How Much Time It Takes

Low-maintenance gardens are all the rage, but what exactly does that mean? Everybody has different expectations when it comes to how much time they want to devote to their yard, so it may be helpful to see a comparison of how much time is usually spent maintaining the different elements of a yard. Note that none of these elements require zero maintenance, so even if you pave over your whole yard (not recommended), you'll still need to spend a little time keeping it up. Here is the breakdown, from the book Short Cuts to Great Gardens, of how many hours you might spend, per year, on each element in an average-sized yard:

Patio/paving: 5 hours
Gravel garden: 10 hours
Ground-cover plants [lawn substitute]: 10 hours
Wild-flower meadow: 15 hours
Pond: 20 hours
Mixed border: 20 hours
Herbaceous border: 35 hours
Fruit garden: 55 hours
Containers: 60 hours
Lawn: 65 hours
Greenhouse: 80 hours
Vegetable plot: 100 hours

I have to note, of course, that this list implies that it's easier to grow fruit than maintain a lawn, so you might as well plant some apples. Also interesting is that containers are not the time-savers that some people make them out to be, and including shrubs in your perennial beds can make them much less time-consuming. Finally, gravel takes as much time as ground-cover plants to maintain, so unless you'll be walking on it a lot, the plants might be the more attractive option.

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