Have you ever felt burdened by the never ending list of chores that come with owning a home? Any homeowner will tell you that the work never ends. There is always something to do, and if you can’t find something to do inside, there’s surely some maintenance that can be done outside whether it’s mowing a lawn or pulling weeds from the garden beds. Lawns can be visually appealing, but they are also a high maintenance component of any landscape. Not only do they have to be mowed weekly during the growing season, but if you want a lush, green lawn you’re probably also applying fertilizers, watering fairly regularly, and potentially paying a pretty penny to have someone do it for you. Similarly, extensive garden beds featuring exotic shrubs and trees require time, energy, and money to maintain. So if you’ve ever found yourself asking the question, “How can we have a lower maintenance property?,” this will provide you with some answers.
The #1 tip for decreasing property maintenance is to reduce the amount of turf grass. This means keeping only what is necessary or truly desired. For example, if you have an acre of backyard but you really only use half of it for activity, the other half could be transformed to something lower maintenance. Not only does it reduce maintenance costs, but it is better for the environment, as well. Below is a list of options for a lower maintenance landscape in place of part of your turf grass.
- Replace turf grass with “No mow” grass mixes: Naturally short-growing fine fescues which require infrequent if not zero mowing. Typically this type of grass reaches a maximum height of 10-12” when not mowed. Once established, it requires little or no watering. No mow fescues are a great option for areas with more trees and shade or hillsides.
- Allow part of the existing lawn to grow wild: It does not have to be a major project to decrease property maintenance. By establishing desired turf boundaries and allowing the extra turf grass to start growing wild, you are creating an ecological and sustainable alternative to the high-maintenance lawn. It will also provide food and cover for wildlife.
- Create a Meadow: Sunny areas can be planted with native grass mixtures and/or wildflowers to create a meadow. Incorporate native and naturalized plants into the mix that are both drought tolerant and disease resistant and you’ll have a beautiful, natural habitat that’s not only low maintenance, but also visually appealing and beneficial to wildlife.
- Incorporate “Lawn Substitute:” Mass plant shade tolerant, native clumping grass varieties in areas that are shaded, in garden beds, or under trees. Once established, it can serve as a low maintenance ground cover or native backdrop for your turf area and other plantings.
- Use Native Plants: By incorporating native grass mixes and plants into your landscape, you are increasing biodiversity and providing the landscape with a greater ability to sustain itself.
Typically when landscaping a property, the default answer when one doesn’t know what to do with a space is to make it turf grass. This has been standard practice since the mid- to late-1800s when residential lawns were first popularized and lawn mowers were being mass-produced. It was possible to have a lawn so that’s what was done. A century later, in the post-war 1950s, lawn care was taken several steps further. Having a clean cut, weed-free, green lawn became a fixture in suburban America and was a symbol of the American dream. At the time, though, the effects of these practices on the environment were not abundantly clear. We now know that a house surrounded by beautiful, green turf grass, as beautiful and visually desirable as it may be, does not provide the homeowner with long term resiliency and sustainability. If and when the time comes that regulations of maintenance equipment and chemicals are amplified, many will be left with a landscape that cannot be maintained. It is important to know that there ARE alternatives, and that they can also provide beauty and visual appeal in their own way.