Artificial Lawn?

  • You don’t need to water or fertilise it.
  • Lawn mowing will be a thing of the past.
  • You can look out on a sea of green year-round.
  • No dirt patches or puddles after it rains.
  • Cleaning spills and the like is very easy.
  • The product can be cut to fit awkward shapes.
  • There is a choice of blade lengths, widths and colours.
  • You save money on your water bills.


Good-As-New Decks

Whether attached to the back of the house or wrapped around a pool, a timber deck is going to need care and attention. How much depends on the timber used and if you want to keep it looking as new. If you’re happy for it to grey over time, there will be less upkeep than if you want it to always look like the day it was installed. That said, all decks require some maintenance because the better maintained your deck is, the longer it will last and the safer it will be to use.

Once a timber deck is laid, it needs a finish. Some sealers simply seek to retard the deck’s ability to absorb water, others also provide UV protection. The greater protection provided, the more the natural appearance of the timber will be masked. On the up side, high-protection finishes need to be re-applied less often than clearer finishes.

During the first year or two, it’s recommended you re-apply the finish coat in spring and autumn. You can then touch up the finish as often as you want, depending on the look you want. If you’re going to let the timber turn grey, an annual application of a sealant is still recommended, as is a yearly structural check-up, and autumn/winter is a good time to do this.

Wood plastic composite decking (often just referred to as composite decking) is a lowmaintenance alternative. It is usually made from ground wood waste and recycled plastic that produces a rot- and termite-resistant product that doesn’t splinter or warp and has high slip-resistance. Also on the plus side, it doesn’t need to be stained, painted or oiled.

Paving Tips

Choosing the right materials to begin with makes a big difference. When looking at paving, keep in mind that very light, evenly coloured pavers (compared to darker colours or pavers with a blended, heavily veined or mottled appearance) show dirt and stains more prominently. Of course, you can apply a sealant after laying, which will give you a few years of protection. When considering which surface finish to go with, remember that while highly textured pavers offer greater slip resistance, dirt can collect in the nooks and crannies, making the growth of mould or algae a possibility.


A Lick of Paint

Outdoor maintenance includes the house too; this could be cleaning out the gutters or giving the front door a fresh coat of paint. In fact, checking painted surfaces, be they on the exterior of your home, cubby, pergola, chook house or outdoor furniture, is something you need to do regularly because anything that’s been painted will need a touch-up — or a complete re-application — at some point.

backyard structures

Obviously, you need to use weatherproof paints formulated for exterior surfaces which, typically, will be flat paints as they are more effective at masking imperfections. But while you’re seeing which surfaces need repair or refreshing, consider what else might need a makeover. Thanks to special priming undercoats, you can paint steel, fibreglass, plastic, terracotta and concrete. Rather than abandon a drab old plastic planter, give it an on-trend coat of metallic-look paint, perhaps lustrous copper or striking stainless steel.

Metal objects, in particular furniture but also pot stands, garden gates and railings, should get a new lease on life. It’s a bit of a process — you have to sand the surface to remove flaky paint or mould, apply an undercoat/primer and then one or two final coats — and sometimes there are more steps than these, but it's time well spent. You might also like to take a look at concrete driveways or paths because if they’re looking grubby or stained, there are specially formulated paint systems for these surfaces too. Just follow the instructions and you’ll have yourself a weekend project that will bring you a great sense of achievement and ensure your house and garden look fresh, clean and meticulously maintained.