Low- and no-maintenance features top the list when making over outdoor living spaces because less time maintaining means more time enjoying.
Low-maintenance landscaping outranks native plantings, water features and food/vegetable gardens according to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey. Landscape professionals love to share their secrets and show off their craft when redesigning outdoor spaces for low or no maintenance. Armed with know-how and using sweat equity, do-it-yourselfers also can employ tips that professionals use for a no-maintenance landscape makeover.
Landscape professionals use retaining wall systems for a variety of landscaping solutions. Segmental retaining walls are commonly used to transition elevations, shore up slopes along foundations and define spaces such as creating planters, tree rings and other features.
“Hardscape products like retaining walls and pavers are important tools for both landscapers and do-it-yourselfers in creating low-maintenance landscapes,” says Scott Arnold, manager of Villa Landscapes in St. Paul, Minnesota. “With just the standard VERSA-LOK retaining wall unit, you can easily create seat walls, curved couches, columns and other features.”
Retaining wall systems combined with concrete pavers can be used to create beautiful raised patios, replacing high-maintenance wooden decks, says Arnold. In addition to being as cost effective as a wooden deck, a raised patio offers several advantages.
“A deck railing can be replaced with wrought iron fencing or a low seat wall so the view is unobstructed,” Arnold says. “Raised patios also look great with a contrasting paver course or rock barrier for potted plants, and steps to the ground can be created with retaining wall units.”
Retaining wall units and interlocking concrete pavers come in a variety of colors, shapes and textures to complement any landscape design and are often used to create design continuity in outdoor spaces. Tree rings can be coordinated or color-contrasted with raised patios, retaining walls and other hardscapes.
Permeable pavers are an environmentally sound and low-maintenance solution where impervious surface limits, storm water management, water quality and water conservation are issues.
“Permeable pavers are a best practice for storm water management and quality issues because they prevent runoff and let rain water infiltrate in place naturally,” says Burt Plett, product manager of Willow Creek Paving Stones. “Permeable pavers reduce the need for irrigation in drought-prone areas, unlike poured concrete or asphalt.” It’s best to consult a landscape professional who is experienced in installing permeable paving systems so that they work properly and consistently, Plett says.
Landscaping practices can make it easier to control weeds and manage lawn care as well. The use of rock mulch and natural rock in gardens and beds, as walkways and as stepping stones offers an attractive solution to weed control and also lessens the need for irrigation. At least three inches of rock mulch or four inches of natural mulch will prevent weeds. A landscape fabric under stepping stones and rock mulch offers even more insurance against weeds.
A simple way to cut down on trimming is to add a course of pavers along the bottom of a retaining wall, tree ring or planter so the mower can get close to the wall, says Arnold.
Maintenance-free outdoor accessories
Selecting maintenance-free outdoor furniture and accessories is an easy way to make over a space. Outdoor furniture made of recycled HDPE like Comfort Craft requires no storage or maintenance other than cleanup with soap and water. Unlike wood, Comfort Craft furniture won’t chip, splint, crack or rot and never needs painting.
Hardscape kits — containing everything needed to create a fireplace, firepit, water feature or grill island — are some of the most popular low-maintenance landscaping products, Arnold says.
“Using easy-to-install kits like those from Willow Creek Paving Stones, homeowners and contractors alike can create beautiful features such as grill islands, bar islands, fire pits and fireplaces that are long-lasting and low-maintenance,” Arnold says.