Your front yard curb appeal is the first impression people get of your home, and we all want our yards to look their best. But what if your idea of a fun weekend isn’t spending hours mowing, weeding, pruning, and watering your yard? That’s why, as landscape designers, we love low-maintenance front yard landscaping!
How do I start creating a low maintenance yard?
Many homeowners get overwhelmed at the thought of landscaping. We get it. You may have an understanding of what flowers you like and don’t like, but if you don’t have a green thumb or prior plant knowledge then creating layers, companion planting, understanding how to create seasonality in your front yard and foundation plantings – would require hours of research.
However, when you are planning to update your front yard landscaping, it’s well worth incorporating low maintenance landscaping ideas. Low maintenance landscape will not only save you hours of yard work, but generally the principles behind low maintenance landscaping are practical and sustainable.
Here are a few yard landscaping ideas to consider.
#1 // Plan Your Landscape Ahead of Time
When creating low maintenance landscaping you should consider who is using the front yard and how you want to be able to use it. This is something you should think about before ANY landscape design project. Is your backyard an oasis where you spend hours with your family playing? Do you want to entertain big groups of people for Football Sundays? Is it a space to relax and find some quiet? We recommend making a ranked list to help sort out your priorities and dictate the layout of your landscape design.
Once you have your priorities you can start thinking about incorporating some low maintenance landscaping ideas that will work in your yard.
Big green lawns have been the status quo for American homes for decades now, but we’re here to tell you that you have better options. Common lawn grass requires lots of water, fertilizing, and mowing, and it will still turn yellow. Trying to fix your lawn with fertilizer and pesticide can lead to run-off that can be damaging to wild plants and animals. Grass also doesn’t benefit our pollinators and cutting it too short has many harmful wildlife implications as well. Grass is high-maintenance in the most favorable of conditions and even worse in dry, drought-prone areas like the American southwest.
Try Alternative Lawn Options
Luckily, it’s proven you can have a beautiful yard without it. There are many more interesting things you can do with all that space than just lawn! For example, add some hardscape elements. Hardscape includes anything that is a non-living element of your yard. So, for example a deck, patio or large porch can be a functional option to expand your outdoor space while also eliminating some grass.
Add a Walkway
You can also look at your lawn – are there bare spots from heavy foot traffic? If so, that’s clearly a common path and you can replace it with a great walkway. These don’t have to break the bank, a gravel or mulch pathway can be the perfect low maintenance landscaping addition to your space.
Add Fun Features
Beyond hardscape, lawn space can be reduced with a whole range of functional and fun features including flower beds, vegetable gardens, water features, or even a bocce ball court or cornhole setup!
#2 // Choose Low Maintenance Plants
Swapping out or selecting the right plantings can be one of the easiest low cost, low maintenance front yard landscaping upgrades to make.
When you’re actually shopping, it can be tempting to add all the boldest, splashiest flowers at the nursery to your cart without a second thought. If you hit the checkout without doing a little research, you’ll find yourself outside in the cold wrapping your gardenias with blankets every time the temperature drops below 55oF. You can make your lawn care much easier if you select plants that are well-suited to your environment.
Focus on Native Plants
To solve this, you should choose plants that are native to your region. Natives have evolved to thrive in your soil and weather conditions and to resist your local pests, all without added fertilizers or pesticides. While no plant is zero-maintenance and natives will still benefit from periodic maintenance, they are specialized to survive using what nature gives them and require less plant maintenance than most. As an added bonus, native plants have many benefits to pollinators and local wildlife.
If you’re worried about the variety and appearance of plants available to you, don’t be! Most climates have a wide range of native plants for full sun and shady areas, for all different garden styles, flowers to trees – that will elevate a low-maintenance front yard landscape.
#3 // Remove High Maintenance Trees and Plants
We are all about trees and feel a front yard can look bare without a great tree. Trees bring grandeur to your property, add charm and bring us much needed shade. However, there are times when a high maintenance tree should be removed. First, if a tree is invasive to the area we always recommend removing it – some towns will even pay to remove it for you.
Other instances where a tree may need to be removed includes if it’s clogging gutters, too close to the home, dropping spiky fruit or other damaging fruits or nuts. Occasionally a tree will grow too quickly, outgrowing its space and would benefit from being relocated. There are also instances where a tree creates too much shade in your garden and you’ll have to decide what’s better – removing the tree or moving the garden beds.
