It takes time and planning to create a landscape that requires little time and money to maintain.
Invest early in planning and structures, and you will pay (and work) less later. Choose structures, plants, ground-coverings, and systems that will help to reduce watering, weeding, tree trimming, painting, and mowing.
Consider your available time. Determine how much time you spend maintaining your yard at different times of the year. Consider mowing, planting, pruning, weeding, watering, raking, and other seasonal chores. What do you want to change?
List your needs. How do you plan to use your yard? For barbecuing, vegetable or flower gardening, kids’ play activities, or simply viewing from the windows? Various activities require different ground surfaces, structures, or plantings.
Assess your landscape. Make a rough map and list of existing features, such as fences, trees and shrubs, buildings, and paved surfaces. Note problem areas, such as poor views, noise, not enough privacy, steep slopes, or places where plants grow poorly or water accumulates.
Choose time saving systems and surfaces. Consider lower-maintenance alternatives to solve landscape problems, such as an automatic irrigation system for watering the lawn and garden; a deck, paved patio, or ground-covering plants instead of a lawn; and a fence or vine-covered trellis instead of a clipped hedge. Choose brick or stone instead of wood surfaces to eliminate painting chores. Mulch gardens to prevent weeds.
Select low-maintenance plants. Choose only plants that fit the space available. People generally underestimate how quickly and how large a small nursery plant will become. To reduce planting time, plant flowering shrubs or perennial plants that grow back each year instead of annuals that only last one season. Pick plants that thrive in your soil, sun, and climate. You will spend a lot of time trying to get a shrub to live when it is in the wrong area. When you find a shrub that thrives in your location you will not have to spend any extra time taking care of it.
Choose plants with features that look good in more than one season, such as flowers in spring, handsome leaf color in fall, and attractive bark in winter.
Reduce or eliminate your lawn. If you have children or enjoy lawn games, about 600 square feet of lawn is usually enough.