Author Topic: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?  (Read 9579 times)

MrD

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Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« on: September 04, 2013, 10:27:56 AM »
I have a relatively hard yard to maintain, it is only about .33 acres but the shape is a pain. I have an extremely high angle hill in the very back of my yard that is very dangerous to mow. Also I am terrible at weed control / fertilization / edging so my yard looks like crap. I am a traveling consultant so generally I am only home Friday - Sunday so giving up a lot of time while home just seems insane to me.

I have not 100% made up my mind yet on hiring some one to do it, but so far from the quotes I have received it would cost $1100/annually to take care of my yard including: mowing, edging, blowing, fertilizer, weed control.

I know it is very anti-mustachian but I really value my time while at home and I really just suck at all of the above. I do not pay for any food/travel/hotel etc while on the road so my expenses for things like food/gas/electric etc. are much lower than most. I only don't pay for a cell phone. I figure I can justify the (hurts to say) ~$91/month for this.

Anyone have some insight on how I should either fork over the cash or how I can learn how to do this all relatively well? My dad always did all this stuff growing up and I never really learned how. (He REALLY enjoyed taking care of his lawn.)

jrhampt

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2013, 10:31:14 AM »
Can you focus your efforts on the front and ignore the back half with the steep slope?  Either let it grow long or try to plant some sort of ground cover such as English ivy and just let that take over?

JohnGalt

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2013, 10:35:42 AM »
I hated doing yard work in my limited free time and thought it was well worth paying someone to do it.  Then I decided I also hated paying for the yard and all of the extra, unused space in the house and sold it and am now happily back to renting an appropriately sized space for my needs.  Just something to think about...


Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2013, 10:36:04 AM »
I'm right there with you MrD. I have about a 1/4 acre on a good hill. Taking care of the yard does cost a bit of time and money. I fantasize about putting a "Prarie Rehab" sign and just letting it grow wild. :)

Some people enjoy that yard work. I'm not one of them. My plan is to invest of some basic landscape solutions to eliminate large portions of grass. Yes I might spend a few hundred dollars but I won't be spending extra time and money caring for grass.

You might also consider making part of your yard a vegetable garden. At least you'll get something in return and it would require minimal work vs yard work. That is another part of my plan.

geekette

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2013, 10:42:03 AM »
We got rid of all our grass.  We're in zone 7, so azaleas, roses, loropetalum, and crepe myrtles, lots of mulch, and creeping charlie for the slope.  There are other things scattered in there, some bulbs, some veg, some herbs, but it's pretty low maintenance, and I'm very happy about that.

MsSindy

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2013, 10:48:22 AM »
First, I'll assume that financially you're in a good position (i.e. no debt, working your way to FI), otherwise all bets are off and I'd say let it go wild or suck it up and mow it - doesn't have to look pristine.

Okay, with all the disclaimers out of the way, I have to ask do you really enjoy your yard, or do you consider it a pain-in-the-ass part of home ownership?  If you really derive pleasure out of seeing a well manicured yard, just calculate what the $91/month would cost you in your progress to FI (somebody and supply the factor... I think like 178 or something over 10 years??). Then decide, is it worth it to have a nicely manicured yard and push out FI by XX years?  Another option would be to do the basic mowing and just have a service (or high school kid) do the edging once a month.  Your yard doesn't have to be perfect.

OTH, if you're really not interested in it, then let large areas go 'wild'.  You can inter-plant wild grasses and watch the birds flock to your yard.  Don't do a veggie garden, as that is a lot of work!  You could also check into some colleges in your area and see if there are some kids that would take on your yard design as their Senior Project (degrees in horticulture or something similar).

Don't think of your situation as an either / or decision; look to be creative with a solution!

Forcus

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2013, 01:00:52 PM »
JohnGalt touched on it but I have to ask, if you are only home 3 days a week, why not rent and sell? Or rent out your house and just live there on weekends? Something unconventional, I guess, but it would seem ideal here. Then again you were just asking about lawn maintenance so that might be a bit much in response, lol.

