12 Ways To Go Low Maintenance in Your Yard

Give your landscape a low-maintenance, (plus cost-saving, less back-breaking and earth-friendly) makeover with these easy-to-use tips and tricks.

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Low-Maintenance Landscape

Cultivating an eye-catching landscape doesn’t have to gobble up every free moment. By streamlining landscape chores, your yard can explode with beauty — even as your chore list lightens. This front yard welcomes with mixed plantings: trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Give planting beds a wide, sloping trench edge to make mowing easy. Simply drop a set of mower wheels into the trench to cut grass along the bed edge and you can skip string trimming.

Mow Less

The secret to mowing your way to a beautiful lawn is mowing less, but not in the way you might think. Many homeowners believe that if they delay mowing until grass is overly long and then scalp it, they won’t need to mow again soon. That type of mowing will slowly kill your lawn. The secret to a healthy lawn with the least amount of cutting? Mow to maintain a consistent height throughout the growing season, the ideal height for your type of turf (learn that from your local extension office). Never remove more than one-third of a grass blade’s length at each mowing, and let clippings lie. In combination, these practices can help you tend a lush, low-maintenance lawn.

Automate Watering

Invest in the right watering equipment to make irrigation a hands-free chore. Simple dial-type timers paired with soaker hoses can automate watering in any planting bed. Using soaker hoses also saves water compared to overhead sprinklers, because water lands on a plant’s root zone. When using irrigation timers, be sure to turn off the system during rainy weather.

Use Mulch

Mulch is the No. 1 secret to low maintenance gardening. Apply it in a layer 2 to 3 inches thick, and it will help suppress weeds (less weeding for you) and reduce water evaporation from soil (less watering for you). Maintain mulch by applying a fresh layer as needed to maintain that ideal depth. In warm regions, you may need to apply mulch twice a year. In zones with cold winters, an annual mulch should be sufficient.

Choose Plants Wisely

As you select plants for your landscape, take time to place plants where they’ll thrive. Be sure to give them the right amount of sunlight, the proper soil and enough elbow room to reach their mature size. There’s nothing worse than planting a shrub you have to prune constantly to make it fit your space. If a plant catches your eye like this Black Lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra, grows 6-8 feet tall and wide), do some quick research to learn if there’s another similar plant that might fit your spot better. Black Beauty elderberry grows even bigger (8-12 feet tall and wide), while Laced Up elderberry is the choice for small spaces, growing 6-10 feet tall and only 3-4 feet wide.

Try Composite Decking

Whether you go for a hammock snooze or a family picnic, nothing compares to relaxing on your deck. Wood decking demands constant upkeep — scrubbing, bleaching and staining. Composite polymer decking, on the other hand, lasts longer, stays cooler to the touch and retains its color, all while capturing the warmth of wood. Better still, composite decking helps the environment, keeping about 30 pounds of plastic (usually milk jugs and shopping bags) out of landfills for every 20 feet of decking.

Plant Easy-Care Containers

Container gardens add splashes of portable color to outdoor settings, but if you love pots of color, you also know it can take daily attention to keep plants looking their best. One way to expedite the care routine is to fill your containers with shrubs that deliver strong color for the entire growing season. Shrubs typically need less grooming than annuals and do their thing as long as you water. This pair of shrubs feature Bangle Dyers greenwood (Genista lydia) and Black Lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’). Both of these shrubs flower in spring, but the leaves bring strong color and texture all season long.

Go Hands-Free With Watering

Take your containers to the next level of low-maintenance care by installing an automated irrigation system. This pot watering system includes a hose and fittings that allow you to snip the hose so you can insert microtubing, which delivers water to the soaker hoses. It’s a slick system that works well with smaller numbers of pots. If fittings keep popping off as you run the system, water pressure is likely too high.

Work With What You Have

If you have an area where turf is thin or just won’t grow, swap it for some easy-care ornamental grasses and sedge. These plants bring texture and year-long interest to any yard, and their care routine is beyond simple. An annual trim keeps most grasses in check, while sedges need very little annual grooming. A quick brush in early to mid-spring with gloved hands is usually enough to pull out dead stems and trigger new growth.

Make Weeding Easier

Weeding is probably one of the worst jobs in the landscape, but you can make even this must-do chore easier. First, tackle weeding in small bites — it’s easier on your body and mental state. Second, use the right tools. Invest in weeding tools that work. Consider things like a digging knife, Asian hoe or an ergonomic weeder designed to give you leverage when dealing with tap-rooted interlopers like thistle or dandelion. Lastly, tackle weeding at the right time; after rain or watering when the soil is moist and weeds pull easier.

Stop Weeds From Growing

No one wants to spend every weekend weeding, and you won’t have to if you apply a pre-emergent weed control like Preen. These types of weed control interfere with weed seed germination and keep working for weeks on end. They’re easy to apply and make a world of difference in terms of weekly weeding. It’s the ultimate low-maintenance trick to transform your landscape and free up your time.

Trade Turf For Flowers

Lawns demand a lot of time and attention to look their best. Mowing, weeding, feeding — it’s a year-round effort to keep grass gorgeous. One way to reduce your time investment in lawn care is to limit the amount of lawn you have. Trade turf for pretty planting beds stocked with shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses. This bed happens to be a rain garden, which means its beauty is more than petal deep. It also helps to disperse rainwater runoff.

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