We all want to have a beautiful lawn, but some of us just aren’t prepared to be outside watering, weeding, mowing, and fertilizing for hours every weekend. Enter: low maintenance landscaping. Keep reading to discover landscaping ideas that will help you create a yard that’s gorgeous, sustainable, and requires minimal care—which means you can spend your weekends doing more of the things you love.
What is Low Maintenance Landscaping?
Low maintenance landscaping is landscaping that, once installed, should require minimal upkeep from you. It’s important to note that there’s no such thing as NO maintenance landscaping unless you’re aiming for a yard that’s entirely plant-free—and if you want to rock the 100% hardscape garden look! For those of us who love green, there are many strategies for creating a low maintenance front yard (or back yard, or side yard) that looks lush but requires minimal TLC.
How to Make Your Landscaping Low Maintenance
Plant native plants
Plants that are native to your climate, soil, and geography are simply going to grow better there. Native plants are the ideal low maintenance landscaping plants because they require less water (thank you, deep root systems) and fertilizer (they love your soil as is) than plants that are imported from other areas. Plus, these slow and steady growers help you keep pruning to a minimum.
A little research will reveal beautiful local plants that will thrive in your low maintenance front yard landscaping or backyard landscaping plans—and as an added bonus they help to restore food and habitats for local wildlife. That’s a win-win for everybody in the ecosystem!
Reduce your grass
Grass is often the standard for lawns across the country, but it doesn’t have to be. Typical lawn grass guzzles water and requires fertilizer and lots of care to keep that well-manicured green look that many people love. Being out with the mower every week is a big commitment—and running a gas-powered lawn mower for just one hour releases the same amount of pollution as a 20 mile car trip. You can start to make a positive difference by not mowing the grass you do have as short. It’s less work for you, and letting it grow out provides habitats for pollinators.
Another option to consider is to cut back on the amount of grass included in your landscaping. Try swapping some of your turf for other ground cover crops like clover or moss which stay low to the ground and don’t require mowing. If you love the look of grass, try hard fescue—a great no mow grass. You can also opt for more hardscaping with gravel, stone, or pavers. There are plenty of alternatives whether you’re looking to switch up part of your lawn or you’re ready for a fully no grass front yard.
Try xeriscape landscaping
Xeriscape is a landscaping technique designed to use as little water as possible. This is especially well suited to arid climates (it’s the perfect drought tolerant landscaping), but you don’t need to have a full desert landscape front yard to benefit from xeriscaping! There are many techniques that can apply to lawns and gardens in every climate because low water landscaping = low maintenance landscaping.
Planting with low water use plants is essential for this type of design, of course. Xeriscaping ideas include native plants and hardy plants with deep root systems. Plan ahead and make sure to group plants with similar water and light needs together to make care much simpler down the road.
And don’t be afraid to add more hardscape to your yard. Rock gardens are a xeriscaping staple, combining hardy plants with stone and gravel in an arrangement that’s beautiful, weed-blocking, and water efficient. There are also many classic lawn and garden styles that lend themselves to xeriscaping—swapping some greenery for a patio or a paved path means less for you to water.
In addition to selecting plants with low water needs, there are other strategies to make sure that you’re using your water as efficiently as possible. While the set-it-and-forget-it power of a sprinkler system is easy for homeowners, investing in a smart water system is ultimately better for your wallet and the enviornment. These systems will keep track of when you do get rain to make sure that they’re not wasting water (and drowning your plants) by spritzing them immediately after a rainfall.
We mentioned grouping plants with similar water needs together—take it a step further by creating rain gardens. Rain gardens are planted areas that are sunken down below normal ground level to help collect rainwater runoff. Your thirstiest plants will love the extra dose of water, and your low water needs plants will appreciate that runoff being elsewhere if you experience unusually heavy rainfall.
We always encourage skipping chemicals in your lawn and garden care. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers can run off into the water supply and they can be harmful to humans, pets, local wildlife, and a healthy soil microbiome. Plus, chemical lawn fertilizers can actually block grass from photosynthesizing—that doesn’t help you have a healthier lawn.
Hardy plants will help you skip the need for these products entirely. Native plants are suited to your local ecosystem, including pests, which means they can often forego pesticides of any kind. They’re also specialized to grow in your native soil and can grow without any added chemical fertilizers. If you’d like to give your plants a boost of nutrition, consider natural alternatives like compost and worm castings. There are also many non-chemical pest control options that will curb any tenacious leaf chompers.
You Can Go Low Maintenance a Little at a Time
The vast range of options for overhauling your current landscaping can feel a little overwhelming, but don’t worry—you don’t have to do it all at once. If you’re ready to redo your whole lawn and create the low maintenance yard of your dreams, that’s amazing! If you’re looking for a simple weekend project to help you cut down on your water bill, low maintenance landscaping techniques work for you too.
Low maintenance landscaping isn’t all or nothing. On the contrary, it’s all about compromise. Whether you’re committed to your turf lawn, you can’t let go of the beautiful-but-needy roses in your planting beds, or you’re just working on a shoestring budget, that’s okay. Pick and choose the strategies that work for you and you can chip away at your yard maintenance and yard landscape ideas bit by bit until you reach a level that’s comfortable for you. Plus, those little actions add up—every sustainable swap helps your ecosystem.
Now we want to hear from you: what’s the next low maintenance landscaping swap you want to make for your yard?