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16 October 2014
Gardener's Corner

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Winter 2004
John Cushnie On...

Low Maintenance Banks
1st December 2004

Garden BanksShow me a garden with steep grass banks and I will show you a garden in need of reduced maintenance. They can be the devil to cut especially in periods of wet weather. Where they are too steep for a mower they have to be cut by hand using a strimmer or with a pedestrian mower lowered and pulled back up by rope.

There are two alternatives to grass. A rockery built on the slope will be interesting and attractive. Alternatively a solid planting of low -growing ground-covering plants will help hold the soil in place and hide the bare earth. In either case the grass needs to be killed using glyphosate based weed killer or removed with the aid of a turf cutter. Pile the strips of grass turf upside down. Within six months they will have decomposed leaving you with good quality, fibrous topsoil.

There are three golden rules when constructing a rock area.

  • The ground must be free of perennial weeds. Murphy’s law states that the worst weeds will have their origin under the largest rock.
  • The rocks must be firmly seated with no risk of them moving.
  • The planting areas should be small pockets of weed free, well drained soil between the rocks.

Juniperus confertaArtificial scree slopes may be formed by using gravel similar to the rocks and planting gentians, sedums and other non-invasive plants.

Planting will be less expensive than constructing a rockery and if properly executed will lead to a low maintenance area.

When you are confident that any perennial weed problem has been taken care of you can start to plant. Pit planting will be necessary to reduce the surface area of loose soil.

PeriwinklesDig a planting hole larger than the roots of the plant. Add bone meal and compost or well rotted farmyard manure at planting time. Firm the soil and water to settle the soil around the roots.

There are many suitable ground covering plants but avoid those that are exceptionally vigorous. They tend to smother the smaller plants.

banks with low -growing ground-covering plants The low growing junipers are evergreen and form a dense mat preventing weeds from growing. Juniperus conferta and J. repanda are attractive and low growing. Periwinkles (Vinca major and V.minor), some with variegated foliage, are evergreen with blue or white flowers.

Of the two, V.minor has smaller leaves and is lower growing than the large leafed V.major.

With the right selection of plants you will have an attractive, maintenance-free bank.

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