It’s a cliché in American society: we try to “keep up with the Joneses.” When we hear this phrase we imagine standing at the front door and staring at the home next door or across the street. The “Jones’s” house is bigger, their car is flashier, and their lawn is lusher, filled with flowers, and more perfectly landscaped. And there’s that unwritten code that says we should want what our neighbors have – right down to the mulch that seems to prevent even one weed from poking out of their soil.
This is silly, of course – we’re all individuals with our own ideas and preferences regarding what’s important about our lives, our gardens, our homes, and our lawns. When it comes to the yard, some people love having a grassy, green, weed-free yard that’s mowed every week, with perfectly pruned shrubs and edged with mulched flower gardens filled with colorful annuals. Of course, these homeowners might face bigger water bills and landscaping costs or enjoy spending hours working in their yard every week.
But not everyone wants to put that much work and money into their lawns. Maybe you want to save on water bills or are concerned about water conservation in your area. Maybe you prefer not to buy new flowers every year, or you just aren’t married to the idea of grass.
1. Does the idea of not having a grass lawn sound scandalous? In fact, clover can be a beneficial ground cover that’s less difficult to maintain. It stays green all summer, is weed-free, and doesn’t need to be fertilized. It’s also relatively pest-free and it aerates the soil. And here’s the kicker – clover rarely needs mowing.
There are many ways you can create a beautiful lawn that requires less maintenance than the “perfect” grass lawns we often see – and your choices might be better for both the health of your back and for the planet. Grass, after all, is not native to many of the natural ecosystems in the United States. If you live in an arid region, you know how much water and effort it takes to maintain a grass lawn. So considering other options is a great idea.
2. If you do live in a region where watering is necessary to maintain your lawn, consider installing an automatic irrigation system to save time, effort, and water. Such systems do involve an up-front investment, but if they are installed and programmed properly (and turned off when you don’t need them) they can save money in the long run (think of the cost of replacing dead grass or plants that have not been watered properly) and can help with water conservation efforts.
3. To spare yourself the expense and effort of purchasing and planting annuals every year, learn more about perennial plants and flowers. Planning your garden in advance with the help of a gardening class or by doing some research will make it possible to choose perennials that are suited to the local environment and to the amount of sun or shade available in your garden. If you combine perennials that flower throughout the spring and summer, you can have color in your garden all year.
Drought-tolerant perennials provide beautiful flowers without breaking the bank with your water bill (and they won’t die if water restrictions are handed down). Longwood Blue Bluebeard, for example, offers rare blue late-season flowers and grows into a compact and flattering companion to other late bloomers. This attractive perennial is also deer-resistant – another factor to consider for a low-maintenance lawn.
4. Deer-resistant plants will help you avoid the work required to keep deer out of your yard or to replace plants that become damaged by their grazing. Other deer-resistant perennials include Blue Rug Juniper and Blue Star Juniper. Many deer-resistant groundcovers are shade-tolerant, and although humans find their scent pleasing, deer find them offensive and leave them alone, serving as a detractor for deer who are considering spending time in your yard or garden.
5. Rock gardens are another great option if you don’t want to spend a lot of time weeding or mowing grass, especially if you live in a region with limited water. Planning and landscaping can produce beautiful results when the right rocks are combined with drought-tolerant, low maintenance plants. You can find numerous articles and videos on how to build a rock garden online, including this one from HowStuffWorks.com.
6. Mulch, of course, is a great garden tool for avoiding the work involved in constant weeding. This three-minute video shows you how to use mulch for optimum weed prevention.
With planning, an open mind about alternatives to grass, and a focus on perennials and drought-tolerant, deer-resistant plants, you can create a lawn or garden that will be not only low-maintenance but your own unique contribution to the neighborhood. Who needs to keep up with the Joneses? While they’re working hard or paying more to keep up that green, perfect lawn, you can enjoy a beautiful yard and the rest of your life.