When I meet a new landscape design client, the conversation almost always begins: "I want something really low maintenance."
It's a reasonable request and I do my best to offer ideas. Some of those ideas come from good books on the subject, some of them dating back to the 1950s, such as Ruth Stouts's "Gardening Without Work" and "How to have a Green Thumb without an Aching Back." In the 1990s, Sarah Stein wrote "Noah's Garden." More recently, there is Lee Reich's "Weedless Gardening" and Douglas Tallamy's "Bringing Nature Home."
But the best ideas come about after we talk awhile about the ways in which the homeowner is fighting nature in the landscape.
Some of the high-effort, low-return practices I see include attempts at defeating moss, fine-tuning sprinklers that water the pavement, too much mulch, placing "mulch volcanoes" around the trunks of young trees, broadcasting fertilizers that nourish weeds, planting too close to the house, overplanting, forgetting to prune or pruning incorrectly, and bagging grass and leaves so they can be hauled offsite.
Here's the simple reality: It takes a lot of work to fight nature, but many of the notions about a perfect lawn and garden promoted to us over the past 50 years do just that. A dense, flawless lawn with no moss, a perennial bed in continuous bloom, and sweet backyard privacy behind hedges and trees are all achieved with a certain level of effort, planning and expense.
There are other ways to create enjoyable outdoor spaces.
In the attached article, "Five ways to do less yardwork this year," from The Day community papers, I offer some suggestions. If you have trouble opening the link, please download the article from the attachment below.