Less maintenance can mean less stress
Caring for a garden should be an enjoyable activity that calms the mind and brings you closer to the natural world. To achieve this try to minimise the tasks that you do not enjoy, or that you cannot cope with. It may be that your life circumstances have changed, due to health or injury. This is a time to re-think how you care for a garden, and what you hope to get from gardening. Most importantly, remember that it is your garden, and it is up to you what sort of garden you create, and how much work you want to put into it.
This fact sheet aims to provide some ideas on low-maintenance gardens, how to adapt a garden to meet your needs, and how to create a garden that encourages wildlife (which can help you with your gardening chores). Many people believe that as they get older, or their health changes, gardening is something that they can no longer enjoy. Even the smallest of spaces can allow a few pots for cultivation, and nurturing plants can be a therapeutic activity that contributes towards recovery following illness.
Let nature do the work
To minimise the work involved in gardening, take advantage of natures own pest controls. Grow plants that encourage animals and birds into your garden, and enjoy that contact with the natural world. Ladybirds are well known for their capacity for eating greenfly, lacewings and hoverflies do the same. Frogs are wonderful slug killers, and you do not need a huge pond to introduce frogs into your garden. A small (1 foot) hole, lined with plastic, is sufficient for frogs to exist. Even a large bowl or old sink will do the job. Add some oxygenating pondweed, and even some tiny fish, and you will have a micro pond that will encourage wildlife and keep down slugs.
Plants for wildlife
• Buddleia (Butterfly bush) – leaves and flowers are food for Butterflies.
• Anything with berries will feed birds which can be especially good in winter.
• Plants with wide, open flowers encourage Hoverflies and Bees.
• Nettles are essential food for certain Butterflies.
• A pile of old logs and twigs provide winter refuge for a host of beneficial insects.
Wild flowers and native plants are ideally situated to their situation, and will require little or no attention. They will encourage bees, birds and butterflies into your garden. Some wildflowers are now so rare in the countryside that they only survive thanks to gardeners giving up a small part of their garden.
Adapt your garden to meet your needs
Decide what you want from a garden, and then build a garden to meet your needs. Ask yourself:
• Do you really need a large lawn? Lawns require more care than any part of a garden.
• Have you considered using hard landscaping (gravel etc.) with a few choice pots? Even a sunny windowsill allows space to cultivate a few special plants.
A sensory garden is a garden that is created specifically to stimulate some or all of our senses. They are usually aimed at people who have some of their senses impaired, for example a garden may be particularly fragrant and have striking juxtapositions of colour for people who have a visual impairment.
Sensory gardens do not have to be exclusively for those whose senses are impaired. One of the joys of gardening is the sensory enjoyment of the scents, colours and foliage of different plants.
Gardening on a budget
Many gardeners welcome the opportunity to share their passion with others. If you are gardening on a tight budget, it may be worth joining a local gardening group. This will enable you to swap plant cuttings, seeds, and other ideas with other gardeners. Look out for car boot sales and fetes where you may find bargains. Visits to municipal tips can provide a variety of unusual containers for plants, at very little cost, and at some tips you are able to purchase eco-friendly mulch for your garden.
Low maintenance advice for your garden
• Raised beds and containers help to reduce strain to your back and require less digging. Try to situate them near to a water supply to avoid carrying heavy watering cans over long distances.
• Lawns tend to require intensive maintenance, could you reduce the size of your lawn, or let part of it grow long to create a wild flower meadow area?
• Ground cover: any plant can be grown as ground cover. If a plant is growing in the right conditions it will thrive and force out other plants. Growing plants in tight clumps or drifts, leaving no space for weeds to establish.
Most importantly, enjoy your garden. Make it a space that works for you, and make caring for it an enjoyable and rewarding activity.
Local gardening clubs and organisations
Allotments – West Dorset
Allotments in the West Dorset area are administered by the local town or parish councils. To find details of your local town or parish council visit your local library or log on to the website www.dorsetforyou.com
Allotments – Weymouth & Portland
Weymouth & Portland Borough Council has 523 plots spread across 10 sites throughout the borough. Demand is high and there may be a waiting list for some plots. For further details contact: Council Customer Contact Centre on 01305 838000 or log onto the website www.weymouth.gov.uk
Bridport and District Gardening Club
Bringing together gardeners socially. Regular outings, two annual shows. Meets at the W.I. Hall, North Street, Bridport on 3rd Thursday of the month at 7.30pm. For further details, contact Maggie Postle on 01308 427214.
Meets at the Village Hall, Wesley Close, Charmouth, Bridport on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. Garden visits during Spring and Summer. Annual membership £3. For further details, contact Mr Christopher Horton on 01297 560134 or Jean Kesterton, Chairman on 01297 560009.
Lydden Vale Gardening Club
Meets at Buckland Newton Village Hall on the 4th Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm. For further details, contact Mrs Vivian Bernard on 01300 345111, email: VivianeBernhard@hotmail.co.uk, or Lydden Vale Gardening Club on Facebook.
Piddle Valley Gardens Club
Meets at the Memorial Hall, Piddletrenthide on the last Monday in the month at 7.30pm. For further, details contact the Secretary, Anne Jordan on 01300 348015.
Sherborne and District Gardeners Association
Meets at The Digby Hall, Hound Street, Sherborne on the 2nd Thursday of the month at 7.30pm (Winter 2.30pm). For further details, contact Mr Malcolm Saunders on 01935 389867.
Stratton and District Home and Garden Club
Meets at the Village Hall, The Square, Stratton, Dorchester on the first Thursday of the month at 7.30pm. For further details, contact Mrs Lloyd on 01305 267055.
Weymouth Community Volunteers
17a Cambridge Road
Tel: 01305 830255
Fax: 01305 774879
The volunteer bureau at Weymouth Community Academy has volunteer gardeners. For further details, contact Kate Stone.
Useful national organisations
The Geoffrey Udall Centre
Telephone: 0118 988 5688
Fax: 0118 988 5677
Blind gardeners’ helpline: 0118 988 6668
Gardening can help anyone with a disability. Through its research, education and promotional activities Thrive aims to show how, why and where people with a disability can benefit.
Gardening magazines available on tape
There are a number of gardening magazines that are available on tape for people who are blind or visually impaired. Most audio publications are now available online; including over 200 newspaper and magazines for a subscription.
The Talking Newspaper Association
National Recording Centre
Tel: 01435 866102
Weekly: Amateur Gardening
Monthlies: BBC Gardeners World; Garden Answers; The Garden RHS; Which Gardening; and Homes and Gardens.