Garden borders are subtle ways of separating flower or garden beds from the rest of the yard. While we can opt for complicated borders, there are plenty of cheap and low-maintenance options. Some of these ideas are out-of-the-box solutions that don’t need any work after you install them!
Borders that need the least maintenance are:
- Wood chips
- Concrete, brick, or stone walls
- Flower walls
- Garden edging
- Low-maintenance shrubs
Some of these solutions might need some initial investment of time and/or labor, but they will border the garden for a long time. What’s important is that we won’t have to waste time refreshing or resetting these borders yearly.
Mulch is a great way to border your garden, especially when it comes to keeping it free from weeds. The most important thing, however, is that it requires almost no work.
There’s no digging and planting with mulch, all you have to do is spread it over the area you want to be bordered.
Aside from helping your garden stay weed-free, mulch will also increase soil temperature and reduce water evaporation, while organic mulch adds nutrients to the soil (source).
Low Maintenance Shrubs
Hydrangeas are often used as border shrubs because they’re very easy to take care of. Aside from them, you can also use rhododendrons, rosemary, and dwarf gardenias.
Make sure you pick a shrub variety that will do well for your area. For example, if you live in a drought-prone area, you’ll want to pick a low-maintenance shrub that’s drought-tolerant and doesn’t require much water.
Shrubs are known to do very well if you give them a lot of space, as they get to spread their wings (or, to be more accurate – their branches).
Then, be sure to mulch your shrubs. Referring to our previous section – shrubs thrive when the soil is covered in mulch (source).
Use Deer-resistant Plants as a Border
Using deer-resistant plants as a border is a fantastic way to manage two problems simultaneously. According to our research, deer can be discouraged from invading gardens by bordering the gardens with certain plant species.
These plants don’t function as a mechanical border as deer could probably pass through if they wanted to. Instead, they repel the deer with their scent – some of these plants release such strong scents that they overwhelm the senses of the deer!
According to this study, some deer-resistant plants are kerrias, andromedas, golden bells, thyme, mint, lemon balm, daffodils, ornamental chives, snowdrops, dusty millers, marigolds, wild ginger, lilies, poppies, and barberry.
Planting a combination of these plants (the list above includes everything from perennials to shrubs) will make a good border and deter deer from your garden. No fences are required!
Plant a Small Hedge
Gardeners that look for a low-maintenance border often turn away from the idea of a hedge. This happens because hedges require a lot of work from their owners.
What about small hedges, though? A smaller hedge should need less work, right? That’s right – while you still need to keep it trimmed, there’s much less to trim.
The most important thing is to trim the hedge on time – that way, you’re ensuring that your small hedge doesn’t grow into a large one.
Make Use of Rocks
While making a garden border out of plants is great, using rocks will also achieve a great look. The most important thing about rocks is that they require the least maintenance out of all entries on this list.
Rocks aren’t expensive and are not an obstacle for the plants, as most small plants can be planted between rocks. Either way, they’re a great natural border (and a personal favorite).
A similar solution to using rocks is laying down white-colored bricks, which works particularly well as a border between flowers and the lawn!
Lay Down Gravel
Similar to our previous suggestion, gravel is a cheap and effective way of bordering your garden. Just like rocks, it needs very little or no maintenance, while it also comes with a significant advantage.
Gravel isn’t fertile ground for weeds – it’s highly unlikely that weed seeds will be able to settle and germinate in gravel. Plants generally don’t grow well in gravel because it dries too quickly and retains almost no water.
Remember, though, that gravel needs to be at least an inch thick to be effective as a weed barrier. Thicker than that is even better. We like to use closer to two inches of gravel.
Use Raised Beds and Wood
Since raised beds are usually bordered by wood, it made sense to fit these two in the same category. Using simple wooden pickets to border off a small flower bed is a beautiful way of separating the bed from the garden.
Another thing you can do is raise the bed – that bit of added height adds another dimension to your garden.
The important thing to remember about this is that wood is easy to take care of. It’s just important to paint it and protect it from the rain. Otherwise, it will start rotting with time.
