Low maintenance backyard landscaping is the key if you want a beautiful yard, but time is precious. The initial set-up takes some work if you do it yourself, but once it’s finished, there is minimum upkeep. Why not put in the effort today, so you can have time to relax tomorrow?
We found inspiration and creative ways to use rocks, mulch, and low-maintenance plants to establish a landscape that’s not only spectacular but easy to maintain. Bring on the tight schedules. When you’re ready to relax, you’ll have a beautiful paradise to enjoy!
Build a Rock Garden
A rock garden is a realistic choice for low maintenance backyard landscaping. You can spend a couple of thousand dollars hiring a professional, or you can do it yourself, then sit back and admire your handy work. First, you need to pick the perfect spot. Is there a slope that you can use as the foundation? Or do you need to build a berm – a mound of soil that you’ll use as a base? Conversely, you can dig down and make a raised bed with bricks or concrete.
Prepare the soil
Preparing the soil is essential because there’s more to a rock garden than rocks. First, mark off the area you’re using and clean the soil, removing all debris, rocks included. Dry soil is easier to work than damp or wet soil. The second step is to make sure the dirt has a drainage layer. That’s a particularly important step if your rock garden is a raised bed.
Slopes have natural drainage, so use this advantage in your landscape design if you can. When you’re building a mound or raised bed, be sure to add a drainage layer consisting of broken clay pots, chunky rocks, and broken up concrete or bricks. Next, you’ll need a layer of sand, and finally, a blanket of soil. The topsoil is vital for your plants to thrive. Experts recommend one part topsoil, one part leaf mold, peat, or humus soil, and one part small gravel. Pro tip — make extra because you want to have some left for later.
What kind of rocks should you use?
A classic rock garden should look like it happened naturally. Pick stones that came from the dirt you cleaned and, if possible, grab rocks in a variety of sizes from your property. If you don’t have many rocks to choose from, try a home improvement store that offers landscaping stones. The most important thing is to pick rocks that blend in with your yard. Then, to make it look natural, scatter them on the mound, slope, or raised bed that you’ve prepared.
For big boulders, make sure to set them in the ground by at least a third of their girth. That gives them the appearance that they landed there naturally. After you’ve finished laying in the rocks, let the whole thing sit for a bit before adding the plants. In a couple of weeks when the soil has settled, use the mix you made earlier to fill in any gaps.
What plants are best?
Rock gardens are an opportunity to let small flowers and groundcover get some attention. Known for its tiny purple flowers, gray-green foliage, and drought tolerance Aubrieta is a groundcover that thrives in rock gardens. Another attractive choice is Rock Cress. It’s a creeper that produces tons of little pink or white flowers in the spring. Plus, it’s heat and drought tolerant, making for less work. Plant the seeds, and it’ll grow to look as if mother nature had a hand in the landscaping. When you’re planning your garden, start slowly and experiment with plants that thrive in your zone.
Cover Small Grassy Areas with Rocks
If you’re too busy for lawn care, rocks may be the answer. Once you finish with the heavy labor of cleaning out the sod there’s nothing to water, trim, fertilize, or mow. You’ll need some equipment such as a grub hoe and sod cutter. Depending on the size of your yard, you may want to recruit some help. Once you’ve removed the grass, add landscape fabric to discourage regrowth. Now you can complete your project with different sized flat rocks that come in a variety of colors. Or, try gravel for attractive low maintenance backyard landscaping.
Using mulch in the garden helps maintain moisture, and keeps weeds from growing. It also adds texture in a garden, and it is fragrant. It does need to be replaced yearly, usually in the spring. You can plant annuals, such as pansies and petunias, in mulch. But they will require plenty of water if there isn’t much soil to retain the moisture.
Low maintenance backyard landscaping with perennials
You won’t be hurting for options when you’re looking for perennials to complete your design for low maintenance backyard landscaping. There are hundreds to choose from, one of the most popular choices is Catmint. It blooms in late spring with densely packed periwinkle purple flowers. Pollinators love this perennial, so you’ll not only get low maintenance landscaping, you’ll have a spot for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to play. Catmint needs full sun and well-drained soil.
Plant a Variety of Ornamental Grasses
In addition to providing low maintenance backyard landscaping, ornamental grasses help pollinators by providing habitat and food. The long thick coverage also serves as a hiding place for small critters to keep them safe. Ornamental grasses are incredibly versatile plants that thrive in all types of soil and weather conditions.
Gorgeous in the fall when its quarter-inch blue-green leaves transform from rust to wine red, Little Bluestem is a lovely addition to your low maintenance backyard landscaping. It blooms with two to three-inch clusters of silvery-white flower spikes that you can use for dried flower arrangements. Little Bluestream grows best in warm climates and has a deep root system that’s good for stabilizing the soil on a slope.
Ginger Love Fountain Grass
An abundance of showstopping plumes covered with red flowers that turn bronze in the fall, make Ginger Love a natural choice for low maintenance backyard landscaping. It grows to 26 inches tall, with a spread of 3 feet and generally lives for about 10 years.
Feather reed grass
Dense clumps of slender green leaves produce flowering stalks in the summer which makes feather reed grass a showstopper with little effort. The leaves get up to three feet tall, surrounding feathery plumes that rise another five feet from the ground, for a total height pushing eight feet tall. They’re non-invasive and bloom pink, green, and white flowers in the summer with colorful fall foliage. And, they are also hardy in the winter.
Don’t Forget the Lavender
No low maintenance backyard landscaping would be complete without lavender. Not only do you get a plant that’s a prolific grower with close to no maintenance, but you also will be able to harvest the fragrant blooms. There are quite a few varieties as well.
As you can see, there is no end to the things you can do to turn your yard into a low-maintenance paradise. Just a couple of weekends spent doing yard work in the spring will pay huge dividends. You’ll be able to relax on those long warm summer weekends no matter how little time you have to spare.