Reclaim Your Weekends
Some people love the backbreaking business of tending to lawn and garden. Then there’s the rest of us—who’d rather relax and let that little piece of heaven largely take care of itself. Ahead, easy ways to make your outdoor space the envy of the neighborhood.
Less lawn equals less work. That’s the best argument for hardscaping—that's the use of pavers, brick, or decorative stone. Whether you opt for a patio or lay garden paths, you’ll have a durable surface that never needs weeding or watering—although you may want to sweep it occasionally. Options abound, from neat grids to a patchwork effect, so a great no-fuss look is just a stone’s throw away.
Related: 9 Ideas for a Beautiful Brick Patio
One and Done
Perennials are the gift that keeps on giving, season after season, unlike annuals, which you have to plant every year. Some perennials are more carefree than others, though. Forgetful gardeners will love drought-tolerant pasque or the delicate-looking but durable penstemon. For hot and dry climates, we like brilliant sedum, and, yes, yarrow (don’t dare call it a weed!).
Related: 50 Plants That Thrive in Any Yard
Plants adapted to their environments long before people did, so native species are a wise choice for the laid-back landscaper. Native plants require less fertilizer, water, pesticides, and overall care than plants brought in by settlers. To learn what will thrive in your neck of the woods, type native plants and your state into a search engine—you’ll find tons of info.
Artificial grass has come a long way from your granddad’s Astroturf. Today’s synthetics, made of nylon or polymer, have varying heights and color gradations to look and feel more like the real thing. You can even plant a tree in it. Though pricey ($8 to $12 per square foot), your faux lawn will be absolutely fuss-free.
It’s Easy Being Evergreen
What could be simpler than plants that keep their vivid, verdant color all year long? Put dwarf varieties into flower beds, set shrubs near your house to disguise the foundation, choose tall, columnar types for privacy—there are even creeping varieties for ground cover.
Borders Without Bother
For interesting edges without the effort, try clumping monkey grass (Liriope muscari) along flower beds, borders, and walkways. This Asian native is hardy; stands up to dogs, deer, bugs, and weeds; and does well in a variety of soils and climates. Monkey grass can grow to about 15 inches, so trim it if you wish or go long.
Less Is More
Set in Succulents
If watering falls low on your to-do list, succulents (like echeveria and agave) are your garden go-tos. Tough, colorful, and captivating, they also play well with others, so mixing ’em up adds more excitement to your landscape. Drainage is key, however: Put these shallow-rooting, sun-loving plants in raised beds with porous, well-aerated soil.
A rose by any other name probably isn’t as easy as the Knock Out®. These set-’em-and-forget-’em flowers are heat-resistant, pretty much prune-free, and “self-cleaning”—you don’t even have to deadhead them. Just use a good organic or chemical granular rose food in early spring, and follow up with foliar feedings (liquid fertilizer applied to the leaves) through the blooming season.
Stay in Your Zone
Strew irregularly shaped rocks around for the no-sweat simplicity of paving with a softer, more organic vibe. Gravel may be man-made (ideal for high-traffic areas) or natural (smoother but less stable—so use where traffic is light). To keep it looking spiffy, banish errant leaves as necessary with a wire-tined rake.
Pass on the Grass
Give your mowing muscles a rest—and lighten your water and fertilizer load—by swapping traditional turf for a no-effort ground cover. These plants create a pleasingly plush carpet, and there are enough varieties to suit just about any climate and traffic condition. Consider mat-forming creeping perennials like New Zealand brass buttons (Cotula squalida) and Scotch or Irish moss (Sagina subulata) or low-growing clover.
Set and Forget
Remembering to stay true to your watering routine can be tricky. Take steps to automate it, so you’re less apt to forget. If you have an irrigation system, set up the timer based on what’s appropriate for the season. And if you don’t have underground sprinklers, you can still automate the process by purchasing a timer that attaches to your hose bib. Your grass will thank you.
When selecting trees for your landscape, choose those that are low maintenance to avoid having to spend your free time cleaning up a carpet of spent blooms, hickory hulls, or invasive seedlings. Opt for evergreens and standard shade trees that don’t drop a lot of extras or re-seed themselves all over the lawn.
Skip the Rake
Set Some Barriers
The more time you invest upfront putting down weed barriers in your landscaping beds, the less time you’ll spend battling the unwelcome plants later. And contending with fewer weeds equals more time relaxing with family and friends—it's a win-win.
Want an easy way to cross a major spring and fall project off your to-do list? Replace organic material mulch like wood chips or pine straw with pea gravel or river rocks. These options require much less maintenance and don’t need to be refreshed every year.
These projects prove that landscaping doesn’t need to be tedious or expensive. Wait no more and try these ideas for better curb appeal.
Give the special gardener in your life a little love this holiday season! Go now to see Bob Vila's best gifts for green thumbs.