Does it matter what a raised bed is made out of? I did a year-long research project comparing all sorts of soil temperatures – read my findings in my article: Does it Matter What You Make Grow Boxes or Raised Beds From?
Install a Flower Wall
Flower walls are a bit of an abstract concept to many gardeners, but they’re a great solution for bordering a garden. A flower wall is a small wooden wall – it can be as tall and wide (or narrow) as you’d like.
It has hanging flower pots drilled into the wall, making it a great finish for a garden. You can also set up automatic flower wall irrigation if you hang the pots below each other.
That way, when you water the top pot, excess water will naturally fall into the lower pot.
Minimize the Lawn – Use Paths
Here’s a controversial but water-wise idea – why don’t you minimize the lawn? We often underestimate how much care the lawn needs – money, water, and time-wise.
Instead of constantly caring for your lawn, why don’t you install paths? Ideally, you could install wooden, rock, or brick paths around the garden. They could be used not only as a path to walk on but as a border too.
That way, you have a lovely border and a path, and the time spent mowing the lawn is minimal.
And if you live in a drought-prone area? You’ll be saving a heck of a lot of water, too.
Plant Low Maintenance Vegetation
Low-maintenance plants need to be drought-resistant and require little fertilization and pruning. Essentially, these plants need you to plant them and let them grow. That’s about as low maintenance as it gets.
Ferns, for example, need very little care. Ornamental grasses, geraniums, and geums are all plants that need almost no care.
These are some of my favorite plants because I don’t have to spend hours caring for them. I just get to enjoy them!
Make Use of Arches
Although they might seem a bit low-effort, installing a simple arch is a classic way of bordering an area of a garden – especially if it’s a round area. The arch can be wire, wood, vinyl, or whatever material you’d like.
Combine this with a vine, such as poison ivy, to achieve an effect of nature and metal symbiosis.
Dig Out a Path
Maybe the word ‘dig’ isn’t the most accurate choice, but carving out a soil path around the garden is possibly the simplest way of bordering it. When planting your lawn, leave a path lawn-free and flatten the soil.
This way, you have a path to walk on (although brick and wooden paths are better because they don’t get muddy when it rains) and a natural border surrounding your garden.
Lay Down Old Roofing Tile
Old roofing tiles can make a great path or garden border. This is especially true if you’re going for a rustic look. Admittedly, it does take a bit of work as you have to place it around your plants, but it does pay off.
Roofing tile doesn’t take any water damage, and you won’t have to care for it. The coolest thing about it is that moss may start to grow on it with time, which accomplishes a truly unique look.
Use Sawdust and/or Wood Chips
Sawdust is often recommended for garden paths, but you can use it as both a garden path base and a garden border. It also works similarly to mulch in choking weeds (cool source).
However, it’s important not to use it near plants that need plenty of nitrogen (the most important plant nutrient). Sawdust promotes nitrogen use, as microorganisms from the soil use it to break sawdust down.
Because of this, using sawdust can be detrimental to some plants.
Sawdust can also blow away if you live in a particularly windy area.
Think of wood chips as an upgrade to sawdust. They can be used as a garden border that also keeps weeds at bay, but it doesn’t require as much nitrogen. Wood chips break down slower, so they waste less nitrogen.
In my experience, wood chips also cost a lot less than sawdust. So while they don’t break down as quickly (and still need refreshing yearly), they’re a fantastic option. We love mulching with wood chips!
Build with Garden Edging
Using garden edging is a simple and cheap way of bordering your plants. You can find these edges in any garden store – they’re usually plastic plates easily installed into the soil.
Gardeners often refrain from using these as they’re considered a cop-out, but hear us out now. Plastic and metal garden plates are cheap, durable, and easy to install. You also don’t need to care for them (aside from washing them with a hose every now and then).
This makes them a great low-maintenance option!
We’re in the process of building some grow beds near our home using garden edging right now. I can’t wait for it to be done!
Build a Wall
Building a very low wall is a great way to edge your garden. Since you’re sort of making a garden bed by doing this, you can raise it by filling it with soil.
Walls can be built from wood, stone, vinyl, concrete, or anything else.
