Whether you want to reduce your yard’s water usage, or simply dream of a front yard that looks pretty without requiring hours of weekend work, there are plenty of landscaping swaps you can make.
Start by planting with local, hardy plants that can survive a wide range of climates. Select trees that are disease resistant and don’t shed their leaves excessively.
1. Drought-resistant plants
When it comes to low maintenance landscaping, drought-resistant plants are the key. These plants are adapted to drier climates and require less water than other plants, so they’ll save you money on your water bill in the long run. They’re a great choice for front yard landscape design as well as backyard landscaping.
To find the best drought resistant plants for your area, visit local botanic gardens or check out open garden days to see what other gardeners have planted in their yards. Or, ask a pro to make recommendations for your home. Once you’ve found a few options, test them out in your soil to see how well they grow.
A good rule of thumb is to group drought-resistant plants that have similar watering needs together, so you can water them at the same time. You may also want to consider planting native plants, which are especially easy to maintain since they’re accustomed to your region’s growing conditions. These plants are often very slow-growing, so they’ll need minimal pruning and won’t get out of control. Plus, they help restore food and habitats for local wildlife.
To further reduce your lawn space, replace grass with groundcovers like thyme, sedum, sea thrift, and ornamental grasses. They add color and texture to a xeriscaped garden, and they prevent soil erosion. You can also use decomposed granite for a pathway instead of pavers or concrete, which are harder on the environment.
2. Native plants
Native plants evolved to thrive in their habitats long before people arrived, so they require less work than non-native varieties. Plants that are well-adapted to their local conditions need less water, fertilizer and pesticides, making them ideal for low maintenance landscaping. Plus, native plants help attract and support local wildlife — a win for both humans and animals.
Native garden species can be found at local nurseries, gardening centers or through mail-order sources. Some areas even host native plant sales in the spring. The National Wildlife Federation offers a Native Plant Finder that can help you find the perfect native plants for your area.
Aside from being easy to grow, natives add visual interest to the landscape, and they make great neighbors for other types of garden plants. The deep root systems of many wildflowers and prairie grasses improve soil health, reduce erosion and nutrient runoff into streams, and store carbon in the ground. The lush beauty of a forest garden requires little mowing or other maintenance, while rock gardens save water and provide a habitat for moisture-loving plants.
Creating native plantings is a wonderful way to support wildlife habitat and encourage pollinators, but it’s important to do your research before beginning a new project. Check with local land trusts and conservation groups to learn about what’s growing in your area. You can also join a native plant society to get involved and learn more about the indigenous plants in your region.
3. River rocks
River rocks are smooth, rounded, and semi-polished by water, making them an ideal choice for a landscape that looks like it was naturally grown. They can be found naturally in rivers, streams, and beaches, or manufactured to mimic the look of natural river rock without using up natural resources. River rocks come in a variety of hues and sizes, each with its own unique effect on your landscaping.
Spread a layer of river rocks around your gardens and flower beds to create attractive, natural edging that helps prevent erosion. River rocks also look beautiful around ponds and water fountains, where they help to direct the flow of clear water, turning your yard into a serene, peaceful space.
A mix of different hues of river rock look stunning when used to create a walkway between garden beds, patios, or a decked area. They can also be placed under a wooden trellis, providing a gorgeous textural contrast to the wood with an earthy, woodland vibe.
Unlike mulch, river rocks can be left in place to reduce the need for frequent weeding. However, it is important to lay a weed cloth barrier underneath your river rock before you plant anything. This will help keep weeds from growing through the cracks in your river rock and making your landscaping more difficult to maintain.
If you want to keep your landscaping low maintenance, use a layer of mulch around each planting bed. Mulch suppresses weed growth and helps retain soil moisture. It also regulates the soil temperature and adds nutrients as it decomposes. The key to successful mulching is using a quality product that won’t introduce weed seeds into the landscape. Often, cheap mulch will have ground-up plant matter in it which can actually increase maintenance efforts by introducing unwanted plants.
If weeds are growing out of control in your planting beds, consider removing all grass and replacing it with a ground cover like clovers, creeping Jenny, or vinca minor. These ground covers don’t require mowing and provide valuable habitat for pollinators. If you still have a desire for a green lawn, consider using yew or other shrubs that are resistant to weeds.
Cultivating an eye-catching garden doesn’t have to consume your weekends. The right low maintenance landscape ideas can save you time and money, as well as give your outdoor living space a beautiful makeover that’s ready for your next BBQ or play date with the kids. Just be sure to choose the best plants for the climate where you live and be prepared to maintain them regularly. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a yard that needs an expensive overhaul before it becomes healthy again. For more tips on reducing your maintenance workload, talk to a local landscape professional!
There are a lot of things to love about shrubs as low maintenance landscape ideas. They’re beautiful, tidier than grass and other plants, offer a lot of season-long interest, and they can be used to frame other more showy, higher-maintenance plant types in your garden. The key to making this landscaping strategy work is picking the right type of shrub and putting it in the right place.
For example, the evergreen hebe (Veronica speciosa) is easy to grow and produces bright pink flower spikes all summer long. The native Virginia sweetspire is another shrub that thrives in a variety of climates and soil conditions. It produces a lovely, dense shrub that doesn’t need to be pruned and offers fall color with its varying shades of yellow, red, and orange.
If you’re really serious about minimizing your lawn, you can go all the way and create a forest garden. A forest garden is a combination of trees, shrubs, and ground cover plants that look more like a jungle than a traditional lawn. These gardens can be especially good for dry climates because they’re built to use very little water, and even less in the winter when the weather is drier.
But, if you don’t feel ready to ditch your lawn completely, try replacing part of it with hardscaping. It will make it so much easier to weed and mow. Plus, it’ll look great too.
Changing the landscape of your home doesn’t have to mean weeding, pruning and toiling in the yard for hours every weekend. Whether you have a small plot or a large one, there are plenty of functional and beautiful ways to cut back on lawn space while adding flowers, vegetables, and fun hardscape elements.
Hardscapes are a great way to reduce lawn and create functional outdoor spaces that will be enjoyed by all. Patios, garden paths, sitting walls, water features, retaining walls, grill surrounds and pergolas are all examples of hardscapes that will add value to your property.
Not only do they look stunning but these types of landscaping swaps are very easy to maintain. Many of these hardscape elements help keep weeds at bay and prevent erosion.
In addition, some types of hardscapes like yews and viburnums are resistant to pests making them ideal for low maintenance.
Other hardscape options include stone retaining walls that make it easier to grow plants on steep slopes. Ornamental ponds also fall into the category of hardscapes that are both beautiful and practical in terms of managing soil. They can also be a great focal point in the backyard for relaxing or playing games with family and friends. A pond or waterfall may even attract local wildlife to your yard.