Design a no fuss garden

Sustainable. Clean. Green. Lawn. Climate Change. Just six words, but a boatload of implications. And the inevitable “But, what can I do?”

For those who hate doing garden chores (or just hate mowing the lawn) there are great options for “no fuss” gardens. As an American ex-pat, there is something slightly comforting about the presence of a lawn; in the U.S., great swaths of green link house-to-house, creating an idyllic (if somewhat untrue) feeling of public space. However, New Zealand is the Land of the Long White Privacy Fence, usually 2 meters high, and blocking out all views of public space. While this will surely be a topic-to-come, this is about how to minimize your patch of lawn and maximise your enjoyment.

Auckland is lucky to have common and dowsing rainfall (as seems to be happening quite often lately!), decreasing the amount of water homeowners need to apply to keep a lawn green. But Auckland isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of New Zealand, and other places around the country don’t appreciate such nature-induced showers. New Zealand is lucky, and there are numerous groundcovers and design options that will reduce the amount of lawn requiring maintenance (such as petrol-sucking lawnmowers, and petro-chemical fertilisers) whilst still providing a gorgeous and enjoyable place to spend time outdoors.

With the current “R-word”, why not kill beat two Aussies with one rugby ball and reduce the size of your lawn by planting herb and veggie gardens? Very little rivals the satisfaction of picking your own, home grown veggies, except the pleasure of cooking and eating with whole, delicious and healthy food (and possibly previously stated beating of Aussies in rugby). For the Control Freak Gardener, you control what amounts of chemicals are used. Organic gardens are generally viewed as “messy” or “out of control” but equally they can be “self-sustained” (to a point) and require less work, and the result is the healthiest and least destructive. In addition, a family garden can provide a quality goal and learning experience for the Little Gardeners in the house.

Some winter veggies that may grow in frost-free areas include hardy lettuces, broccoli, silver beet, radishes, spinach and herbs like parsley and coriander. People living in colder areas can consider glass houses, however planting sprouts will only result in consistent disappointment (like the Black Caps?).  

Other options, for those who count themselves as more commitment-phobic include xeriscaping. Developed in the U.S., xeriscaping lends itself to the busy person who wants to come home to a garden requiring as little maintenance as possible. Typically including native plants which require less irrigation and “gardening” these designs are the gardening “teenagers” compared with “baby” veggie gardens needing more coddling. In turn, native plants used in xeriscaped designs promote backyard biodiversity and provide free wildlife entertainment. Cabbage trees (Cordyline australis), ratas (Metrosideros spp.), flaxes (Phormium tenax), and Coprosmas (Coprosma spp) all produce fruits and berries to bring these winged divas to perform.

Most local councils have lists of native plants which inject life and music into backyards around the country. By replacing lawn with indigenous plants, you are investing in the greater good of the environment and community.

But don’t call me when the Tui and the Kereru move in….