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

Giving Up Your Lawn
Okay, so maybe lawns don't require this much attention. But they are pretty needy as far as landscape maintenance goes.
Okay, so maybe lawns don't require this much attention. But they are pretty needy as far as landscape maintenance goes.
Sarah Turton/­Getty Images

Your lawn requires more maintenance than any other aspect of your landscape. The reason is clear: There are few plants found in a yard that grow as quickly and require as much attention as grass. Most experts recommend you cut your grass no less than once a week during the growing season, and that no more than one-third of the grass be cut off at once to create and maintain a healthy lawn. The sheer amount of ground a lawn covers also means it usually requires more time than any other part of the landscape. As a result, even people who don't like to garden find their time eaten up by their lawns.

Here's a radical idea: Why not get rid of your lawn? Well, maybe not all of it, but you could probably find some places around your lawn that you could do without. Consistently shaded areas where grass doesn't grow well can be replaced with shade-loving ground covers like moss. Those patches of grass can also be replaced with plant beds featuring shade-loving plants. Adding landscape boulders to planting beds can add a dramatic contrast to the live plants around it (and take up space while demanding no maintenance). And you can forego live plants altogether by installing a hardscape, like a patio, deck or shed. A patio made of pavers, for example, can be extremely easy to maintain.

Replacing lawns growing on slopes are another great way to cut down on maintenance. Anyone who has a yard with grass growing on an incline knows how difficult mowing can be. You can free up time by replacing a steep lawn with other types of ground cover that require less maintenance, like low-growing junipers. A more expensive alternative is to cut a retaining wall into the slope. This will replace the slope with a rock, paver or brick wall, which also require little maintenance.

If you've outgrown the need for a manicured lawn, you could allow your yard to naturalize itself. Especially if you have a larger yard, choosing an expensive area away from the house to let return to its natural state will definitely free up some of your time. Naturalized areas, like a wooded area or a meadow, don't have to look unkempt. Planting wildflowers in meadows, for example, will give you seasonal color and generally require only an annual mowing.

Once you understand your yard and become more open to its naturalization, you can easily create a low-maintenance landscape.