As far as your actual problem, I have a similar area and just let it grow. It is a "maintained weediness". Some low / no maintenance ground covering like others suggested would work too. As far as $1100 a year, it would depend. If you are in an area that requires year round mowing, factoring in time, equipment costs and maintenance, and the opportunity cost of your time, it might be worthwhile. Personally I get no joy out of yard maintenance and if I could find a deal like that I'd jump on it, but it's 2 acres of hilly, uneven land so it's not worth the cost to outsource. Your mileage will vary.

prodarwin

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2013, 01:15:17 PM »
We got rid of all our grass.  We're in zone 7, so azaleas, roses, loropetalum, and crepe myrtles, lots of mulch, and creeping charlie for the slope.  There are other things scattered in there, some bulbs, some veg, some herbs, but it's pretty low maintenance, and I'm very happy about that.

Do you have any pictures?  More details on this please!

I live in central NC, and with this damn rain I'm mowing the lawn like every 4 days.  Its not a difficult lawn to mow, but finding time when it is:

A)  Sunny and has not recently rained/not early morning or evening so no dew on grass
and
B)  I'm home

is a pain in the ass.  I have a small lawn, but anything I can do to make it easier/quicker to maintain without reducing home value is worth my while.  I've already lost several gym/training days to yardwork in the past month :(

If I could have no lawn, I would.  This was the smallest yard I could find with a house that still had a good sized garage.

MrD

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2013, 01:20:56 PM »
Thanks a lot for all the advice guys. I have decided that I am going to suck it up and suffer through learning to edge better and mow it myself. I may have a bunch of weeds and not a perfect lawn but at least I am not losing over 15k over the course of 10 years. Time to hit youtube to figure out how to edge like a pro.

olivia

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2013, 01:23:17 PM »
My dad's cousin is married to a fantastic gardener, but their back yard was also super steep.  She installed ground covering all along the back hill and only had grass (with planters build in and paths around them) on the flat part.  Seems like a good solution since it's unlikely that you can do anything on the hill. 

Jamesqf

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2013, 01:28:45 PM »
As other people have suggested, you don't have to have it all as lawn, and the lawn you do have doesn't have to be high-maintenance bluegrass.  You can have trees, shrubs, vines, various groundcovers, perennials...  Most of those, when established, will choke out a lot of common weeds.  And hills can be great for roses & other ornamental shrubs.

You'll need to do some research to discover just what is suitable to your climate.  I'm in a fairly arid area, so my low-maintenance "natural" areas have lots of penstemmons, California poppies (which would be weeds if they weren't so pretty) and other xeric plants, interspersed with patches of buffalo & blue grama grasses.

Left

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2013, 01:29:02 PM »
A joke, but buy a goat? They eat a lot of grass, and you can get milk out of them. Also good for pest control (but they become a pest too)

but like olivia mentioned, why not turn it into a garden or otherwise "flower/grass" beds?

something like this where the beds follow the slope down like a staircase?


geekette

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2013, 01:45:52 PM »
We got rid of all our grass.  We're in zone 7, so azaleas, roses, loropetalum, and crepe myrtles, lots of mulch, and creeping charlie for the slope.  There are other things scattered in there, some bulbs, some veg, some herbs, but it's pretty low maintenance, and I'm very happy about that.

Do you have any pictures?  More details on this please!

I live in central NC, and with this damn rain I'm mowing the lawn like every 4 days.  Its not a difficult lawn to mow, but finding time when it is:

A)  Sunny and has not recently rained/not early morning or evening so no dew on grass
and
B)  I'm home

is a pain in the ass.  I have a small lawn, but anything I can do to make it easier/quicker to maintain without reducing home value is worth my while.  I've already lost several gym/training days to yardwork in the past month :(

If I could have no lawn, I would.  This was the smallest yard I could find with a house that still had a good sized garage.

Sorry, I don't have any representative pics.  I do have to admit that no lawn doesn't mean no maintenance, but it's so much better than the weekly slog in the heat behind a mower. 

Because my husband, who didn't mow, was resistant to getting rid of the grass, the process was gradual (we've lived here 20 years).  First plantings around the edges of the front yard, then azaleas and mulch under the maple tree that had grown so much the grass was struggling. 

Then we put in crepe myrtle and loropetalum and some other stuff around the edges of the back yard, and finally mulched the middle and filled it with roses and beauty berry (and whatever veg/herb stuff I think will grow every year).  There's a path of cyprus mulch winding through the back.  In the spring, it's pretty, in the summer, it gets overgrown, in the fall, I trim everything back and mulch, and then winter's easy.  But yeah, weeds.

