Book Review: The Time-saving Garden

TimeSavingGardenMy Review of Reader’s Digest The Time-Saving Garden.

The Time-Saving Garden says that you can achieve and maintain a beautiful garden with minimal time and effort so I sat down with a cup of coffee, or three, and read it cover to cover.

The hard-back book has a lovely look and feel with lots of colourful photographs and the sections are set out in such a way to make it easy to read.

I will work through the book section by section.

Ten golden rules for the time-saving garden

I think it is worth while detailing this whole section as these points are relevant to all gardeners and are definitely tips for saving time and effort:

  1. Whether you’re starting a garden from scratch or just redesigning a small section it is important to plan it out in advance to ensure you are able to devote enough time to maintaining it
  2. Get to know your garden and choose plants which will thrive without constant care and attention
  3. Always buy plants from a reputable source which will save you time and money in the long run
  4. When planting leave enough space around them to allow them to spread to their full size, fill any temporary gaps with annuals
  5. Always cover the soil with a good thick layer of mulch which will suppress weeds and keep moisture in the soil to save you time water and weeding
  6. When watering it is better to water less often but more thoroughly
  7. Don’t over feed your plants as it can result in excessive growth leading to more maintenance
  8. Encourage birds and insects to help to control pests and diseases
  9. Always use the right tool for the right job; you will use less energy and save time
  10. Plant and prune at the right time of year to avoid unnecessary work and potential loses

Inspirations for easy-care gardens

This section takes eight garden types and gives you ideas to make them easy to look after. They are wildlife, small terraced, sloping, shady,  modern, cottage, Mediterranean and a practical family garden.

The bits I particularly like are:

  • Plant variegated plants to light up dark corners
  • If you have a boggy area, plant bog plants
  • Pile up dead wood in a corner to provide a home for wildlife
  • Position a gravelled area at the base of a slope to help water drain away
  • Build your patio areas level with the lawn to make mowing easier and avoid having to cut the edges
  • In an informal or cottage garden plant brightly coloured vegetables such as chard and lettuce between the flowering plants
  • If you don’t use your garden / patio all year round buy folding furniture so they are easily stored for the winter
  • Most perennial herbs look after themselves so are great for a low maintenance garden
  • Add a water feature, always a good idea!
  • Plant in the gaps in pathways to add extra interest

Careful planning makes life easier

In this section of the book you can learn how to produce a time-saving garden which suits you, your family and your lifestyle.

Firstly it takes you through how to think about what you want from the garden, and what the garden needs, before you begin any work. If you have an established garden it will help you identify what it is you like and dislike about your garden and help you change or make the most of it.

The next stage is the infrastructure and maintenance which covers the boundaries and pathways, how to install water, electricity and light supply and storage solutions; basically the backbone of the garden.

The most important element of a garden is the soil and this next section does a good job of teaching you about soil including how to identify your own soil type and how to improve it to give plants what they need to do well. It also includes a good section on making your own compost and mulching all important in any garden.

What I like in this section are the 30-minute tasks making it easier to manage the workload.

Planting solutions for all situations

The best part of gardening is, of course, the plants. This next section takes the different types of plants and planting situations and helps you plant the correct plant in the correct place.

There are suggestions for creating an attractive entrance and front garden, planting against walls and up arches and pergolas, using trees, camouflaging unsightly items, planting up a patio and many other planting solutions. There are also more 30-minute tasks to help you.

There are some really good ideas which can be incorporated into any garden, no matter its size.

There is a massive section covering types of plants including:

  • Trees and shrubs – making a new planting area, pruning guide, dealing with autumn leaves, growing roses and topiary
  • Herbaceous borders – how to make colourful displays, deadheading, plants for the shade, grasses, bulbs and tubers and rockeries
  • Carpets of green – all about lawns and wild-flower meadows
  • Plants for pots and tubs – low-maintenance planters, rejuvenating pot-bound plants, hanging baskets, fruit and veg in pots and winter protection
  • The water garden – water features for the patio, ponds and streams
  • The kitchen garden – grow your own, low-maintenance plot, herbs and fruit trees

Redesign now to save time later

Although it may seem like a lot of work it may well be worth your while redesigning your garden now to save time and effort later.

This section of the book suggests redesigns which may be suitable for your garden:

  • A stylish gravel garden – taking away the lawn and replacing it with gravel and low growing plants will save lots of time.
  • An impressive entrance – maintaining a front garden can be hard work and not the most pleasant of tasks if you live on a main road. Replacing the lawn with paving and easy to manage shrubs will help.
  • A back garden that slopes steeply – build terracing and retaining walls to hold in the soil and make manageable sections.
  • Changing needs of different generations – once your children have grown up and the football pitch and swings are no longer needed transform your garden to a relaxing area for you.
  • Rejuvenating a wilderness – conifers can grow very big, very quickly and they take much needed moisture and nutrients from the whole garden. If this is your garden it may be time to fell the trees and rejuvenate the whole garden. The stumps and branches need not go to waste; use them for edging flower beds and once they begin to rot they will provide homes for wildlife.
  • Easy-care decking and water – I like this theme, the lawn is removed and replaced with decking and a really big pond and boggy area . Maybe a bit modern for some but the decking could be paving or gravel or bark to suit your own situation.

The very best easy-care plants

Here they suggest the best 10 plants in each plant category along with light requirements, plant size and watering requirements. Good suggestions for easy-care trees, shrubs, flowering shrubs, evergreen shrubs, hedging plants, dwarf shrubs and trees, roses, ground-cover plants, climbers, perennials, bulbs, corms and tubers, grasses, ferns, rockery/alpine plants, aquatic and bog plants, summer annuals, container plants, fruit trees and shrubs, herbs and vegetables


Book measures 254mm x 254mm; 320 pages; over 600 colour photographs and illustrations.

I liked this book when I first picked it up but as I worked my way through it I found it got better section by section. I would genuinely say that this book is one of the best of this format I have come across for the following reasons:

  • enough information to get the job done
  • not too technical
  • lots of inspirational ideas
  • step-by-step instructions
  • you could plant a great garden using the easy-care plants section alone
  • very sensible advice
  • covers the basics then goes further if it’s needed
  • ideas for problem sites

I will have this book to hand for daily reference and am considering some of the water feature ideas for a project this summer.

The Time-Saving Garden is currently available from Amazon for just £2.48*!


*price correct at time of publication

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