8 Makeover Tips for a Low-Maintenance Yard
Low maintenance doesn’t have to mean less beautiful. Streamline your landscape chores and create a wonderful outdoor experience in your yard with these easy tips and tricks.
1. Less Frequent Mowing
It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the secrets to a beautiful lawn is actually mowing less — but not in the way you might imagine. Delaying mowing until the grass is overly long and then cutting it super short is not the way to go. In fact, that technique will slowly kill the lawn.
Instead, the secret is to maintain a consistent height throughout the mowing season, which would be the height that is ideal for your specific type of turf. Each time you mow, never cut more than one-third of a grass blade’s length. You should also let the grass clippings lie on the grass. Using these two practices, you’ll have a lush, low-maintenance lawn in no time.
2. Automated Hands-Free Watering
Go ahead, invest in watering equipment to automate this chore. Simple dial-type timers, when paired with soaker hoses, can automate irrigation in just about any plant bed. Soaker hoses also save water when compared to overhead sprinklers due to the water landing directly on a plant’s root zone. Automated irrigation systems can also be used on container plants and gardens. Remember to turn off your irrigation systems during rainy weather.
3. Mulch Your Beds
The number one secret to low maintenance gardening? Mulch. Simply apply it around trees or to plant beds in a layer 2 to 3 inches thick. It will help suppress weed growth and reduce water evaporation from the soil, resulting in less weeding and watering for you. Maintain the mulch by adding a fresh layer as needed. Warmer regions may find it necessary to apply mulch twice a year, while those in colder zones should only need to reapply once.
4. Pick & Place Plants Wisely
When selecting plants for your landscape, take the time to research and find out which plants will serve your needs best. Then be sure to place them where they’ll thrive — a spot with the right amount of sunlight, proper soil, and enough room to grow to maturity. Because let’s face it, choosing a shrub that needs constant pruning to fit your space is the pits. If you’re drawn to a plant that is too large for your space, research a bit to see if there’s a similar plant that might be a better fit. For instance, Black Beauty elderberry grows 8 to 12 feet tall and wide, while Laced Up elderberry grows only 6 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide — a much better fit for smaller spaces.
5. Opt for Composite Decking
Whether relaxing alone or enjoying a small outdoor get-together, spending time on your deck can be a great experience. However, wood decking requires constant maintenance, from scrubbing to bleaching to staining. The solution? Try composite polymer decking. Not only does it last longer than wood, it also retains its color and stays cooler to the touch. The best part? Composite decking does not compromise on the aesthetic warmth wood provides, and helps the environment by keeping plastic out of landfills.
6. Easy-Care Container Gardens
The perfect solution for adding bright, bold color to outdoor settings, container gardens often need daily attention to keep the plants looking their best. One way to cut down on the care routine is to fill your containers with shrubs that bring strong color for the entire season. Shrubs generally need less grooming than annuals and pretty much stay robust as long as they have water. Two examples of low-maintenance shrubs that provide strong color are Bangle Dyers greenwood and Black Lace elderberry. Although they both flower in spring, the leaves bring bold color and texture all season long.
7. Work With Existing Conditions
Sometimes our yards have areas where turf is thin or just won’t grow at all. Don’t waste time and energy fighting with them. Instead, add some texture and year-round interest by switching them out for some easy-care sedge and ornamental grasses. Most grasses just need an annual trim, and sedges require very little grooming as well. In fact, just a quick brush in early to mid-spring with your gloved hands is enough to remove dead stems and stimulate new growth.
8. Streamline Weeding
Most people will agree that weeding is one of the most tedious and time consuming chores. The good news is that even this must-do job can be made easier. To start, divide up your weeding into smaller bites — it’s less strain on your mind and your body. Next, be sure to invest in weeding tools that are effective and do the job right. For instance, look into items like a high-quality digging knife, Asian hoe or ergonomic weeders specifically designed for leverage when addressing tap-rooted invaders like dandelion or thistle. Lastly, weed when it’s easiest — after a rainstorm or after watering, when the moist soil makes it less difficult to pull the weeds out of the ground.
Another strategy is to stop the weeds from growing at all. Pre-emergent weed control products (like Preen) can be effective for those who simply don’t have the time to spend weeding. These types of weed control interrupt weed seed germination and last for weeks. They’re also easy to apply and drastically cut down on the amount of weeding necessary.
9. Swap Lawn for Flowers
In general, lawns require time and attention to look their best — a lot of time and attention. Whether it’s mowing, weeding or feeding the grass, a year-long effort is necessary. One solution for reducing your time investment in lawn care is to cut down on the amount of lawn you have to care for. Consider trading grass for planting beds full of pretty shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses.