The question I was most often asked while visiting clients as a Garden Consultant was, “Can you design a totally no maintenance yard for me”?
Although done in a humorous spirit, those who asked this really would prefer to avoid yard work! 🙂
My answer often went something like this…”Sure, if you don’t want any plants”! We can create a nice hardscape plan for you, and you’ll never have to mow, weed, or prune again”! (Hardscape includes all the elements of a landscape that are not plant material such as sidewalks, patios, and BBQ pits, etc. Softscape is the plants: lawn, trees, shrubs).
Seriously though, there is no such thing as a maintenance free landscape. All require regular maintenance in order to thrive and grow even more beautiful over time. Your landscape is an investment, and part of the cost of that investment that is often overlooked by DIYers is maintenance. Maintenance takes time, energy, and money. If you (or another family member are not a person who really enjoys working in the yard, and has the time and energy to do it, I encourage you to consider hiring a professional gardener to maintain it for you at least for the first two years.”
“A well-planned landscape will require less maintenance once the plants become established, which may be up to two years for many varieties. The cost of maintenance for two years should be included in your initial budget for your new landscape. We can definitely create a low maintenance landscape for you by planning for minimal maintenance from the beginning of the design process. However, please don’t plan to do the work yourself just to save money without really thinking it through.” It doesn’t take long for a newly installed landscape to go from fabulous to failure due to lack of proper maintenance.
One beautiful benefit of ecological (or sustainable) landscaping is that maintenance is greatly reduced because we design gardens in such a way that we allow the power of nature to do much of the work. Essentially, we eliminate or greatly reduce labor intensive maintenance tasks by purposefully selecting our design elements and plant material for sustainability, and we let nature put on her show!
What does that mean?
In terms of landscaping, sustainability means we garden in a way that can be continued indefinitely without causing harm to people or the environment, or being a drain on resources. We seek to work with nature as much as possible, and let go of the need to have complete control. We build gardens that invite nature in, and we interfere as little as possible with the normal processes of nature. Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean we allow nature to run wild in our yards and we do nothing! That is not gardening. That is simply observing wilderness. 🙂
One example of how to significantly reduce maintenance when taking a sustainable approach to landscaping is to eliminate or at least reduce the size of the lawn. The lawn is the highest maintenance element of most traditional landscapes, and typically requires high inputs of products for fertilization and management of weeds and diseases. The lawn is also the highest water use element in most yards.
I’m not totally against lawns. I just like to encourage people to consider how much they really need. If you have a lawn now, how often does it get used? If it is rarely used anymore, maybe you would get much more enjoyment out of the space by turning it into a water-wise garden that would attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Think about all the time, energy, and money you could save if you didn’t have to spend it growing a lawn. A hummingbird garden would require maintenance and water too of course, but not nearly as much as a lawn. I love the idea of not having to even think about the lawn every week! If you’re looking to simplify your life, and get more enjoyment out of the space you already have, less lawn might be a good fit for you.
So, although the idea of having a completely maintenance free landscape is not realistic, it is possible to keep maintenance to a minimum without sacrificing beauty. If you don’t live in a desert, your yard doesn’t have to look like one. And, conserving water doesn’t mean brown has to be our new green. 🙂
If you have any questions about creating your own sustainable landscape or lowering maintenance in your yard, let me know in the comments below. Your questions will help me choose topics for future blog posts. If you already have an easy care landscape you love, I’d love to hear about it. Please include any details you care to share such as whether you created your own plan or paid a professional to do it for you. Did you do any or all of the work yourself? What went right, what went wrong? What would you do differently next time?
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