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Low Maintenance Landscape Tips

005_low maint_CRW_8941Tip 4: Stop Maintaining ‘Dead’ Areas

Think of the space between the side of your garage and your fence—do you only go there to maintain it? How about that steep slope toward the back of your lot? You could try to grow something there, but when will anybody ever see it? It’s best to save your efforts for the more prominent parts of your landscape.

For these ‘dead’ areas, consider putting down landscape fabric topped with washed gravel or a layer of organic wood chip mulch. This will suppress weeds, stabilize the soil and look good without breaking the bank. Best of all, the areas will only need occasional visits, to clean up loose leaves or other small debris.

Tip 5: Reduce Turf Use (or Abuse)

When it comes to low-maintenance landscaping, turf is a touchy subject. Traditionally, lawns are considered resource-heavy and maintenance-intensive; however, they can also serve an important function. Consider using turf on relatively flat parts of the landscape (up to approximately five per cent slope) in a location that can be used for entertaining, such as overflow from a patio or a place for kids or pets to play. In addition to being functional, turf used in this application adds valuable negative space to the landscape. In other words, the turf works as a design element, not just a default ground cover.

For new turf areas, seed or sod with a good quality product that includes a variety of turf species; over time, the strongest species will prevail, giving you the best adapted lawn for your site.

In many instances, replacing turf with another product makes good sense from a maintenance perspective. Steeper slopes are prone to drying out and aren’t functional for entertaining or play. These areas can be mulched and planted with appropriate plants or even terraced to make them easier to maintain.

You may even wish to eliminate turf altogether. Patios or decks are a good alternative to turf in a flat area where you may wish to entertain. They are significantly more expensive to install but by achieving a balance of hardscape and planting beds, the ‘missing’ lawn will hardly be noticed.

Tip 6: Put Your String Trimmer Away

You might occasionally find someone who claims they like mowing grass or weeding, but I have yet to meet someone who likes edging. Installing man-made edging along the transitions between turf and beds, with good quality polyethylene, concrete or metal, keeps grass from creeping into the beds. It also virtually eliminates the need for string trimming or mechanical edging, as it allows your lawnmower to overlap, giving a clean edge. Construct edging with straight lines or gently flowing curves, as this will be most pleasing to the eye. Avoid tight curves. They are more complicated and will increase the amount of edging required to get the job done. Curved edges are also difficult and time-consuming to overlap with a mower.

Tip 7: Plant Selection and Placement

What exactly makes a good low-maintenance plant? For starters, it must be hardy and look good. It must also be appropriate for the allotted space. Will the plant have the right soil, proper moisture and adequate light to grow to its mature size? Low-maintenance plants should also be minimally invasive, relatively pest- and disease-resistant and should not require staking, deadheading or excessive amounts of pruning. That’s not asking for too much, is it?

Fortunately, even in more extreme climates, there are suitable plants to be found. Instead of resorting to trial and error, consider acquiring the services of a professional landscape designer for plant selection, as their expertise will likely save you a lot of time and money. A good designer will even be able to work around your colour preferences and specific likes and dislikes to come up with a planting scheme that will look great with minimal maintenance.

Where possible, consider native plant species, which are naturally adapted to your local environment and well established in the ecosystem, making them less susceptible to pests or disease. While native plants are gaining popularity, beware—just because a plant is native doesn’t necessarily make it suitable for a low-maintenance garden. Some of these plants are extremely invasive; others are hardy and low-maintenance, but not overly attractive. In many cases, there are suitable choices that have been bred from native plants with superior traits. Plant breeders are constantly trying to improve on nature, and in many cases, non-native species are the most suitable plants for a low-maintenance garden.

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