Reducing landscape maintenance

by Clare Liptak published Mar 16, 2014 10:45 PM, last modified Mar 16, 2014 10:45 PM
No landscape is maintenance free, but there are ways to cut down on the work. The more that we make landscapes like the natural environments they once were, the fewer problems there will be for us to solve.
Reducing landscape maintenance

Landscape wisely

No landscape is maintenance free, but there are ways to cut down on the work. Unfortunately many landscapes are artificial and inhospitable environments for plants and the beneficial insects that would protect them from some plant pests. The land has been stripped of the existing soil and trees, and exposed to full force of the wind. The more that we make landscapes like the natural environments they once were, the fewer problems there will be for us to solve. Also, if you are a bird and butterfly lover, making your landscape more like a natural environment will attract them in droves.


Some ideas to consider

Choose the right plant for the right spot. No broadleaf evergreens in the sun, lilacs in the shade, or rhododendrons where puddles linger after a rain. The information on the tag when you purchase the plant is a good start, but you can supplement that info with what you discover online or in library books. Give the plant the conditions it needs to thrive and it will.


Buy plants that are resistant to insects and diseases; often these are native plants, that tolerate our soils and climate better than the exotic plants do because the natives have been in NJ since the ice age.


Pruning is a never-ending job, because it stimulates new growth! That perfectly symmetrical Colorado Blue Spruce may be cute and 2 feet tall now, but someday (and sooner than you think) it will tower over your house and block the window in the living room. Consider buying dwarf plants; they’re more expensive but much less work in the long run.


Landscaping variety
Landscaping with variety
Build landscape structures with ease of maintenance in mind. Redwood and cedar don’t have to be stained. Plastic wood comes in lots of colors, doesn’t produce splinters but often needs more support compared to building with real wood. Also, some people think it’s a bit slippery when wet. Raised beds for flower or vegetable gardens will be easier to weed and care for, even for a person in a wheelchair.


Use mulches to reduce weeds and drought stress. Shredded pine bark mulches gradually decompose and improve the quality of your soil. Just don’t pile the mulch high around the trunks of trees and shrubs. Mulch should taper from an inch or less near the trunk to about 2 or 3 inches at the edge of the planting bed.


Don’t use the same plant over and over. Have a variety of trees and shrubs in your landscape. That way, if one pest attacks one or even 2 types of plants in your yard, the rest of the yard still looks pretty good. There’s strength in diversity even in landscapes.


Don’t try to grow turf in areas that just aren’t right for it. Kentucky bluegrass needs full sun, but red fescue will tolerate shade. Still, it’s a matter of meeting the soil, water and sun requirements or these finicky grasses just won’t be able to survive the weed pressure. If your site doesn’t meet the basic needs of the grass, consider a ground cover instead.


Seeded lawns are probably the cheapest part of the landscape to install but they definitely are the most expensive and time-consuming to maintain. Nothing else you do in your landscape is as time consuming as mowing a lawn every week. Ground covers, trees and shrubs cost more initially, but many require little care if you provide the conditions they need to thrive.


For more information on low-maintenance ideas for your landscape go to:

Clare Liptak, retired Somerset County Agricultural Agent, is an IPM scout, horticulturist, and Certified Tree Expert #208.



BoroGreen is a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization and consists of a loosely knit community of residents, businesses, congregations and like-minded groups, all contributing to a more sustainable community in and around Hillsborough, NJ.