Author Topic: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?  (Read 6510 times)

meteor

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How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« on: April 04, 2014, 07:36:02 PM »
I've had it with my front yard and am almost ready to pave it over.  I don't care about the backyard because no one sees it. I live in an urban area where it's really expected to keep the yard at least half way decent.  I've weeded this yard for 10 years and am convinced the last owners planted no-kill crab grass and various other weeds that are like having a wrestling match with Tarzan.  I've tried putting cement squares all over it, using pesticides, you name it.  If it didn't cost $5000 I think I'd cement it in (I looked into doing this it).  A gardener told me I should haul away all the dirt and bring in new dirt (also expensive) because it is all clay and impossible to dig.  There must be another less expensive way way????  I really do have the trashiest yard in the neighborhood.  I'm so tired of dealing with it, because no matter what I do, it just gets worse.

jpo

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chasesfish

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2014, 07:56:30 PM »
I had one of those yards...

I broke down and paid the best recommended lawn company to do seasonal treatments for about $225/yr but the thing looked great.  I was spending nearly that trying to fertilize it myself.

NV Teacher

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2014, 08:33:20 PM »
Several years ago I had all the grass removed. They put in a dozen or so plants, a drip irrigation system, covered the dirt with some kind of cloth to prevent weeds and covered it all with a bunch of rocks.  It gets pruned several times a year and that's pretty much it.  The neighbors don't love it so much but oh well, they don't pay the bills.

Milspecstache

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2014, 08:56:42 PM »
Why not hire pro's for a summer and watch what they do?  Then don't rehire but use their methods.

bikebum

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2014, 10:14:37 PM »
I've seen some really cool front yards that have some kind of mulch covering most of the yard and then bushes, shrubs, succulents, and other plants kind of scattered.

Like some of the pics here: https://www.google.com/search?q=drought+tolerant+landscaping&rlz=1C1CHHJ_enUS524US524&espv=210&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=hoI_U6bsG9OqsQSFjYDQDA&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1280&bih=899

A lot of the yards in the pic look expensive, but maybe you could do something less extravagant.

RetiredAt63

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2014, 06:32:04 AM »
Where do you live - i.e. what is your climate?  Lawns are huge resource grabbers.  If you have a small front yard you could do a "garden" like bikebum showed, but most of those looked like desert situations.  You may be in a wetter area, and xeriscaping won't be appropriate.  But putting in a garden with tough perennials (not annuals, you will spend way too much time on your knees every spring) and then covering it with mulch pebbles, bark, whatever fits your area, will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run, and will look a lot nicer.  If you have a generally moist growing season with some dry spells, an irrigation system would be useful, it keeps water use down but also means your garden doesn't die during a drought.

Walk around your neighborhood and see what looks nice that you think you could manage.  Talk to the people living there - they would have good suggestions for you.

If you don't want a garden, find out what are good ground covers for your area, and plant them.  Be sure to get all the grass out first.    Be sure that nothing invasive can escape your yard before you start.  Most ground covers can be invasive, that is why they are good ground covers.  Google images has lots of good pictures if you search for "ground covers".

By the way, crab grass (true crab grass) is an annual, if you can keep  it from setting seeds (hard) and keep its seeds from germinating (less hard) your lawn can improve.  However you may have witch grass( tough nasty perennial grass) in which case you have major lawn issues, and setting up anything will be hard.

grantmeaname

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2014, 07:53:47 AM »
Rent.

MayDay

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2014, 10:18:06 AM »
I love gardening so I lean towards tearing out all the grass (either literally or use an herbicide), bringing in some good dirt, and putting in a bunch of spreading perennials. They will fill in after a couple years and then you will just have to pull weeds once or twice a summer. And if you pick ones that are hardy in your climate they will live through droughts just fine after the first year. 

Cassie

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2014, 01:17:32 PM »
We put in good quality astro-turf and love it!  It has really improved during the past decade and is a one time expense.

Worsted Skeins

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2014, 01:36:14 PM »
Have you asked the Master Gardeners at your Cooperative Extension office for advice? This is a free service so I would pick up the phone or pay a visit. Our Master Gardeners host a couple of plant sales annually where they sell inexpensive ground covers. 

And I do hope you are composting. Every coffee ground and bit of shredded junk mail can help improve soil quality.

Daleth

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2014, 01:50:44 PM »
I've had it with my front yard and am almost ready to pave it over.  I don't care about the backyard because no one sees it. I live in an urban area where it's really expected to keep the yard at least half way decent.  I've weeded this yard for 10 years and am convinced the last owners planted no-kill crab grass and various other weeds that are like having a wrestling match with Tarzan.  I've tried putting cement squares all over it, using pesticides, you name it.  If it didn't cost $5000 I think I'd cement it in

Aha. See, it sounds like your problem is you want a Nice Lawn(TM) without having to do much work or spend much money. Problem is, Nice Lawns(TM) do not exist in nature. What exists in nature is a mix of grasses (crabgrass, etc.) and "weeds." You cannot have a yard that is anti-nature without spending money and doing work (and using nasty chemicals, as you say you have done).

