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How to reduce lawn maintenance

The EPA estimates that about one-third of all residential water usage in the US goes toward watering lawns and gardens, and that’s about 7 billion gallons of water. If you know how to reduce your lawn maintenance, you’ll save yourself time and money.

There are ways to seriously cut back on your lawn maintenance expense and hassle. It takes a bit of work up front, and some expense, but once everything’s established… well, just imagine only having to mow once a year.

And rarely or never needing to apply chemicals to your lawn or landscaping. You can have all this and a beautiful lawn.

How to reduce lawn maintenance

Creating a low maintenance lawn involves replacing your existing turf grass and landscaping with plants that need very little water, little or no fertilizer or weed protection, and little or no work from you.

Man in lawn chair on expansive lawn

Establishing a low maintenance yard involves:

1. Getting rid of all the weeds in your planting area.

2. Buying seeds to plant, plus optional items like mulch.

3. Planting the low maintenance yard.

4. Some TLC – some plants need frequent watering at first, for example.

5. Once the new lawn is established, sit back and enjoy your free time and extra spending money, and the knowledge that you’ve done something very environmentally friendly, too.

Yeah, that is some work – or some expense if you hire someone to do it. But it’s worth it. When you’re planning your low maintenance lawn, you have a variety of plants to choose from. This makes it easy to achieve a beautiful landscape.

Slow growing grass

You can also seed your lawn with slower growing grasses, depending on your region.

No-Mow Grasses

Natural grass closeup

These are mixes of grass seeds that grow slowly and only need to be mowed about once a year. You can buy special blends tailored to thrive on the conditions in your region.

These grasses don’t require fertilizer, withstand drought well, and thrive in the shade. By not mowing, you actually discourage weed germination, too, which makes it unlikely you’ll need to use weed treatments.

These lawns may look more flowing and wavy than traditional turf, or you may choose a mix that incorporates small flowers.


Ornamental grasses

Ornamental grass in yard

These grasses initially need a fair amount of water, but require very little once they’re established. Mulch can be used to control grass growth and keep it from getting out of control.

Some of these grasses can grow high, and they’re beautiful. Use them for landscaping certain parts of your yard, such as the area around the house or pool, or a sloping side yard by the driveway that’s difficult to mow.

Be sure to do some research online or with local gardening shops to find out which ornamental grasses are best suited for your region.

Ground cover instead of grass

Ground cover plants in yard

You can also replace some or all of your grass with groundcover. (Check out my tips for landscaping a tricky side yard.)

Ground covers

Ground covering plants like clover spread out and cover an area. Like ornamental grasses, once they get established, they need very little maintenance.

Some species do require occasional pruning to keep them thriving, so be aware of this when you decide which species to plant. Most people don’t plant ground cover plants all over a lawn, though you certainly could.

Plant these in areas like you would the ornamental grasses, or cover just your backyard in them.


Mosses are also a form of ground cover that you can use to replace part or all of your landscaping if you live in a wet area (they need more moisture than most ground covers).

Moss can thrive without much sunlight, and it creates a wonderful spongy texture on the ground. It can add beauty to your landscaping while reducing your maintenance.

Other strategies

Changing out your high-maintenance turfgrass for lower maintenance plants is just one strategy to reduce the time, energy and money you spend on your lawn.

Water plants less frequently

If you water plants less often, they develop deeper root systems that allow them to tolerate drought conditions more easily. Also be aware that some wilting is perfectly natural for plants when it gets dry, but they make a comeback as soon as it gets wetter again.

If your plants have been getting watered too frequently, gradually reduce the frequency of watering so they have time to adjust to the new conditions. The way to know if they need watering again yet is: stick your finger into the soil.

If it’s dry an inch down into the soil, then it needs watering. If not, let it go.

Dead leaves can make good fertilizer

Dead leaves do need to be removed if they’re covering grass and other plants that need sunlight. But instead of composting them, you can just rake them under bushes and shrubs, where they’ll be consumed as fertilizer.

Plant clover instead of switching out grass

If you’re not prepared to plant a whole new lawn, just plant some clover in the lawn you have. Clover stays green all year round and effectively fertilizes your soil.

However, clover needs some moisture, so if you live in a drier climate, be sure to check with a local gardener or nursery for the best species to use in your area.

Shade trees

Trees can shade large patches of your yard, which cuts back on evaporation, which cuts back on watering.

Use rocks and mulch to reduce grass area

You can create beautiful landscaping by putting gravel around a tree, or by creating a footpath with river rocks.