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What's the most low-maintenance way to landscape?

Planning For Low-Maintenance
A soil test can help you figure out what areas around your yard need to thrive.
A soil test can help you figure out what areas around your yard need to thrive.
Arthur S. Asbury/Getty Images

­The more time you take planning to install your landscape, the less time you'll need for maintenance down the line. You should take a full year to plan properly, but you can shorten this timeline by paying attention to significant characteristics. When it's raining, go outside and note where the water drains or collects. Find out what parts of the yard are getting the most or the least amount of water. Try to spend at least one Saturday studying the patterns of sunlight a­cross your yard to find which areas receive morning sun, afternoon sun or stay shady all day long. Take a few samples of soil from around your yard, including your planting beds and lawn. Take the samples to your local university extension agency, where extension agents can run soil tests to tell you what nutrients it needs and in what amounts. Usually, the tests are conducted for a nominal charge. Hardware stores and garden centers also usually sell home soil testing kits.

Once you know what kinds of microclimates your yard features, it'll be easier to properly study and select plants for your yard. For the most low-maintenance landscape, you'll want to choose plants native to your region. Native species have learned to thrive in your specific region of the world. They tend to naturally prevent or decrease weed growth, should require less water and have adapted to repel indigenous pests, all of which save you time on maintenance.

Once you've studied the different plants you've chosen for your low-maintenance garden, you can tailor their needs to your knowledge of your yard. Grouping plants together by their specific needs -- like water and light requirements -- will make it easier to care for them as a whole. Understanding a plant's growing habits will also help you in the long run. A plant that outgrows the space you've provided for it is very difficult to remove or transplant. It's better that you plant it in an appropriate spot in the first place.

When you create planting beds, make sure they have a gentle curve without any straight lines. This will lend the beds a more natural look and make it easier to mow around them. Plant species that require the most water should be planted in an area easily reached by a hose, or in areas you know receive plenty of rainwater. When you do this, you won't have to spend time hauling water to your plants.

Adding drought-resistant plants to your new landscape will also help save you time. Choosing plants based on water needs is a process known as xeriscaping. It cuts down on maintenance and also keeps water bills low.

If you're committed to doing away with your old, high-maintenance landscape and starting again from scratch, there are other steps you can take to lower your landscape maintenance. It starts with taking a hard look at your lawn.