Five No-Mow Alternatives for a Small Garden Without a Lawn.

24th June 2024

If you want to create a low-maintenance garden in your courtyard or patio that doesn't require a lawnmower, read on!

For most of the last 100 years, a quarter-acre section and a sprawling lawn have been part of the iconic suburban Kiwi lifestyle. As Auckland’s population grows, suburban lots are shrinking, and small gardens are becoming the new normal. We often hear from homeowners that they want a fuss-free outdoor space. In our busy, time-poor, usually two-career society, having a garden to keep and a lawn to mow can be overwhelming. After all, who wants to add another item to the to-do list? So, here's to ditching the drudgery of weekly lawn care; discover our top five low-maintenance garden ideas so you can enjoy more and do less.

Create a Stroll Garden.

Since the 1600s, Stroll Gardens have been famous in Japanese garden design for their interconnecting pathways that surround features like ponds or hills. The modern Japanese term for this style is kaiyushiki teien, which translates to "excursion-style garden."

While you may not have the same size and scale to work with, you can still borrow the concept. Create curvy or straight paths to divide the garden into manageable sections. It makes choosing plants, planting, and maintaining each mini-garden much simpler. You can then design your own backyard excursion using each zone as a starting point! Introduce a water feature, a sculpture, or simply add variety to the planting.

(Below) The series of straight-angled pathways maximize the size of the garden beds and provide easy access to each section. Each zone has a focal point and function.

Create pockets of foliage.

Planting pockets of greenery between decking and paving can create a lush garden in even the smallest of spaces. If you want to keep maintenance as low as possible, select easy-care, hardy perennials that require minimal upkeep and less water. Some good options include native Corokias and Flax, which are great for adding colour and texture, or drought-tolerant exotics like leucadendrons.

No-mow groundcovers

Traditional turf grasses aren't the only option for achieving a lush sweep of lawn without high maintenance. Hardy mat-forming ground covers can offer some of the same turf advantages while being good for the environment.

Below, we used paving under a concrete bench and interplanted with the low-growing “Baby Tears,” which grows exceptionally well in damp, shady spots.

With so many varieties, finding a ground cover that suits your space and lifestyle is easy. Dichondra Silver Falls (below left) and Remuremu (below right) can handle moderate to heavy foot traffic.

New Zealand natives like Leptinella Platts Black (below left) and Acaena Purpurea (below right) give a lovely burst of colour and can take light to moderate foot traffic.

Or, dream of balmy Mediterranean evenings with fragrant varieties like Cerise or Lavender Thyme. They're also great for attracting bees!

Lay shingle, gravel, or stones

Stone and gravel's informal, organic nature makes them an excellent choice for small, intimate spaces. They're also versatile and work equally well in traditional and contemporary gardens. Riverstones work particularly well in naturalistic landscapes, and their organic character can soften rigid lines in a more modern design. Although they are often used for high-traffic areas like pathways, gravel and stone are versatile enough to be used anywhere.

Additionally, they are one of the least expensive paving options and require less sub-base preparation than other hardscape materials.

Make it artificial!

While we certainly prefer natural greenery to the fake variety, artificial grass does have its place. It can be ideal for high-energy pets and kids and works well in shady areas where grass may struggle in the winter months. Luckily, advances in fiber development now mean the latest designs are far more realistic than you might imagine, with the look and feel underfoot surprisingly natural. And the upkeep is minimal, with just a light brushing needed to redistribute any sand infill that may move from time to time. However, artificial grass can become quite hot underfoot in the summer, so bear this in mind if it's situated in full sun and you have small children running around.

Artificial grass can be a great option if your kids enjoy running around in the backyard.

But, before you start...

Designing a small backyard is fun and exciting, and as you can see, the options are endless! However, the essential part of any small garden design is creating a space that reflects you and the people who share it with you. Before you start, think about how you will use the area. The three most important questions to consider are:

  1. What will I be doing in the garden?
  2. When will I be outside?
  3. Who will be there with me?

Then make your design decisions based on the answers.

Creating a green space in your small garden doesn't mean you have to spend hours maintaining a lawn. We’ve helped many customers create beautiful and low-maintenance small gardens that can be enjoyed all year round.

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