This blog post was originally written for The Family Handyman. All of the photos are from my garden.
I’m a yard and garden nut, and there’s nothing I love more than digging in the dirt. But I’m also very busy, so I need my yard and garden to thrive without a lot of watering, weeding and fertilizing. If you want a beautiful yard without a lot of fuss, here are six low-maintenance landscaping tips that will keep your yard looking great with minimal effort.
1. Replace some of your turf with ground covers
Low maintenance ground cover sedums are deer- and drought-proof and thrive in both sunny and shady soil. Pictured are Sedum rupestre “Angelina” and Sedum spurium “Dragon’s Blood.”
A lot of folks love their lawns, but frankly, a good-looking lawn requires a lot of care. If you replace some of your grass with an appropriate ground cover, you’ll slash your chore time without sacrificing a lovely yard. Consider replacing the turf in problem spots such as shady, hot or rocky areas with a ground cover that thrives under those conditions. Check with your local extension service for a list of appropriate ground covers.
2. Use drought-tolerant plants
Drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, a Nearly Wild rose and Saponaria (soapwort) thrive without additional watering in my Zone 4 garden.
Watering restrictions are a reality in many areas, and it makes sense to reduce watering chores whenever possible. Choose plants, trees and shrubs that require less water to thrive. There are many beautiful options that will work in a variety of soils and climates. The key is to carefully match the plant to its site and to water it carefully for the first year or two. Once it establishes a good root system, it will mature with minimal watering.
3. Select carefree shrubs and trees
A dwarf globe spruce, upright juniper, barberry and smaller blooming ninebark (choose Seward “Summer Wine” or “Little Devil”) play nicely together each year with minimal pruning.
Plant shrubs and trees that won’t require a lot of your attention as they grow. There are many new plants specifically bred for their smaller stature as well as disease and pest resistance. Dwarf conifers, smaller shrubs and yard trees that reach 10 to 15 ft. at maturity mean reduced pruning chores and less chance that you’ll have to remove them when they outgrow their sites or become diseased.
4. Hardscape with permeable materials
Inexpensive patio pavers set in a grid and surrounded by trap rock make an elegant, simple and environmentally friendly courtyard. And yes, this is our cool house.
Patios, walkways, courtyards and other hardscape elements add a bit of magic to any yard and reduce landscaping chores. Choose materials and designs that allow rainwater to permeate the soil to irrigate plantings, minimize erosion and prevent runoff. These include organic mulches, gravel, stone and permeable pavers.
5. Mulch heavily, turn soil rarely and plant densely to minimize weeding
Keep weeding chores to a minimum by mulching heavily with compost and shredded bark. Plant things close together to shade out weeds, and avoid turning the soil, which exposes dormant weed seeds to sunlight. Instead, let the earthworms from your compost do the cultivating for you.
6. Minimize labor-intensive plantings
I love roses, but most require a lot of water, fertilizer and pesticides to look their best. I’m not saying you should give up everything you love, but choose your plantings carefully. If the majority of your landscape is relatively carefree, you’ll have more time to keep your finicky plants looking their best.