Zen and the Art of Garden Maintenance

According to the famous book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, ‘The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you.’ And if you were to replace the word ‘machine’ and use ‘garden’ instead, the principal and truth of that quote remain intact.

Ultimately, if you put a lot of work into improving and maintaining your garden, you must be able to enjoy it. With this in mind, here are a few thoughts on how you can achieve Zen while looking after your garden, and how it can give you a relaxing, satisfying experience every time you need it to. Read on to find out more.

The basics

First of all, while we are talking about Zen for this article, we aren’t going to discuss creating a garden from that term’s country of origin: Japan. The truth is that Japanese gardens are incredibly lovely - and, therefore, ultimately satisfying - but they are also extremely difficult to achieve, due to the constant need for work and upkeep they need to stay in shape.

Unless you have the time, experience, and patience to create a Japanese garden, the likelihood is that its demands will be too great for the vast majority. Instead, we’re going to focus on the experience of Zen: in this case, an easy-to-maintain, enjoyable, and durable garden that is best suited to the busy lifestyles of the modern household.

Let it go

According to the well-known Zen peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘letting go gives us freedom.’ And it’s a simple line to remember when it comes to your garden maintenance and one that you should wholly embrace. If the conditions are such that you can’t garden at all - in winter, for example - then don’t.

Your best bet is to find perennial plants that require little upkeep and cause you no hassles whatsoever. Look at plants like lavender, sedum, Geraniums, and Dianthus to get your garden off to the best possible start. Not only will they flower beautifully in the spring and summer, but once they retract in the colder months, they are hardy enough to survive through the winter with no problem at all.

Perennials should make up the mainstay of your borders, and if you strike the right balance between spring and fall flowers, you should be able to have a dash of color all through your garden for the vast majority of the year.

Another way to ‘let it go’ is to leave an area of your garden to go wild. Not only will this be great for your soil, but it will also bring some interesting wildlife into your backyard, from beautiful and colorful insects to glorious birds. Bees love wild gardens, too, and given we are experiencing a serious issue with the wonderful, honey producing bees, every household with a big enough garden should really be doing all they can to encourage them.

Rock it

Japanese Zen gardens are also famous for the amazing displays of rocks, which are an essential element of the way they look and ‘feel.’ However, you don’t have to go down the purist route at all, and it’s up to you how you incorporate rocks and stones in your garden - any which way you choose.

Whether it’s attractive rocks you find while out walking, paving slabs dotted all over the place, or gravel from a gardening store that you use to create a crunchy pathway, there are plenty of options out there that require little maintenance and can have a fantastic visual impact on your garden.

One thing the Japanese rock garden does shine in for the super busy gardener is the minimalism. The less you have out there to tend, the more relaxed you will be about it. It is pointless spending lots of money on complicated and tricky floral arrangements and shrubbery designs if you don’t have the time to tend them.

Fake it

In days gone by it would be a gardener’s crime even to countenance the thought of installing artificial grass. Not only were the old artificial grasses terrible to look at and feel, but they were also incredibly bad for the environment, both in production and impact on your back garden. These days, however, you can get some exceptional artificial grass that looks superb when in place, and even allows rainwater to drain into the soil that lies beneath.

Of course, nothing can beat a real life, lush green lawn made from the real thing. But when you have a busy lifestyle and can’t afford a gardener, how much time do you think it will cost you to keep your grass looking in great shape? If you have a large garden, it will need cutting on a weekly basis, weeding every month or so, and constant care and attention that few people can manage over the course of a weekend.

So, if you want to achieve Zen in your garden and don’t have the time to spend sorting out lawn problems every couple of weeks, investigate artificial grass. As long as you are happy with the look and feel, and are careful with your choice of manufacturer, you can’t actually lose.

Section it

If you have a large garden, you will find it much easier to control if you create sections for it. You might have a space for meditation - to achieve real Zen, of course! - or maybe a place that you could just lie in and relax on a hammock. There are plenty of options available whether you want to hang it traditionally between two trees or place it on wall fixtures. Whether you browse WeDo Hammocks today, go to your local garden store tomorrow, or even make a DIY hammock, the choice is yours. Ultimately, a quiet little corner of the world with a hammock is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Sectioning your garden also gives you a chance to do things like growing your own vegetables. Don’t forget that different plant types thrive in different areas, with soil composition and sunlight affecting their growth. With a particular section for veggies and/or fruits, you will be able to cut down on the amount of time you need to spend tending them. Also, of course, you will have a smaller area to worry about when weeding and looking out for plant-damaging bugs and pests. Try installing a raised bed to make your life easier, as well. It will help you save your back from a  lot of hard work, effort, and pain, and it looks great, too.

Shaping tips

So, when it comes to shaping your garden, whether you are breaking it up into sections or not, it is essential that you keep things nice and cleanly shaped. Ultimately, the more curves and irregular shapes that exist in your lawn or garden, the longer you will spend tending to it. A rectangular or square shape can be mown in minutes, whereas tricky corners can take you a minimum of ten times longer.

Avoid creating little nooks and crannies, too. These areas of garden often end up piled high with debris, due to wind and nature taking it’s course Again, it’s going to take you a lot longer and more hard work to clean hard-to-reach areas than it will to tidy a simple corner.

Finally, don’t forget to include suitable borders to your garden. While fences might seem like a ‘fix it and leave it’ option, they can often fall into disrepair quite quickly. You might be much better off with choosing natural borders over fences - tall hedgerows and shrubs only need a prune and trim once in awhile, and are relatively easy to maintain.

A little, often

Once your garden is in the kind of shape you want it to be, you shouldn’t have too many problems keeping things looking great. If you can put aside just a half hour a week, you will be able to spot problems before they become serious, and do the quick housekeeping - or, should we say, ‘gardenkeeping’ - duties that are all you need to enjoy your backyard space all year around.

It’s worth investing in some good garden tools, too. Part of the joy of gardening is being able to control what is growing, and your ability to do so will be significantly improved by using the best tools possible. Look after the, too - keep them well away from the damp, either indoors or stored in a shed.

Every now and again your garden will need a proper watering, and with this, in mind, it’s worth buying a water but to collect rain in fall and winter, which you can use in the summer when it gets incredibly hot. It also means that if your state calls a hosepipe ban, your favorite plants will still manage to get the water they need to survive.

Finally, start using mulch and compost. It’s a lot easier to start than you might think, and a quick spread of either will do wonders for your garden with little effort a few times a year.

And there you have it - a garden that is perfect to relax in, and easy to maintain. Are you ready to achieve the ultimate in gardening Zen?

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