Creating an inviting outdoor space doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, backbreaking endeavor. Although there’s no such thing as a truly zero-maintenance landscape, it is possible to create a stylish backyard with minimal upkeep. Read on for six simple design ideas that can spruce up your backyard and help you spend more time enjoying the landscape—not just working on it.
1. Build a Native Plant Garden
What’s right for your backyard is highly dependent on your climate. For the best low-maintenance planting results, look for native plants that thrive in your region. Not only are these plants typically easier to establish, but they also require far less water and overall maintenance to grow. As an added plus, your native plant garden will help support biodiversity by providing food and shelter to local fauna.
2. Save Space For Outdoor Entertaining
One of the easiest ways to cut down on backyard maintenance is by replacing lawn with hardscape. Whether it’s an outdoor brick patio or timber deck, hardscape helps define space for outdoor entertaining and reduces the amount of greenery you’ll need to prune and weed. However, finding the balance between hardscape and landscape is crucial, and may depend on your climate; in areas like Texas, too much hardscape can make a backyard unbearably hot in summer. For a more budget-friendly outdoor entertaining alternative, consider designing around a DIY fire pit focal point.
3. Set Down Some Pavers
Spaced-out pavers or stepping stones offer an affordable alternative to hardscape. The shape, material, and arrangement of the pavers will also help define the character of your backyard, whether you’re going for a more playful or structured feel. To ensure long-term low maintenance, choose pavers made from sturdier, non-porous materials; set them on a sturdy foundation such as compacted sand to protect against sinking; and install pavers level to the land for easier mowing.
4. Add a Container Garden
Container gardening is an easy and fantastic way to add a bit of pizzazz to your backyard, especially if it’s on the smaller side. While container gardening may sound like a lot of work, you can minimize upkeep and the frequency of re-potting with the right plant and pot choices. Low-maintenance cacti and succulents are obvious options, but perennials, herbs, and shrubs can also thrive in a container. As for pots, choose something larger (colorful or sculptural pots also add personality) and a good potting soil mix specifically made for container plants. Overwintering your pots is also a possibility provided the pot is frost-resistant.
5. Plant With Perennials
Even if container gardening isn’t to your liking, take note of the aforementioned perennials—they're often the backbone of most low-maintenance gardens. Unlike annuals, perennials can bloom multiple years before they need to be replanted. These slower-growing and long-lived garden residents are less work and typically require fewer nutrients and water.
6. Introduce Rock Gardens or Xeriscaping
Replacing lawn with a ground cover of rocks or large boulder accents cuts down on upkeep and the need for irrigation. In addition to adding a rugged look to your backyard, sand- or stone-based ground cover can double as a weed suppressor and foundation for stepping stones. Moreover, choose low-maintenance plants, like sedum or succulents, to plant in the rock garden for beautiful contrast.