The only way to have a low-maintenance, low-cost yard is to plant--or allow to exist--the kind of plants that exist naturally in your part of the world. The stuff that grows by itself is the stuff that requires no maintenance and no spending on your part.

So this is more of a mental process than a gardening one. The mental process is, learn about what exists naturally in your area; notice what grows easily (what kinds of grasses and other plants sometimes found in lawns, what kinds of shrubs and trees if you want shrubs or trees); notice that much of what grows easily in your area is called "weeds"... and then REDEFINE your mental categories such that you don't mind having "weeds" in your lawn.

If you want, you could also research some "weeds" or local grasses that grow really well that you like more than the ones you have. Ripping out some of the "weeds" you don't like as much and replacing them with those might give you a yard that's more pleasing to you, since hardy native "weeds" that you like will grow easily and crowd out the hardy native "weeds" that you don't like.

Winter's Tale

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2014, 03:08:40 PM »
Not sure this is exactly what you're looking for, but I read a really interesting book last summer called Gaia's Garden: a Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture.  The book talked in great detail about how to improve soil quality and create landscapes that are entire ecosystems - i.e. they are self-sustaining and don't require constant attention.   You may want to check this out and leaf through it a bit to get some ideas. 

I will say that actually creating one of the landscape plans outlined in the book would be quite a project.  I would love to do something similar in my yard but can't picture myself doing so for years.

bikebum

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2014, 03:21:18 PM »
I don't do anything with my front yard, and I think it looks nice. There is a lot of green grass. It is probably one of the "undesirable" grass species, but I don't know the difference. People who like the look of a "well-maintained" yard would probably disagree.

My neighborhood is old enough that plants and trees have grown back though. Yards of new neighborhoods do sometimes look bad if nothing is done to them, since the developers usually flatten everything first.

jpo

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2014, 06:11:54 PM »
Not sure this is exactly what you're looking for, but I read a really interesting book last summer called Gaia's Garden: a Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture.  The book talked in great detail about how to improve soil quality and create landscapes that are entire ecosystems - i.e. they are self-sustaining and don't require constant attention.   You may want to check this out and leaf through it a bit to get some ideas.
+1 on recommending this book. Going to try out some of the techniques from it the next few years.

RetiredAt63

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #15 on: April 05, 2014, 08:13:04 PM »
You have had a bunch of gardeners reply, with good information - I am sure that if you gave more information (size of yard, location, exposure, soil type) we could give you more practical suggestions.

To get you started: where are you? How cold is your winter? How hot your summer?  How long is your growing season?  How much snow and rain do you get?

Where is the house in relation to the front yard - how much sun does it get? What is the house style? What gardens in your neighbourhood do you think would look good with your house? Are they formal (very geometric)? Semi-formal (organized)? or "romantic" which really means very flowing and clumpy arrangements.  I am guessing you would not want to plant a food garden there, if the urban look is what is desirable.

What are the measurements? And what is already there? I.e. is there a driveway, a walkway to the house, etc.

How much effort and money are you willing to put into any improvements?  The only way to have a no-work front yard is to live in an apartment or condo.  Something is going to grow there, whether you are happy with it or not.  Even if you pave it - think of "A tree grows in Brooklyn".  But there are moderate work and labour intensive gardens, the difference is in the planning.  The Rusty Rake Gardener and The Twenty Minute Gardener are probably books you would find useful, they are aimed at people who do not want to spend a lot of time in the garden.

If you don't want to do much, any lawn looks better if it is cut regularly.  "Weeds" means it stays green when the grass goes dormant.  That is always an option.  White clover is very nice in a lawn, and grows well.

If you like the mulched bed look, do not use landscape fabric under the mulch.  Weeds will start, and getting their roots out of landscape fabric is almost impossible.   I know - the people before me in this house were not gardeners, and I am coping with their mistakes.


Milspecstache

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #16 on: April 05, 2014, 09:59:43 PM »
If you like the mulched bed look, do not use landscape fabric under the mulch.  Weeds will start, and getting their roots out of landscape fabric is almost impossible.   I know - the people before me in this house were not gardeners, and I am coping with their mistakes.

One solution to that is to recycle cardboard and put it under the mulch.  It will destroy weeds and then decompose.  Been doing it at my place heavily for the last 3 years.

RetiredAt63

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Re: How do you create a low maintenance, low cost yard?
« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2014, 06:50:41 AM »
Yes, cardboard works really well. as do multiple layers of newspaper to fill in the empty spots.  The vegetable-based inks newspapers use now are fine in the garden. I put it on my grass when I do a raised bed, then put my nice topsoil and amendments on top and garden right away. 

What I don't like is the heavy fabric made of non-biodegradable material that sits there for ever, trapping all the weed roots.  Some are so heavy and dense that they also cause drainage problems.