Sometimes you just need a place to chill out and relax. What’s more convenient than your own backyard? If you have to spend too much time working in it, though, it’s not very relaxing. So you want a low-maintenance backyard. And you’re reading this because you want an eco-friendly lifestyle and a sustainable backyard.
Backyards come in all shapes and sizes. You may or may not set aside part of it as a vegetable garden. Here are some ideas you can adapt to your own circumstances to make a relaxing retreat where you can be alone if you like or entertain friends.
Grow relaxing plants
The ideal suburban lawn has long been defined as large expanses of nothing but grass. Maintaining it requires a lot of water and weed killers. And, of course, mowing it every week. Neither sustainable nor low maintenance. Look into alternatives to grass for much of your yard.
I attended a party in a backyard that had no grass at all. Large trees kept it all in shade. The hostess had walkways separating areas planted with hosta and ferns. Talk about a low-maintenance backyard!
Most backyards, however, will have some mix of low ground cover, trees, shrubs, and flowers. All that variety provides visual interest with varying heights and colors. Some plants also offer pleasing fragrances.
What should you select? It’s best to choose plants native to your area. They will require much less effort and resources to thrive.
Also, keep in mind that parts of your yard probably get lots of sunshine and others lots of shade. Some areas might drain very well and others very slowly. Choose plants suitable for the conditions that exist where you want to plant them. Good mulch should minimize the amount of weeding you’ll have to do.
If your backyard is very small or has a lot of concrete, you can find potted plants of various heights. Some can be very tall. Others can hang and trail downward. Potted plants need more careful watering than those planted in the ground.
Invite the right kind of wildlife
You can create a wildlife garden mostly with the plants you choose. They provide pollen, nectar, seeds, nuts, etc. that your visitors can use for food. Your garden will also provide shelter in bad weather and cover from predators. Or places to stalk it.
Everyone loves butterflies. You can attract them by planting flowers they like. Maybe you don’t love honeybees, but we all depend on them.
No one welcomes mosquitos. So why not invite birds or insects such as ladybugs that will eat them?
Also, consider spiders your friends. Not only do they eat the insects you don’t want, but their webs provide additional beauty.
Opinions are divided about squirrels, rabbits, or deer. Your choices of what to plant can encourage them or discourage them. Either way, you’re doing your part to have a sustainable backyard
Wildlife also needs water, so . . .
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Add a water feature
Swimming pools are not low-maintenance, but you don’t need to go to that extreme to enjoy water in your backyard.
A birdbath can be very calming. A well-maintained birdbath doesn’t breed mosquitos. And, as mentioned earlier, some of the birds will snack on unwanted insects.
If you have room, consider a garden pond or koi pond. Plant water lilies or other aquatic plants in it. In hot, arid climates it can even moderate temperatures with evaporative cooling.
If you love the sound of flowing water, maybe you can put it a fountain. Most fountains recirculate water. And it doesn’t have to be potable water. HVAC condensate or water from your rain barrel works just as well.
Make your backyard your private space
In my current house, everyone has six-foot privacy fences. Plenty of other neighborhoods have shorter fences. It’s generally a good idea to plant something around the fence line, if only to make mowing easier. But bushes and trees can add to your backyard’s privacy.
Earlier, I lived in a neighborhood where no one had fences at all. It was beautiful and parklike with its wide expanse of grass dotted with various trees and shrubbery. My next-door neighbors on one side set aside a private place with bushes and trellises.
Make an area for sitting and lounging
You’ll need some deck furniture, of course. For a sustainable backyard, choose tables and chairs made with natural materials or recycled materials. It will probably be more comfortable and better looking than plastic furniture.
Good sustainable natural materials include bamboo and fast-growing woods such as acacia, which require little water or fertilizer to grow. Rattan is also a good choice if it’s ethically grown and harvested.
Composite lumber, such as Trex, is made from recycled plastic bags and scrap wood. It has no virgin materials in it.
Recycled plastic bottles make a sustainable polyester for cushions.
If you buy imported furniture, look for fair trade certification.
Are you ready to relax? You’ve put in a lot of work, but you’ve planned for a low-maintenance backyard that’s also sustainable.
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Make some shade
Sunlight is wonderful, but sometimes it can make a patio unusable.
Your plants may cast shade for your at some times of the day but not others. Or maybe you have no tall trees or shrubs in quite the right place.
In that case, consider a pergola, gazebo, or umbrella.
The umbrella might be an especially good choice if you sometimes welcome sitting in sunlight but not always. After all, it’s easy to move it out of the way.
Get some good lighting
Speaking of umbrellas, some come with LED lights so you can use it when you sit out at night.
You have a lot of choices when it comes to lighting your backyard at night. Solar LED lights make the most sustainable choices