Walls are super easy to take care of as all you have to do is repaint once a decade unless you go for the unpainted stone look. Then, you don’t ever have to paint it.
You can also install LEDs inside to show off your plants even when it’s dark outside.
Stones and Pebbles in a Mesh
The final idea requires a difficult setup, but it has super results. Like the previous option, you’re building a wall, but this time not out of concrete.
By setting up short wooden poles every three feet and connecting them with a mesh from both sides, you’re creating a space that can be filled with everything.
Stones and pebbles are the most popular option as they look natural, but you can also fill the mesh with wood chips.
The Utah Natural History Museum has a whole retaining wall system built with this method, and it’s amazing. They use stones inside the wire mesh.
Now that we’ve gone through 17 great garden border ideas let’s make sure we leave no stone unturned – or no question unanswered! If I haven’t answered your question yet, it may be below. If not, please use our contact us page to ask your question. We’ll do our best to answer it and get the information added to this article.
How do I make a simple garden border?
DIYers can make the simplest garden borders by digging a ditch line around the plants you want to border. Fill that ditch with wood chips or gravel, the two cheapest options, and you have the simplest of garden borders.
Which is the most cost-effective, low-maintenance garden border?
The most cost-effective, low-maintenance, and longest-lasting border will depend on the area, what materials must be bought vs. found, upkeep requirements, aesthetics, and other personal preferences. Stone, brick, or concrete walls generally require little upkeep after installation.
The most cost-effective border are the ones that require the least investment. This includes using mulch and sawdust as materials for bordering. Planting a hedge or other plants as a border isn’t as cost-effective as plants are more expensive than the materials we discussed.
However, you will have to replace the sawdust with time. It will either get dispersed by wind, or it’ll be broken down. Because of this, remember that cost-effectiveness isn’t the same as being long-lasting.
Although it’s initially a big investment compared to other options, building a low, stone-based, or concrete wall is the best long-term option. Think about it – concrete or stone walls don’t break down easily and need the least maintenance out of all options!
What is a good low-growing border plant?
Short hedges are great border plants, but you can also use foamflowers and stonecrops. It’s best to opt for plants that don’t need too much watering and fertilization.
What is the most low-maintenance outdoor plant?
The most low-maintenance outdoor plants are local, natural plants that grow in the area already. These will require the least amount of upkeep and care because they are native species already adapted to the area.
Cacti are great outdoor plants that require little care but can only grow in arid areas. Cacti are potentially dangerous if you have dogs or small children. Other low-maintenance plants are geraniums, hollies, and magnolias.
How do you make a beautiful, low-maintenance garden?
The key to a beautiful but low-maintenance garden is to plan the space carefully. Focus on planned spaces for use, paths, and native plants that don’t require much fertilization. Use mulch to protect plants and control weeds.
Invest in paths rather than a lawn, as lawns require a lot of care. Focus on drought-resistant plants and plants that don’t need much fertilization. It’d also be good to use mulch as much as possible, as it’s a great way to eliminate weeds.
Borders like concrete walls or stones and pebbles in a mesh might require a bit more money and man hours, but they need almost no maintenance for the rest of their lifetime!
Cheaper borders, such as simple stone or mulch borders, are aesthetically just as effective if you use them right, but you’ll likely have to refresh them after some time.
Despite that, they’re still very low-maintenance solutions you can apply to any garden if you do it right.
Now that you’ve got some great ideas for your garden’s border, give this a read next: 10 Ways to Keep Chickens Out of Flower Beds and Gardens. That way, you can keep chickens – and keep them out of your garden!
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Border shrubs / RHS Gardening. (n.d.). Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/types/shrubs/border.
- Garden Mulches. (2021, July 8). University of New Hampshire Extension. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://extension.unh.edu/resource/garden-mulches-fact-sheet.
- Mulching Garden Soils – Oklahoma State University. (2017, February 1). Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/mulching-garden-soils.html
- Ward, J. (2000, November). Limiting Deer Browse Damage to Landscape Plants. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://www.wiltonct.org/sites/g/files/vyhlif4046/f/uploads/b968limitingdeerbrowsing.pdf
Leave a Reply