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Spend the summer hiking and biking instead of watering and weeding with a low maintenance yard. Here are some ways to do that in 4 steps.

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A beautiful yard is, well, beautiful, but it is also a lot of work. I don’t mind that work, but some do. If that sounds like you, here are some ideas that will let you have the time to enjoy your gardens.

At the top of the list is to hire a gardener. I say that tongue-in-cheek, but it’s obviously the best way to have a showcase yard without lifting a finger. If that’s out of the question for budget or other reasons, keep reading.

1. Choose the right plants

Some plants need more attention than others. Roses are fussy, and cacti are not. Choose plants that are not susceptible to disease and insects. Native plants work the best, since they are acclimated to your soil and climate. They need no fertilizer and little or no supplemental water. If you want a manicured look, they will need to be pruned, but since they grow in the wild, you can let them grow naturally.

Adaptable plants are those that do well in your region, but that are not native. They need little care once established. You don’t have to amend the soil and water them all the time to keep them looking nice.

Plant choices will depend on where you live, but most locales can support evergreens, bulbs, succulents (sedum and cacti), lilies, mints, and daisies. Better Homes and Gardens has a list of low maintenance perennials for each region of the US.

2. Think about easy and efficient watering

Native plants need little water aside from the rain you normally receive. They are my first choice in garden design. You can water them for more growth, if you choose. No matter what plants you use, a drip irrigation system is best. Put it on a timer to water, and you will be off the hook.

A drip system of tubing and small emitters will deliver water directly to the base of your plants, which, aside from freeing you from garden chores, saves water. It can be installed beneath the soil level, or tubing can lie on top of the garden soil and under the mulch. Alternatively, you can use soaker hoses that also go on the soil and under the mulch.

drip irrigation system close up

3. Feed your soil

Good soil will retain water and provide nutrients your plants need. While it’s still spring, add compost to your beds and till it in. Add a layer in fall to further improve the soil.

You can buy compost by the truckload, the bale, or the bag. This is the shortcut! You can make compost easily by piling up sticks, small branches, grass clippings and kitchen scraps (no meat, oil or dairy). Do this near the gardens where you will use it. This is a little extra work, so you have to decide how low maintenance you want your yard to be!

In spring, add natural fertilizers that are slow release, such as bone meal and feather meal. This will cut down on the time you need to spend fertilizing.

4. Add moisture-saving, weed-discouraging mulch

Mulch is really valuable in a low maintenance yard. When your beds are planted, water them well, and cover them with a layer of compost and at least a 3” layer of mulch. This suppresses weeds – gardeners spend a lot of time weeding!

It also helps the soil retain moisture (read: less watering), and it keeps the soil cool in the heat of summer. It eventually breaks down to add humus to the garden, just as compost does.

Planning for a well-rounded summer

You can spend your summer swimming, hiking, and biking instead of weeding, watering and fertilizing. A little effort early in the season will pay off with a lot of spare time.

Always garden organically, and plant something for the pollinators!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.