While you may be excited that the summer months have arrived, you might also be dreading a season of grass cutting, plant watering and other upkeep. If you don’t live in a rental property where you don’t have to do your own lawn care, this kind of maintenance is not only time consuming, but expensive. A lawnmower and the gas for it (or the cost of a landscaper), the water bill…the list goes on. Instead, try our tips for a cost-saving and low-maintenance yard that still looks good without such a time and money investment.
1. Rethink your lawn mower
As long as you don’t have acres of grass, you don’t necessarily need the typical motorized lawn mower. Remember push reel lawn mowers? They’re what your great-grandfather might have used to mow his lawn. These simple push hand mowers came before gas-powered lawn mowers, but get the job done just as well.
Push reel mowers are much cheaper to buy—and to maintain. Gas powered mowers can range in price from $200-$500 dollars, while their non-motorized counterparts are usually under $100. There is a lot that can go wrong with a lawn mower’s motor and the oil needs to be changed just like a car’s. Plus, you’d need to pay for the gas to fill up the tank. On the other hand, push reel mowers can last just as long, if not longer. You’ll only need to sharpen the blades every couple of years. You can even do it yourself with a cheap sharpening kit.
2. Use rain barrels
Collecting water with rain barrels is an easy, inexpensive and environmentally-friendly way to water your grass and/or plants. You can make it yourself or buy one to help you save on your utility bill. You could attach it to your house’s downspout so that you can collect all the water from the roof and gutters, or you could make it as simple as leaving a barrel open to fill with rainwater. For each inch of rain that falls on 500 square feet of roof, you can collect 300 gallons of (free) water that you can use for your yard.
3. Get rid of grass
Grass is environmentally and financially wasteful. There is no doubt about it. So many Americans spend a significant amount of time and money mowing, fertilizing, weeding, watering, aerating and maintaining their lawn even though it serves virtually no purpose (unless you use it as a soccer field). If you can’t think of a good reason (other than looks and tradition) why you have grass, it might be time to think about replacing it with something more useful or at least less expensive. There are ways to do this without losing curb appeal.
Garden of Native and Drought Resistant Plants: Planting native grasses, shrubs, plants and wildflowers that are fit for your climate will give you a yard that will get the right amount of sun and water naturally. Use drought-resistant plants and grasses where you can so you know they will last in a dry season. And, pick perennials that will come back every year. Get creative with varying the colors, spacing, textures and heights of the plants to make the garden look well-designed and not just overgrown.
Rocks, pebbles, raised beds, stepping stones, pavers, decking…Use a combination of all of these non-living things to fill your outdoor spaces. Design borders, paths, bridges, sitting areas, retention walls and more. You can even use these materials to turn your land into a zen-style ”garden”. Use different materials to define zones. Construct these maintenance-free things once and they’ll be there for seasons to come.
Trees: While newly planted trees do typically need some extra water until they’re grown in, they don’t usually need much special attention, watering or upkeep after the first season.
Artificial grass: Artificial grass has come a long way from the short green plastic you’ve seen on mini-golf courses that hardly passes as grass. Until you step on it, today’s synthetic grass looks like the real thing. Good-looking artificial grass turf is on the expensive side; but, it requires zero upkeep, lasts for years, is easy to clean and can still be used for the family to play on. It might be worth the investment if you want a traditional-looking yard without the work.
Vegetable garden: You could turn your land into something useful like a fruit or vegetable garden. You don’t even have to arrange the plants to look like a small farm. Rather, incorporate them into your landscape design. And while this idea might not save you any time or water use, it is a much better way to spend your resources because it’s something you can harvest. Plus, you can probably save on groceries instead.
Ground covers: Meadow grasses and ground covers are a low-maintenance alternative, or supplement, to grass. These plants are low to the ground and spread well with a density like regular grass, except they don’t require mowing. They also add a little more interest than grass—some of them even flower. They look especially great when paired with pavers or other details.
Patio: A large stone patio or wooden deck can take up a significant amount of space and look attractive in a yard. Choose maintenance-free materials so you only have to put in the work once to have a space that you can use to relax and entertain for years without any work.
Browse through some magazines at your local home improvement store like Lowes or Home Depot for pictures, examples and for more ideas on what will work best in your outdoor spaces while keeping—or even improving— your property’s curb appeal. With or without grass, there are ways to stop spending so much time and money on your lawn.