What’s the purpose of maintaining a perfectly landscaped backyard other than to enjoy it with friends and family? Unlike your front yard, your backyard should be an area that’s designed as your own personal retreat.
However, many of us spend so much time on mowing, watering, trimming and weed whacking that we’re left with little spare time to actually enjoy the space. Consider these 7 low-maintenance backyard design ideas as part of your next landscaping project. You just may find the time to start working on your next round of backyard BBQ invites.
1 – Create designated spaces.
When you want to cut down on lawn maintenance, some pre-planning and a strategy is an essential first step. If you look at your backyard only to see an expanse of green grass that needs to be mowed, it’s time to start segmenting your space. Think of ways that you can divide the backyard into spaces that will serve a purpose — whether lounging, entertaining, playing sports or growing plants, shrubs and trees. Sketch out your vision to get a good idea about how much space you will need for each area. Consult a professional landscape designer for ideas you may not have considered.
2 – Make room for stone.
The look of natural stone, whether it’s truly real or not, can enhance the appearance of your outdoor living spaces while reducing the need for yard maintenance. The options of creating a hard surface with natural landscaping stone and tiles — or concrete made to look like stone and tile, including Travertine tiles — are seemingly endless. Beyond the decorative aspect, think of ways this newly paved areas can provide some functionality. Some possibilities include an area for a fire pit and seating, and a kitchen and dining area. Not only will you minimize the need for upkeep, you can create more livable backyard space.
3 – Choose potted plants.
Once you have created your designated areas, add potted plants for low-maintenance green options. Potted plants are a simple way to add dimension to a backyard design without a huge commitment to care. For greater impact, choose sizeable planters — 4 feet to 6 feet tall or long — that can serve as “room dividers” or as focal pieces. By choosing a few large planters and easy-going plants like ornamental grasses, you can quickly minimize the time spent on backyard maintenance.
4 – Choose mulch over grass.
Not all areas need to be covered with grass, which requires hours and hours of mowing, raking, fertilizing and aerating to look its best. Designate more areas throughout your backyard for mulch treatment, including the spaces around trees or the flower beds just beyond the edge of your home. Mulch options have expanded significantly over the years. Wood chips in hues like black, deep brown and burgundy allow for a more customized look, while pine needles and bark add a natural touch. Besides cutting down the time it takes to maintain your grass, mulch also minimizes the need for weeding and watering your plants. It prohibits the growth of weeds and helps retain moisture to create a more favorable backyard growing environment.
5 – Plant groundcover.
Another worthy time-saving method comes in the form of ground cover, which requires minimal upkeep. Cut back on mowing and watering your backyard by planting ground cover perennials like moss, dead nettle, willow, dwarf mondo grass, clover and liriope.
6 – Add low-maintenance plants.
Keep maintenance to a minimum by investing the time and resources upfront to identify plants that will thrive in your soil with little effort from you. Too often homeowners will choose plants based on their appearance or because they’re familiar with them. Take the time to truly understand the amount of upkeep that will be required for certain plants based on your USDA Hardiness Zone and other factors such as grade of soil. If necessary, have your soil analyzed and amended before planting. Choose native grasses and plants over their higher maintenance counterparts. This may require you to abandon the idea of having a perfectly manicured landscape design with low profile plants. The addition of native plants in varying heights can create a natural, welcoming oasis. Also, since they are native to your area it’s unlikely you will need to fertilize them or spray them with pesticides.
7 – Cut back on the mowing.
More than likely, you will need to mow some amount of grass. If you’re obsessed with the idea of keeping your grass height low, step back from the mower every once in awhile. Grass that’s allowed to grow a little longer will end up being healthier because of higher water retention. A good rule of thumb is to cut no more than a third of the length of the blade. Also, it’s OK to leave the grass clippings in the lawn. This practice, called grasscycling, provides your grass with ready made fertilizer and helps retain water for better root growth.
With a bit of creative thinking and planning, you can spend significantly less time maintaining your backyard and a lot more time enjoying it.