How to design a lower maintenance garden

No-one wants to be a slave to their garden, yet modifying an existing landscape to be easier to manage or designing a new, easy-care garden can be a daunting challenge. However, it really is possible to have a beautiful, low maintenance garden that offers year-round interest, seasonal highlights, fragrance, and abundant color from both foliage and flowers.

The first step is to identify those gardening activities that you find to be most time consuming and the least enjoyable, then finding ways to reduce or eliminate them.

Which activities do you consider to be hard work?

  • Mowing the lawn?
    • Can you reduce its size or replace it with no-mow alternatives such as groundcovers?
    • Would a gravel garden be an option as an alternative?
    • Does this area have potential as a patio?
  • Pruning?
    • The "right plant-right place" philosophy means you should never have to prune for size.
    • Focus on easy-care trees and shrubs that do not need specialist pruning.
  • Weeding?
    • Weeds thrive in disturbed, exposed soil. Can you add a mulch in spring to suppress weeds?
    • Can you add some easy-care ground-covering shrubs or  perennials to crowd out the weeds?
  • Deadheading?
    • Select shrubs, perennials, and annuals that will re-bloom or flower for extended periods of time without the need for deadheading.
  • Dividing perennials?
    • Focus on easy-care perennials that do not need to be divided for vigor or continued bloom and avoid those that need regular division.
  • Watering?
  • Raking leaves in fall?
    • Consider a ratio of evergreens: deciduous trees & shrubs:perennials of 3:2:1 to reduce the need for raking yet still retaining fall color and flowers.
  • Cleaning out the pond?
    • Self-contained, re-circulating fountains are much less work than ponds or lined waterfalls yet still attract birds and introduce sound.


Do you have suggestions for reducing garden maintenance? Send us your ideas!

additional resources

Online courses & workshops

Inspirational Stories & Helpful links

My Garden: Working with Nature to Reinvent a Front Yard; An “old school” grassy front yard is transformed into a thriving Zen-like retreat

Water Wisdom: An Eco-Friendly Santa Fe Garden; A garden in Santa Fe honors the native landscape and makes the most of every drop of rain that falls

Global Warming and Gardens; Climate change is not only coming, it's already well underway. What can our gardens expect?

Natural Methods to Get Rid of Common Garden Weeds; 10 ways to control weeds and keep them out of your lawn and garden—including natural weed killers

Learn more about pruning shrubs and perennials