10 Ways To Lower Maintenance On Your Landscape in 2017

by Ben Bowen

10 Keys To A Low Maintenance Garden

Based on my discussions with clients and the popularity of previous posts on low maintenance gardens, you do not want to spend more time caring for your landscapes. You want to spend less time, even no time if possible.

In an effort to give you what you want, here are 10 ways to lessen the amount of time needed to care for your landscape (and some pictures of our low-maintenance landscapes to the left):

  1. Remove needy plants. The Pareto principle, and my experience, say that 80% of your maintenance time is spent on 20% of your garden. Get rid of the 20% (or as much as you can bear to part with) and you will greatly reduce the care the landscape needs. Feel bad about ripping out those perennials that need staked and deadheaded? Dig them carefully and put them on Nextdoor(for free of course!)
  2. Choose new plants carefully. Do NOT wander one of Portland's nurseries and just pick what's pretty. Don't be a 6 year old girl in Build-A-Bear. Be a 33 year old on "Say Yes To The Dress." Need help? Here is a great list of low maintenance plants to get you started.
  3. Stop watering. Or at least stop watering so much. Water enough to keep your plants alive through the summer, but not enough to make them go crazy. Just for kicks, don't water for 7-10 days in August. If your landscape is established you will probably see that 90% of it looks great. Wait another 7-10 days and 85% still looks awesome. What about the 15% that is parched? See point #1.
  4. Bark dust. Bare dirt grows weeds. You have to pull weeds, so bare dirt is your enemy. Add 1"-2" of bark dust every 2-3 years. Less weeds = less time in the garden.
  5. Adjust your expectations. Maybe your garden is not high maintenance. Maybe you are. Are you asking perfection out of your lawn, shrubs, and beds? Then you have no one to blame but yourself. If you have the nicest yard in the neighborhood, you don't actually want a low maintenance landscape- you want what you have.
  6. Hardscape. Patios, walkways, boulders, and paths are all very low maintenance. Invest in hardscape and it will pay dividends- less time in the yard working.
  7. Hire a landscaper. Boom- yard work is done. Pretty self serving, I know. But 10 tips is a lot to come up with. I'm a landscape designer, not a Buzzfeed editor.
  8. Lose the lawn. What part of your yard wants weekly care for 8 months of the year? Your lawn does. If you can do without a traditional lawn, you will save yourself time and money. Consider an eco-lawn from Protime Seed here in Portland or even artificial grass.
  9. Have lots of kids.  Hear me out on this one. Those needy plants? Your kids will kill them. That perfect lawn you just can't let go of? It now has soccer goals and 432,000 toys on it. And once those kids get a little older, you just might be able to get them to do some yard work.
  10. Give space for wildlife. Birds, squirrels, raccoon, butterflies, and other critters need space in our neighborhoods. If your property is large, dedicating some of it to them will create spaces that need much less care. Even a 5000 square foot lot has room to give some area around the edges to this. Bushes that provide cover really matter- and don't need to be manicured.

Need even more tips? Check out this article in the Oregonian.

Have a tip to add? The comments are open below.