The Complete (Lazy Person's) Guide To Landscape Maintenance

by Ben Bowen
 low maintenance landscape design from Ross NW Watergardens

Everyone wants a beautiful front yard. But not everyone wants to spend hours every week caring for one (or lots of $$ paying for it). In fact, 7 out of 10 potential clients I speak to list "low maintenance" as a requirement for their gardens.

As a result, I have written about low care landscape design here and here. Both posts are great for Portlander's looking to renovate a landscape, but don't address how to care for an existing landscape.

So how do you maintain your landscape using the least amount of effort possible? Follow these:

Tips For An Easy Landscape Maintenance Routine:

  • Water less. Water makes plants grow, including weeds. Water your plants just enough to keep them happy and try not to water areas of your landscape that don't need it. As time goes on water less and less. You will be encouraging plants to develop deep roots and should eventually have a true "drought tolerant" garden.
  • Be selective in lawn weed removal. Dandelion should be pulled since it quickly puts up blooms after you mow- making the lawn look bad quickly. Clover and grasses that blow in should be left in place. They don't need water and look just fine once you get used to them.
  • Mow more often. But don't collect the clippings. Use a mulching setting on your mower and mow every 5-7 days so the process is as quick as possible.
  • Use a hula hoe and small leaf rake for weeds. There is no faster way to remove weeds. Don't worry about perfection though. Plan on weeding monthly, April - July, and try to remove 75%+ of the weeds each time. Following that schedule (especially if you apply bark dust and have some ground cover plants established) should keep them under control.
  • Prune plants in a natural way. Use hand pruners to remove unwanted foliage. Keep your shrub's foliage light, with structure emphasized. Avoid shearing, which quickly looks bad as new growth appears. Your aim is for bushes and trees that look like this not like this.
  • Rake leaves into hidden piles. As fall progresses you will need to rake leaves multiple times. Create piles behind bushes or in hidden corners. Once the last leaves have finally dropped you can collect everything for recycling.
  • Keep expectations in line. Portland's landscape style is natural, informal, a little rough around the edges. Keep this in mind and give your landscape permission to get shaggy every once in a while!

There are very few true "no care" landscapes, and they are all ugly. But with a little thought and preparation you can hack your landscape maintenance, so you can spend time enjoying your garden instead of working on it.