Storypage

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« Last Edit: September 04, 2013, 02:46:42 PM by Storypage »


oldtoyota

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #15 on: September 04, 2013, 04:18:02 PM »
We have zoysia grass. It looks great, grows slowly, and grows too thick to allow weeds. I use no fertilizer on it at all. Really easy.

In a shady garden area, I planted hosta with large leaves. The leaves block sun and, therefore, weeds.

Over time, I've created a simple yard with easy-to-maintain plants.

I weed maybe one time per month.

Mark B

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #16 on: September 04, 2013, 09:27:47 PM »
Lots of xeriscaping going on here in soCal, using native plants.  The only downside around here is that a lot of the local native plants look like weeds, LOL.

Honestly, and I know it's much easier for me to sit here and type this than for you to implement it, but knowing what I know now, if I were you I'd work on transitioning into a job that gives me a life so that there's time to mow the lawn or do whatever you need/want to do.  After all, that's one of the foundational concepts of this blog.  Jamming your real life into three days a week, man, that's tough.

You don't list your age in your profile--maybe you're a young guy out there trying to build a career, or maybe everyone who does what you do has to travel.   I spent a lot of time myself traveling and just generally being away from the things and people I love, and looking back on it, what was it all for--some money?  I regret it with all my heart.  Getting props for doing a great job fed me emotionally, but I was too ignorant to realize that, in terms of emotional "food," it was empty, junk calories.

People come up with all sorts of reasons why their situation can't possibly change.  It can.  If your life depended on it you could change.  And your life does depend on it.  Not trying to be all dramatic, but I feel very strongly about this.

Storypage

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #17 on: September 05, 2013, 09:49:40 AM »

Well, I plan on xeriscaping my city home, and the only travel I do is to Texas to see my kids and grandkids. Within the maintenance free landscaping, I plan on building raised beds and growing food (Grow food, not lawns). When the beds are dormant, I will fill them with interesting stuff that requires little care and less water.

Cheaper, more ecologically sound, and tasty.

Jamesqf

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #18 on: September 05, 2013, 12:06:39 PM »
It's called xeriscaping.

Not really.  Xeriscaping (from the Greek work for "dry", e.g. "Xerox") is the practice of landscaping for low water use.  Xeriscaping can also be low maintenance, but it's perfectly possible to create a high maintenance xeriscape.  Conversely, if you live in a fairly wet climate, you can do a low-maintenance landscape using a lot of water-loving plants. 

pbkmaine

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #19 on: September 05, 2013, 01:44:13 PM »
I hate mowing and dislike grass. What I have done with all my yards is increase the size of the planting beds and decrease the grass space every year. A hilly patch works great as a rock garden. Dig out the grass. You can do this by hand, bit by bit. Amend the earth if you need to with compost. Cover with ordinary newspaper for weed control. Cut slits for plants (I got most of mine from neighbors dividing their perennials), and cover newspaper with topsoil and mulch. Intersperse with large rocks from neighbors and construction sites. For the first few years, until perennials fill in, plant some annual flowers you grow from seed. I like nasturtiums. They are easy to grow and edible - cousins to watercress.  If your hilly area gets at least partial sun, you can have a kitchen garden and grow herbs and vegetables. 

Frugally-raised

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #20 on: September 06, 2013, 08:31:32 AM »
I'm a master gardener and hate lawn care, so I reduced the amount of grass by expanding my perennial beds. Now that I've been doing it for over 10 years, I'm less interested in weeding and maintaining and collecting the latest-and-greatest plant.

So, after much research, I've come to the conclusion that the easiest-to-maintain landscaping is a well-designed group of shrubs. They are more work to install, as you need to do supplemental watering for 2-3 years (less watering in the second and third years, but you still need to help them along), and will require some weeding in the initial years if you start with smaller plants, but after that, they only require a little pruning (once or twice a year) to keep them looking nice.

Of course, a well-designed shrubbery includes plants that look after themselves and don't outgrow their space. Thus, they don't need much pruning. Or, if they will get larger than the space, you can keep them under control by cutting them to the ground every decade or so. (Many—not all—older hedge plants do well with this method.)

So, I'd consider doing what you can to lessen the task of mowing. Perhaps planting shrubs in the steeply-sloped area would cut the mowing time in half (not to mention making it less dangerous).

