Backyard Improvements 101: Keeping It Low-Maintenance and Eco-Friendly

If you have a backyard, you know it entails a certain amount of yard work. If you don’t have the time or desire to spend time on outdoor chores, consider these low-maintenance alternatives.

These suggestions are also eco-friendly, so you’ll be doing your part to save the planet.

Go Native

Because they’re used to growing in the area, native plants need less water and fertilizer once they’re established. They attract local wildlife including birds, bees and butterflies. Native plants and flowers are also naturally resistant to local pests and disease. The same goes for native grass. Fescue and ryegrass grow well in the Northeast whereas Bermudagrass does better in the Southeast. Find which plants grow best in your area at your local garden center or cooperative extension.

Plant Perennials

Perennials such as hens-and-chicks or lilies come back year after year. You won’t have to replant them or yucca plants which will quickly expand to fill your garden and need very little water or care. They tend to withstand a late-season frost and are hardier than many annuals. Perennials also provide nesting material for birds and butterflies.

Companion Planting

Instead of using dangerous pesticides, let Mother Nature do the work of repelling insects for you. If you plant tomatoes in your garden, plant some petunias close by to keep the tomato worms away. Marigolds fend off mosquitoes as well as aphids and potato bugs. They also stimulate the growth of all the vegetables in your garden. Herbs such as basil and oregano will also deter insects.

Decorate With Potted Plants

Get potted plants

It’s easy to surround your patio with insect-repelling plants if you plant in movable pots. Are you having a party? Move the marigolds and lavender around to keep the bugs away from your guests. You can also coordinate the plants according to the season. You can also bring potted plants inside before a predicted frost.

Grow a Pollinator Garden

Speaking of bees and butterflies, pollinators are essential for flowers and food. You can plant a garden specifically designed to attract these important insects. Plant in clumps and choose plants that flower at different times of the year. This will keep pollinators hard at work in your garden.

Plant a Tree

Trees add beauty and shade to any yard, and they can help clean the air. One tree can remove as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year and provide enough oxygen for four people. Their shade can also help cool your home if planted strategically, saving up to 50 percent on energy costs. Healthy trees provide crucial habitat for birds and other wildlife and can increase your property value by as much as 27 percent.

Solar Lighting

Get solar energy lights

Outdoor lighting adds ambiance and extends the amount of time you can enjoy your yard. Solar lights are inexpensive, energy efficient and easy to install yourself. If you want to go even more eco-friendly, consider going solar with your entire home.


Composting turns your kitchen leftovers into natural fertilizer for your garden. Who can argue with less trash in the landfill and healthier plants? You can compost fruit and veggie remnants, coffee grounds, eggshells, leaves, and grass clippings.

Smart Watering

Water your lawn in the morning or early evenings. If you give your grass a drink during the coolest parts of the day, less water will evaporate, and you’ll save money on your water bill. For plants, water at the roots rather than overhead.

Get smart watering system

Soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems can help you do this. Mulch helps soak up water and prevents runoff better than soil alone. Using mulch in your flower beds also nourishes the soil and keeps weeds from growing. Finally, consider planting a rain garden to contain storm runoff and allow it to soak the soil slowly.

Rain Barrels

Collect rain with rain barrels to water your plants and lawn. Just attach it to the downspout of the house, so all the water that flows off your roof goes into the barrel. Attaching a soaker or drip hose to the barrel is easy.

Mulch Leaves and Grass

Instead of raking leaves in the fall, save your back and mow them instead. Take off the grass catcher and run your mower over the leaves. That will shred them into smaller pieces, and they’ll send nutrients back into the soil as they decompose. Make sure you can see about half an inch of grass above the leaves when you’re done. A thicker layer of leaves may kill your grass.

Don’t bag your grass clippings. It used to be traditional to bag and dispose of clippings in a landfill, but that’s proven to be a wasteful practice — one that many states now ban. Even if permitted in your area, it’s much easier and better for the environment to leave them and let them nourish your lawn. Grass clippings are a natural mulch that provides necessary nutrients to the soil. Those grass clippings also make a great organic mulch for your plants and trees.

Expand the Patio, Reduce the Lawn

A larger stone patio or deck expands your outdoor living space and gives you more area to entertain and less area to maintain.

A smaller lawn saves on water and yard work. Try stone, pavers, ground covering plants, moss or wildflowers instead. A natural meadow is another alternative. Plant sedge or autumn moor grass instead of sod, and go from mowing once a week to three or four times a year. For the ultimate in no-maintenance grass, consider artificial turf. It’s come a long way in recent years, and in many cases, it looks just like the real thing.

Having a backyard doesn’t mean you’ve got to spend a lot of time maintaining it. With the help of these suggestions, you can turn your yard into an easy-to-care-for oasis that also benefits the environment.

Author’s Bio

Henry Walsh is a gardening writer and eco-conscious living advocate. He recently began his homesteading journey after many years of incorporating the principles into his urban lifestyle.

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