Everybody loves a manicured yard–fresh with neat green grass and flowerbeds overflowing with blooms. With the growing national focus on water conservation, more people are adding unexpected features to their yards to reduce the amount of growth they need to maintain. For example, some are reducing the size of their lawn by adding ground cover, artificial turf, flower beds or replacing grass with patio space. By adding these features, these people are keeping their yards looking nice while cutting down on the amount of necessary yard work.
No matter how much you simplify your yard, there will always be some yard work to do. However, lessening the amount of time you spend on yard work benefits you and your neighborhood because you will tend to use less water and produce less waste. Employing earth-friendly gardening systems and smart landscaping applications preserves your time and generates limited yard waste while still delivering a great looking yard. Here are six ways that you can reimagine your landscape and enjoy the added perk of reducing yard work.
1. Reduce the Size of Your Lawn
Grass needs an ample supply of fertilizer and water to be vibrant and thick. Add in mowing, trimming and weeding, and maintaining your lush yard becomes quite a lot of work. By decreasing the size of your lawn, you save time, work and money, particularly with the increasing water rates. Some communities even offer homeowners substantial rebates when they trade their lawns for a low-water alternative. Check with your home owner’s associate to see if you would be eligible for a similar rebate.
Shrinking the green area can also solve other problems. You can manage cut-through foot traffic on corner yards by replacing that part of the grass with a border of low-maintenance shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses. If you space plants close together and mulch areas in between to smother weeds, you can dramatically reduce your chores. Other alternatives to traditional lawns include combinations of paved areas or gravel.
2. Bring in Native Plants
Use plants accustomed to the local soil conditions and climate because those plants are likely to survive without an abundance of fertilizer and water. Nurseries are following this trend by making native species readily available to customers. They also recommend perennial shrubs and flowers so that you will have permanent flower beds without replanting each season. Perennials live for a minimum of two years, but most live much longer than that.
You can also work with your local cooperative extension service for more ideas about climate-appropriate species indigenous to your area. Plants that grow spontaneously in your climate have adapted ways to thrive without the need for humans to care for them. Even if you only use native plants for half of the plants in your yard, that still promises less watering and maintenance overall. The Environmental Protection Agency is another excellent source to investigate. The EPA site offers a handy state-by-state plant selector. These sources can direct you to shade-loving ground cover, hardy ornamental grasses that change with the seasons or species that withstand foot traffic.
3. Plant an Edible Garden
Planting and growing vegetables is easy and cost-effective. Home improvement centers carry various assortments of starter plants and packaged seeds of numerous types of vegetables and herbs. Many people see edible gardening as an enjoyable hobby. The local-food movement and the desire to know where food is coming from are also a good reason to plant an edible garden.
It is a good plan to test your soil before you cultivate vegetables at home, particularly if you reside in a municipal area where lead is a concern. You can also resort to gardening in raised containers, planters or pots, which gives you more control over the chemicals that your plants will be exposed to. Another viable option is using wall-mounted, vertical planters for things like strawberries, beans and tomatoes.
When you plant a garden, utilize the no-till method in which the soil is never disturbed. This method protects the subsoil environment for the benefit of growing healthy plants. You can add compost, peat and organic fertilizer directly to the top of the garden beds. Over time, it becomes incorporated through the watering process and the activity of subsoil organisms.
4. Design an Outdoor Room
More and more people are creating versatile outdoor rooms. Individuals are looking past the typical grill and folding chairs by equipping their open-air gathering spaces with fire pits, water-resistant furniture and entertainment. Retailers offer many options for benches and fire pits for these outdoor rooms. In addition, locally sourced stone is popular for patios and more attractive composites are being produced for deck alternatives.
A simple fountain, pond or man-made brook adds a touch of backyard water elements. Listening to the sounds of flowing water while you are grilling or enjoying a glass of wine with friends in your outdoor space is relaxing and peaceful. Rock gardens typically contain drought-tolerant plants–such as succulents and cacti–and do not require much care. The rocks offer an element that never needs watering while adding a beautiful focal point to your outdoor room.
5. Xeriscape Your Yard
Xeriscaping is another method of reducing the amount of grass and sensitive plants that you have to take care of. By completely xeriscaping your yard, you can cut down on your water consumption and time you spend on plant care. Use an abundance of drought-tolerant plants and rocks with an emphasis on your outdoor entertainment area to keep your yard inviting without having a lot of greenery.
Xeriscaping is often recommended for people who live in dry areas where it rarely rains. If done well, xeriscaping can add a modern and minimalist element to your yard and boost your curb appeal. If you are concerned that a xeriscape would not allow you to have any color or flowers in your yard, you actually can. Flowers such as geraniums, purple coneflowers, and butterfly weeds can add plenty of color to your xeriscaped yard while requiring very little maintenance.
6. Follow Sustainable Practices
Nearly all homeowners mulch after mowing and simply deposit the clippings on their lawn instead of bagging them. In fact, you can fertilize less by mulching more with these lawn clippings. This adds nutrients back into the soil, which can reduce your yard’s need for fertilization by as much as 30 percent. When you purchase fertilizer, most people look for environmental friendliness of the ingredients and ease of application. Nothing is more environmentally friendly and natural than spreading the clippings back on the source they came from.
Clover seed is an attractive ground cover and an ideal alternative to grass. It is drought-tolerant, economical, environmentally safe and requires little maintenance. In addition, clovers compete with weeds, do not require frequent mowing and are insect-resistant, making these plants a superb substitute for grass.
When you really want to cut down on your yard work, consider sharing the work with neighborhood children or your family members. Watering with your children can be a fun bonding experience, and the neighborhood teens welcome extra income for spending an hour or so every few weeks mowing or raking. Other approaches to reducing yard work involve lessening lawn fertilizer applications to just a few times annually and mowing less frequently. If you mow only when the grass is about six inches tall, then mow again with it is only one-third of its height, you can help the grass develop a stronger root system.
Yard work can be time consuming. By following these tips to reduce the upkeep, you can save so much more than time without sacrificing a beautiful yard.