Many homeowners strive to have an attractive, well-maintained landscape to beautify their property and enhances its value. However, many lack time to spend on maintaining it.

How can someone have a beautiful yard and not be a slave to it? The most important component is planning, that is, doing your homework before purchasing any plants and installing them.

Consider the growth habits of the plants you wish to have. Select ones that fit the space where they are to be planted. For example, if you have a tight space in a corner, use a narrow growing upright plant.

Always take into consideration of the mature size of the plants before planting. A small two-foot-tall plant could eventually grow to 20 feet in height. What is the plant’s growth rate?

Some grow at a rapid rate requiring more pruning. Slower growing plants need less care. Many dwarf variety shrubs are available and proportionally are smaller than the full-size standards plants. An example would be the dwarf yaupon hollies, which grow up to two or three feet tall, while the standard yaupon can reach small trees’ size. Some varieties of crape myrtles are low growing as opposed to the tree form types.

When planting, space the plants out accordingly. Again, consider its mature size. The plants are often spaced too close to each other or structures such as buildings, driveways, and sidewalks. Doing so will result in overcrowding in addition to using more plants than needed.

A prime example is the Leyland cypress trees. Many people like them since they have a rapid growth rate and can instantly screen for privacy. However, these trees can reach a height of 60 feet and a width of 15 to 20 feet. Often, the trees are planted only a few feet from each, causing them to grow into each other.

The shape of bed lines around ornamental plants’ plantings should not be at sharp angles, which creates a challenge when mowing. The lines should be curve-shaped, ensuring they can accommodate the turning radius of the mower. Use bold sweeping curves instead of small ones.

In places where a long narrow strip of the lawn is required, design the strip’s width in multiples of the cutting swath of the mower. For example, if the mower cuts a 20-inch swath, make the lawn strip 20 inches, 40 inches, or 60 inches wide. Extra mowing time is required to cut around objects in the lawn such as trees, lamp posts, mailboxes, and the like.

When possible, locate yard objects inside plant beds, eliminating the need for tedious hand clipping and saving trees from lawn mower injuries. Providing an edging or “mowing apron” around specimen plants or plant beds reduces mowing time and helps to minimize mower damage to plants.

Eliminating part of your lawn area as you develop your plan will lessen landscape maintenance. Replaced the grass with a ground cover, expanding the planting beds, build patios or decks, and naturalize some areas, all of which will reduce lawn area.

Paved areas such as patios require less maintenance than grass and provide more space for entertaining. In heavily traveled or completely shaded areas, maintaining a vegetative ground cover can be a losing battle.

Clipped hedges are a high maintenance landscape feature. Substituting a fence or wall for a formal hedge eliminates a lot of maintenance, such as periodic pruning or shaping, as well as routine fertilizing and spraying. A wall or fence is an excellent alternative to a hedge in a narrow, restrictive space that plants could rapidly outgrow.

Yes, you can have an attractive landscape with minimal maintenance. Determine what type of plant material you want and make sure it is appropriate to the site.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett.


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