How to make more green space, with less maintenance?
Landscape contractors and architects, and home gardeners particularly those on acreage are presented with this question regularly. How to make more green space, with less maintenance? On one hand clients or gardeners want more plants and turf, and less concrete, providing a better, cleaner, cooler, and more pleasing environment, but on the other hand they want it maintained on a shoe string. Low cost maintenance starts with plant, turf, soil, and mulch selection, and can be enhanced by clever design, and caped off with efficient low cost maintenance.
For 4 years at Ozbreed we have maintained 12,000 square metres of gardens and lawns with one plant maintenance staff every fortnight, and one lawn staff every fortnight. That equates to one man per week, with the odd clean up from extras once per year over a few days. The gardens are extensive. Usually our maintenance staff believe this would take three to four times as many man hours. So how can so many maintenance hours be saved? Normally I would not use my own experience to write an entire article, but in this case it is the simplest way to explain landscape maintenance on a pittance.
Over the years many lessons have been learnt. It all starts with good plant and turf selections and intelligent design. Low maintenance low to no irrigation green life is essential. The main planting areas use low maintenance evergreen plants such Lomandra and Dianella types. The Lomandra types are all longifolia and Hystrix types that are long lived and need trimming only every 4 to 6 years. We have avoided weaker Lomandra confertifolia types. The Dianella types are mainly caerulea types, which cope better with Sydney’s climate.
In Victoria Dianella tasmanica and revoluta plants could also be used. So selecting on Genus alone is not enough for a low maintenance solution. Common forms also increase maintenance, as reliability, uniformity and tidiness is compromised. Revolutionary plants like Tanika®, and Little Jess™ are used in big group plantings. Design and placement is very important. These type of plants are planted close together to ensure no gaps after one year, ensuring weeds are chocked out. It is called planting for weed control. Cutting strappy leaf plants back every four years or so is very quick if you use a saw tooth blade on a brush cutter. This cuts rather than tears. Simply cut the tops of all of them at about 20 cm high, then rake out the old foliage and collect it. It makes a good straw for the vegie garden. Then shape each plant into a nice ball with shape hand shears. This method saves many hours.