If you have any kind of yard at all and don’t want it to be an eyesore, you must maintain it. But maybe you don’t feel you’re a landscaping expert or simply don’t have the time to keep up appearances. There are some steps you can take to make your landscape as low-maintenance as you would like. While no landscape can be completely work-free, you can decrease your lawn and garden chore time and increase your rest and recreation hours by implementing any of these low-maintenance landscape tips.
Step 1: Planning is Paramount
To make your landscape low-maintenance, thinking and planning your landscape is essential. Use a notebook and pencil to sketch out your plan and jot down your ideas. The more time you put into planning, the less work you’ll have to do later, which is a good first step toward a low-maintenance landscape.
Evaluate your current landscape. Note the types of plants and vegetation that are currently growing, as well as any hardscaping, existing flowerbeds, and any areas of excess sun or shade.
Evaluate your soil with a pH test kit. Knowing the type of soil with which you’re working will help you decide which plants to use and which fertilizers are applicable. The healthier your soil, the healthier your plants, which cuts down on tending to them.
Determine your particular needs. Plan your landscape around how you’ll be using it. Houses with small children may need open, grassy areas that are safe and easily monitored. If you like to entertain, you may have an established patio area for special occasions. Expanding your patio and adding additional paved areas or hardscaping features can cut down on plant maintenance as well as create an even more attractive destination for family and friends. If you have pets, they often bring additional landscaping maintenance tasks to your workload. Creating a separate outdoor space for pets to do their business can let you enjoy your pets’ company and reduce the wear they can create on your landscape, which in turn decreases lawn maintenance tasks.
Be honest with yourself about how much time you want or plan to spend working in the yard. Planning it out and starting small and simple will go a long way toward creating your low-maintenance landscape.
Step 2: Keep It Simple
Make your landscape design simple to keep it low-maintenance. If you don’t like raking leaves, remove trees that lose their leaves excessively each season. While it may seem like a big job now, removing trees and other plants that create more work will pay off in the long run. Conversely, if you want to plant trees, starting with ones that do not shed leaves excessively will cut down on your workload.
If you don’t have time for watering or just want to avoid it, consider installing an underground sprinkler system. This type of irrigation system isn’t all that difficult to implement and allows you to water your landscape with the turn of a knob.
How much lawn do you need? It may seem obvious, but reducing the amount of grass and other plant growth by expanding paved patio areas and hardscaping features can decrease the amount of yard work you do while also expanding your outdoor living space. Current trends see many homeowners forgoing a traditional backyard lawn and replacing it with expanded patio/outdoor kitchen setups and the like. Hardscaping requires less maintenance than a lawn or flowerbeds and can be the perfect choice for someone who wants to reduce their work in the yard to the bare minimum. This also is a great alternative to annually trying to make grass grow where it always has trouble doing so. Stop trying to make grass happen in troublesome patches of your property and replace it with hardscaping.
Keep in mind that even hard surfaces made of concrete, stone, and brick will need maintenance periodically, just not as much as your grass and flowerbeds. Concrete surfaces can last many years without maintenance. Paver and brick patios and walkways often need some kind of maintenance every three to five years depending on how much the ground settles. Keep this in mind when deciding on your materials.
Step 3: Low-Maintenance Plants
Use only a few low-maintenance plant species to decrease time spent on upkeep. A good approach is to ensure that each plant serves a purpose. A high-maintenance plant may require that you give it excess attention by pruning and watering, etc. While you may be tempted to plant whatever strikes you as attractive, the more elaborate and diverse your collective plantings are, the more your time spent maintaining your plants can increase.
Get to know the plants you want to use. Learn how they grow and to what size. Find out if they are evergreen or deciduous, annual or perennial. Do they attract or resist insects and other pests? Choosing plants that are native to your region can make a big difference in how well they thrive, which in turn affects how much maintenance they may require. Do they drop a lot of leaves, seed pods or fruit? If so, you may want to avoid them or remove them if you already have them, as they can only add to your maintenance tasks.
Many shrubs, groundcover plants and perennials are good low-maintenance picks.
Some common, low-maintenance plant choices include:
Trees and shrubs generally require less care than flowers and other plants. If you’re unsure how much maintenance is involved with each plant, ask an expert at your local True Value hardware store.
Keeping plants grouped together in beds makes maintenance easier than isolated plants spread throughout the landscape.
If your region is arid or drought-prone, practice xeriscaping—the use of plants that require less irrigation and are more resistant to drought.
Don’t be averse to letting some parts of your property grow “wild.” If your property is adjacent to a wooded area, for example, you can let these border areas go, which cuts down on the amount of required maintenance and creates a nice transition from the more manicured sections of your yard to the woods beyond.
Groundcover plants require less regular care than turfgrass. They also work well on slopes that are difficult to cut or in places where you struggle to grow grass. Placing groundcover along borders and fences can cut down on how much you have to use a string trimmer to trim grass your mower can’t reach.
Step 4: Keep It Low-Maintenance
The way you create your landscape also plays a part in keeping things low-maintenance. For example, you can keep weeds at bay by mulching garden beds. Adding about 3” of shredded bark mulch helps keep weeds from growing in beds and keeps plants healthier by insulating them from temperature extremes.
You can fight weeds in your yard and keep the grass healthy by mowing at the right height. Grass that is too short makes your lawn susceptible to weed growth and sun damage. It is generally recommended that your grass be at least 2" tall. If you’re not sure, set your mower at a higher setting to start, so that it doesn’t cut off more than 1/3 of the grass blades’ height.
Fertilizing your grass at least once each season helps it stay healthy, which will cut down on how much care you have to give it generally. Many fertilizers also contain a weed or pest control ingredient to make your lawn even more maintenance-free. Leaving grass trimmings on your lawn after cutting not only reduces your amount of work, it also can be good for the grass when the trimmings decompose and provide the grass with needed nutrients.
Watering correctly keeps your plants healthy, thus reducing needed care. Too little water and your plants will wither and require more upkeep. Too much water can lead to fungus growth and disease. Lawns typically need about 1” of water per week for healthy growth.
That’s it! Now you know some ways to keep your landscape as low-maintenance as you want it to be.
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