Low Maintenance Landscaping

— Written By

Q:  How can I have an attractive landscape without all the work?

 A:         Some of us want that attractive landscape but yet are not thrilled about all the maintenance that goes along with it. Often people ask how to have a maintenance free landscape. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a maintenance free landscape unless you hire someone to do all the work for you. Every landscape is going to require some amount of work for upkeep.

Even though you may not be able to have a maintenance free landscape it is possible to have a low maintenance landscape. There are many tips that can help you in making your landscape be less maintenance. Whether your landscape is just in the planning stages or has been established for several years, you can change and incorporate some of these tips to reduce your amount of outdoor work.

If you are currently planning a landscape, this is a great time to consider some things to prevent a lot of extra work in the future. First analyze your site to determine problems areas, desirable areas, and site conditions. Site conditions may include sun, shade, low-lying spots, wet, and dry soils. This will be important in that you can then pick plants that will work well in your site conditions. It is much easier to pick plants for current site conditions than to try changing the conditions for a plant. Also consider your needs when planning a landscape. If you have young children, pets, or a lot of outdoor activities be sure to provide space for that. While planning you landscape, consider how much time you really want to spend on maintenance. It maybe easy to put in an elaborate landscape and say you’ll worry about the upkeep later but you will soon regret that decision. If you are new gardener or do not want to spend a lot of time in the yard, then make your landscape simple and small.

In the landscape, avoid having narrow strips of grass. This causes you to spend extra time mowing these small, tight areas. If you have several plants, each mulched and grass in between the plants, consider making the area one large plant bed that includes all the plants. This cuts down on mowing and trimming time and planting beds are more attractive than isolated plantings. Mulching will help in many ways from reducing soil moisture loss and controlling weeds. Apply mulch 2 to 3 inches thick and keep mulch away from direct contact of shrub and tree trunks.

Plant selection is one of the most important steps in your landscape. Having a plant in the wrong place will increase your maintenance chores. When a plant is in the wrong location it is not going to be as healthy leading to additional spraying to control insects and diseases, excessive pruning, and extra watering. When selecting a plant be sure to check the mature size of that plant and give it the space needed to reach that size. Anytime you can get pest-resistant plants, you are reducing the amount of time and money spent on controlling pest problems. Look at the plant’s light and soil requirements before purchasing. If the plant needs full sun, then plant it in a full sun location. If the plant needs well-drained soils, then avoid locations with wet soils or standing water.

Following proper maintenance practices will also cut down on the amount of work you’ll spend in the landscape. Avoid under or over fertilizing plants. Over fertilizing causes rapid growth which is more susceptible to insect and disease problems. Under fertilizing causes poor growth causing the plant to again be susceptible to pest problems and be more at risk of dying during extreme conditions like a drought. Practice regular scouting of your yard for disease and insect outbreaks. It is much easier to control pest if they are caught early in a small spot. If it is a pest that you do not recognize, identify the pest before controlling. Not every insect spotted will cause problems, so there will be cases where you will not need to worry about them. Be sure to prune regularly. Skipping a few years of pruning, will create a much more difficult pruning chore down the road.

Although there is no such thing as a maintenance-free landscape, you can reduce the amount of time spent working on your landscape. Good planning, plant selection, timely and proper maintenance will create a more low-maintenance landscape.       

 Learn More!

Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County. Horticulture program information can be found at http://wayne.ces.ncsu.edu/. Forward any questions you would like answered from this week’s column to Jessica.Strickland@waynegov.com.

Upcoming Wayne County Extension Gardening Programs

  • Save the date for annual Spring Garden Festival & Plant Sale! This year’s event will be held on Saturday, April 23rd at the Wayne County Extension Office (208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro). The Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have a great event planned with gardening demonstrations, kids activities, along with a great plants for sale. Volunteers will also be on hand to answer your gardening questions along with having publications and soil test kits available. Doors will open at 9 a.m. and stay open until noon.