When it comes to plants we always recommend removing invasive plants. Invasives require a lot of maintenance as they generally spread quickly and overtake everything around them. This is harmful not only to the native plants, but to the wildlife in the area that rely on the native plants.
#4 // Install an Underground Sprinkler System
Installing an irrigation system is a great way to protect your landscape design investment and avoid spending hours setting up your garden hose for some curb appeal. Even drought resistant and low maintenance plants require water to establish their roots. You shouldn’t be watering your plants and lawn all the time, but occasionally using smart watering practices can help your landscape thrive in today’s ever changing weather patterns.
#5 // Select Low Maintenance Materials & Plants
Not all landscape elements are created equal when it comes to maintenance. There are certain materials that will make for a much lower maintenance garden than others.
We Love Ground Cover Plants
If you love a natural look, there are many ground cover options that require less water, less fertilizer, and less work while providing a valuable environment for pollinators and wildlife. Some great examples of ground covers, which will depend on where you live, include clovers, honeysuckle, vinca minor, creeping phlox, creeping Jenny, creeping thyme and more. Groundcovers can be an excellent option for steep slopes or shady areas where grass doesn’t grow and you currently see bare spots.
Opt for Perennial Plants
Perennials come back year after year and will reduce your workload and time spent fighting weeds and planting. A lovely grouping of black eyed susans, catmint, iris, stonecrop or daisies are great flowers for continued enjoyment. Of course, don’t forget to check their care requirements because each perennial has different needs!
Evergreens are a Staple
Evergreens will provide vibrant shades of green all year round with minimal care once they’re established. Options can include everything from showy deciduous trees to understated hedges and shrubs. These are a simple landscape choice for privacy, to add texture and a seasonal green backdrop.
Ornamental Grasses Are Easy
Ornamental grasses are a great low maintenance landscaping option. You can find a variety of grass that’s native to your area and don’t have to be a landscaping expert to find ways to incorporate them into your yard. From creating a great border, providing seasonal interest, filling space in a garden bed, or adding texture to a design- ornamental grasses have a large variety of uses in landscape design.
Must Have Drought-Tolerant Plants
Drought tolerant plants have adapted to drier climates and will naturally use less water and maintenance than other plants. If you live somewhere that has recently experienced drought, drought tolerant plants are a critical piece to your low maintenance landscape plan.
#6 // Consider Your Hardscape Options
When you know what hardscape elements you are including in your plan it’s worth doing research on what works best for your climate, family and budget? Maybe a concrete patio is less work and meets your design goals – it’s also a great blank canvas for design. Maybe your walkways are all brick and brick patios will blend in well. Maybe you are okay with spending a little extra for composite decking for a front stoop understanding its long term value and that it’s less upkeep.
Use Gravel & River Rocks
A gravel or river rock garden doesn’t need fertilizer, water or have sun requirements. If you live in the Southwest or parts of the South, gravel is an inexpensive option for garden beds and lawns. In certain areas of the US, a gravel space may feel out of place for curb appeal in some neighborhoods, but they can be a great option for a driveway, walkway or a path from the front yard to the backyard. Gravel will require some work, keeping dirt and debris out of it, but it still should require less time and money to maintain.
Try Artificial Turf
Artificial turf bridges the gap between the ease of an inorganic ground cover and the lush appearance of natural grass. Artificial grass has come a long way in the last sixty years, and you can easily find beautiful options that require minimal effort.
Mulch is key to helping your garden and gives your landscaping a nice finished look. Mulch creates a barrier between the sun and your plants, protecting them from drying out or frying in the heat. Mulch also helps water from your garden hose reach the plant’s roots instead of evaporating quickly in extreme heat.
General Tips for Low Maintenance Landscaping
When thinking about low maintenance landscaping ideas, your design and outdoor living space there are some things you can do to set yourself up for success!
Prep Your Soil Before Planting
We recommend loosening your soil for about 12” underneath your new plantings and adding compost to it. Loosening soil will aerate it, allow the roots to thrive, and allow for better drainage.
Densely planted flowers will choke out weeds and lessen weed growth to keep your work light. If you prefer a more minimal look, sparsely-placed plants surrounded by mulch will have the same effect in your landscaping.
What is the lowest-maintenance garden?
Any outdoor space will require some maintenance. The goal is to design something in your comfort zone that works for your climate and time commitment.
Happy planning! We can’t wait to see your new beautiful yard – that hopefully is low maintenance so you can spend time relaxing instead of doing yard work.