How to have a garden without having a garden

Photo by Antonina Potapenko/Shutterstock

It’s been decisively proven that gardening has many benefits. Studies have shown over and over again that having a garden is good for physical and mental health. One Dutch study found that after gardening, people had lower cortisol levels (cortisol becomes elevated when people experience stress), while other research has shown gardening is good for the hands, reduces the risk of dementia and helps alleviate depression.

But what if you don’t have the time, stamina, or resources to put together a full-blown garden? Don’t give up just yet—there are some lower maintenance garden options for people with less time, space, or mobility. Here are some perfect gardens for people who can’t have gardens. Enjoy un-gardening!

Have a potted garden on a balcony or patio

Potted plants

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Working a chunk of your yard into a healthy, weed-free garden can take a lot of initial work. If it hasn’t been prepped, you need to loosen the earth, mix in compost, weed, and do the planting. However, to create a potted garden, you can skip some of the most daunting steps. Buy good soil with compost incorporated, choose some pots, plant, and there you have it! A garden relatively free of weeds and ready to grow. It’s surprising how many plants will grow well on a balcony. You can make flowers or even have a vegetable garden with everything from strawberries to tomatoes. Water it, keep it in the appropriate sunlight, and enjoy being surrounded by green when you step out onto your balcony.

Make a zen garden

A zen garden with a rock and sand..

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A zen garden doesn’t necessarily require plants, but it does use some of the same skills (and offer some of the same benefits) as regular gardening. A zen garden usually consists of gravel and sand (which is raked to create a rippled look, representing water), rock arrangements, and sometimes moss, small bushes, and water features. You can make a zen garden as simple or as complex as you like. It can be as small as a tray on your desk or as large as your yard. If you want a great-looking yard feature but don’t want to be continually weeding, a zen garden might be the way to go.

Maintain a bonsai tree

A Bonsai tree.

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If you don’t have the time to maintain an entire garden of plants but you still want to exercise your green thumb, a bonsai tree might be a good solution. These miniature trees require some careful pruning and watering, which result in a miniature tree that looks a lot like a large one. This is also a great option for people who want to care for something long-term, rather than seeing their garden end in the winter. A bonsai tree can take years to get into top form, and bonsai trees can live as long as their “parent” trees—that’s hundreds of years! A bonsai tree is the garden you can pass on to future generations.

Create a moss garden

A moss garden.

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Mosses and creeping plants are a great alternative to traditional gardens and lawns. You can buy mosses, lichens, and ferns, or you can harvest them in the wild (or take cuttings from a friend). Just make sure you don’t take too much—the plants will spread in your own garden anyway. You can also grow moss in pots as a nice, low-maintenance houseplant. Moss grows easily, and it still has all the appeal of a soft, green, calming plant.

Keep cacti and succulents

Potted cactus among other cactuses indoors.

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Does every plant you try to grow wither and die? Do you forget to water your garden? Cacti and succulents might be for you. These plants are hardy, don’t need much water or excessive care, and look amazing. There are tons of different kinds of succulents out there, many with incredible shapes and colours. Cacti are actually usually types of succulents, and they too come in a huge array of colours and sizes. A succulent garden is whimsical, diverse, and virtually unkillable.

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