Low Maintenance Garden Design Tips and Ideas (Australian Guide)

Everyone loves a lush back or front yard that looks fabulous and is full of greenery. However, not everyone wants to spend their entire weekend working in the garden to keep it looking fantastic.

So, if you’re time-poor or would rather spend your weekends enjoying your garden rather than working in it, here are some tips for creating a low-maintenance garden.

Create a plan for your low-maintenance garden

If you’re landscaping a new bare yard or you want to turn your existing garden into one that requires less work, it’s a good idea to have a plan first.

Why not take a walk or a drive around your neighbourhood to see what other homeowners have done to create low-maintenance gardens?

Rock garden 2 | Garden Design

Or, visit a few local parks in your area and have a closer look at the landscaped sections. Local councils that manage these parks will usually ensure that the landscaped areas are as low-maintenance as possible.

Then, make a list of the features that you like and consider how you could incorporate these into your own garden space. You could even draw up a rough design or use one of those garden planners that are readily available online.

front garden 1 | Garden Design

If you have a plan to work to, it makes it much easier when it comes to purchasing materials and plants because you’ll know exactly what you’ll need.

Choose plants that are native to your area

Plant selection is essential when planning a low-maintenance garden. You want to choose plants that will live happily in your climate without too much additional care or maintenance.

Native grass | Garden Design

In most areas, you’ll find local plant nurseries that will feature native plants endemic to the region you’re living in. You can also check with your local council as they may have a list of plants that inhabit the area naturally.

If you live near bushland, go for a walk and take photos of plants that you like and that appear to be thriving. There are even apps that you can download on your smartphone to help you identify the plants that you see.

Did you know?

Many native Australian plants are adapted to low-nutrient soils, especially low in phosphorus.

Over-fertilising, particularly with high phosphorus fertilisers, can harm these plants. It’s best to use a slow-release, low-phosphorus fertiliser, specifically formulated for native plants.

We recommend this native fertiliser from Amgrow, designed to promote healthy root growth, lush foliage, and increased flowering, without overwhelming native species.

Replace your lawn with a native groundcover

If you don’t have pets or young children who need a lawn to play on, then consider replacing it with a native groundcover like Dichondra repens (Kidneyweed). Groundcovers don’t have to be mowed and you can often get by with just one or two trims a year.

These groundcovers will still give you the appearance of a lush green space but require far less maintenance than a lawn does. For shady areas, you might like to consider the native violet which also has pretty flowers.

You could even install some pavers so that there is an easy path that you can walk along without treading on the ground covers.

If you still like the idea of having a lawn, restrict this to a smaller area of your backyard and turn your front yard into either a native garden or a more structured garden with pavers, gravel, or river stones.

RELATED: Best Hardy Plants for Outdoor Pots in Australia

Use lots of mulch

mulch around plant | Garden Design

Covering your garden beds with mulch will help to limit the time that you need for weeding. Especially, if you lay the mulch fairly thickly.

There are other benefits to mulching as well. The mulch will help to keep the moisture in the soil for longer which means you have to spend less time watering.

Additionally, over time, the mulch will break down and feed the soil so you don’t have to spend as much time fertilising either. 

And, if you’re savvy, you can get a load of mulch pretty cheaply. Look out for tree pruners in your area. Quite often, if they have a big job, they’ll be keen to empty their mulch truck locally so that they can continue working.

Mulch | Garden Design

I’ve been able to get quite a few loads of mulch this way in various areas where I’ve lived. Sometimes, the mulch is free or at other times, you might have to pay a nominal amount such as $50 for a whole truck full of mulch.

One of the best loads that I’ve received is a truck full of acacia mulch. This was fabulous for the soil which was a fairly heavy clay where I lived previously. As it broke down, the mulch really enriched the soil and the plants loved it.

Install a rock garden

Rock gardens are the ultimate in low maintenance because they usually contain plants that are drought-tolerant and the exposed soil is covered with rocks and pebbles or stones. 

Rock garden | Garden Design

Check out your local garden centre to see what local rocks or stones they have available. Once you see something you like, design your garden around it by choosing plants that are suitable. 

Succulents are excellent for rock gardens and they require very little care. Before you fill your rock garden with succulents though, ensure that the soil is free-draining so that your plants are allowed to dry out in between the rain.

Rock garden 1 | Garden Design

Native clumping grasses are also great for rock gardens as they require minimal maintenance.

Use native clumping grasses as border plants

Native clumping grasses like Lomandra are not only ideal for rock gardens, but they’re also perfect for creating borders alongside your driveway or around established garden beds.

Lomandra longifolia Spiney Headed Mat Rush cropped | Garden Design
Lomandra longifolia / Photo by Peterdownunder / Wikimedia (cropped) / CC BY-SA 3.0

These plants are hardy and because they grow in clumps, are perfect at crowding out weeds.

And, you can keep them looking neat by giving them an annual trim with a pair of hedge shears.

Photo of author

Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


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