An excellent book is Designing Your Gardens and Landscapes by Janet Macunovich. She explains how to evaluate your site (crucial if you want to lower your maintenance), choose your goals, plan for maintenance, set your budget, etc.

But really, the best thing you can do is get educated. I like the YouTube idea, but check out your public library, too. I've found that the information I find on the internet about gardens/landscapes is generally not very good quality, especially when it comes to learning the basics. Books and other paid content are much better.

You should also check your state's Extension office. They will have a lot of information that is specific to your location. (Assuming you are in the USA, of course.) You can also look at neighboring states, too. I've found that some states seem to specialize in specific areas—despite the fact that they're all supposed to be supporting community education.

http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

Good luck!

acc7x3

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #21 on: September 06, 2013, 08:45:37 AM »
Invest in some goats. The "mow" the grass as well as fertilize. you can also use them for milk and use that to make cheese. Might not be practical, but its a thought.
And I like it that air ports are starting to do this (again) and cut down on mowing and herbicides.
http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=9204764

MrsPete

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #22 on: September 07, 2013, 07:29:37 AM »
In my city (not neighborhood, not HOA, the city itself) if you don't maintain your lawn -- and I'm talking about really letting it go for weeks, not just needing to re-seed or failing to do the trimming -- they'll send you a registered letter giving you a couple days to rectify the situation, and then a guy'll come out and do it for you.  And the city'll bill you $350. 

Before I'd face that, I'd pay a landscape company to come in and remove the grass, cover the slope with some of that plastic-stuff, and cover it with attractive rocks.  Yeah, it's money up front, but then you're done.

acc7x3

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #23 on: September 09, 2013, 09:44:05 AM »
Before I'd face that, I'd pay a landscape company to come in and remove the grass, cover the slope with some of that plastic-stuff, and cover it with attractive rocks.  Yeah, it's money up front, but then you're done.
The thing that worries me about this is it is crating a fast water shed. In certain parts of the the US this is a very bad thing. Like for me, in Southern Louisiana, fast water carries more sediment. The sediment that holds up your house. So this is they I think that grass is good.

MrsPete

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #24 on: September 09, 2013, 03:27:46 PM »
Before I'd face that, I'd pay a landscape company to come in and remove the grass, cover the slope with some of that plastic-stuff, and cover it with attractive rocks.  Yeah, it's money up front, but then you're done.
The thing that worries me about this is it is crating a fast water shed. In certain parts of the the US this is a very bad thing. Like for me, in Southern Louisiana, fast water carries more sediment. The sediment that holds up your house. So this is they I think that grass is good.
Would low-to-no-care-needed bushes provide the same root structure that'd help hold back sediment?  Better yet, could you plant blueberry bushes, which are low-to-no-care bushes that also provide a rather expensive but delicious food? 

chasesfish

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #25 on: September 09, 2013, 05:32:39 PM »
I really despise my yard too, but its part of home ownership.  The problem with all-natural (which I have in the back) is that tree services are expensive.  It's coming time soon for me to have some major trees removed

Jamesqf

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #26 on: September 09, 2013, 09:25:49 PM »
Better yet, could you plant blueberry bushes, which are low-to-no-care bushes that also provide a rather expensive but delicious food?

If you're in a climate & have the kind of soil (pretty acid) that blueberries need, yes.  And the principle is the same, you just have to find something that will do well in your particular conditions.

MrsPete

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Re: Is it time to give up on maintaining my yard?
« Reply #27 on: September 11, 2013, 01:25:20 PM »
Better yet, could you plant blueberry bushes, which are low-to-no-care bushes that also provide a rather expensive but delicious food?

If you're in a climate & have the kind of soil (pretty acid) that blueberries need, yes.  And the principle is the same, you just have to find something that will do well in your particular conditions.
I said blueberries because I know they're pretty easy to grow here, and I believe that they grow pretty well everywhere -- provided you choose the right type for your soil, and provided you provide the right bushes for pollination.  A good nursery would help you with that, and it'd be a one-time expense. 

Once they're established, you really only need to spread them with a light net when the berries appear -- otherwise, birds will eat your crop, and you'll get nothing.  They're prolific berry-producers.  If you plant only 2-3 bushes, you'll have enough berries to share with friends and to freeze for later. 

Super healthy too.