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The Low Maintenance Garden

Updated on December 2, 2010

by Val Lockhart the Lazy Gardener a.k.a. pigfish

A beautiful garden does not automatically require a huge commitment of your time and money. Smart, well-thought out garden design can decrease the amount of time you spend working in your garden, increase the amount of time you spend enjoying your garden, and increase the value of your home.

Answer these questions for yourself:


How much time do you currently spend on your garden?


How much time do you want to spend on your garden?


Why?  Be honest.  “Why?” is perhaps the most important question to answer.  Are you:

1)      Such a busy person that you don’t have time to spend on your garden

2)      A really smart gardener who is always looking for the ultimate in low-maintenance techniques?

3)      Lazy


I’ve fallen into all three categories at some time or another in my gardening life and I’ve decided I like #3 best.  Here is how I define the “Lazy Gardener”.

The Lazy Gardener is: easy-going-true-type-B-stop-and-smell-the-roses-what-the-world-needs-now-is-love-sweet-love-nothing-ever-gets-me-down-my-priorities-are-straight-it’s-always-sunny-in-my-world personality


Not a bad thing to be.


Whatever your answer, 1, 2 or 3, the first step in creating your low maintenance garden is: 

My backyard before the last snowfall added on several more inches

Step One: Dream

Here in the Midwest, winter can be harsh.  Last winter we had over 20 inches of snow on the ground and it was still falling. Personally, I like snow, but come on!  My garden was blissfully asleep under all that snow dreaming of spring.  Winter is time for Garden Dreaming.

Note:  For those of you who live anywhere in the world where you can garden all year round, otherwise known as paradise, can I move in with you?

Back to real life...In order to make the most of your Garden Dreaming time, I suggest you:

1) Light the fire

2) Snuggle up in your favorite chair by the fire with a hot drink and a warm blanket

3) Browse through gardening books, magazines and catalogs. Pay attention to what you like and what you don’t like. Of course you can browse online too. But for me, snuggling up with a laptop just isn’t the same.

Some of my favorite books, magazines and catalogs are:


Gardening Books

Anything with lots of great pictures and not much text. Be aware that those who write gardening/yard/landscaping books are usually NOT Lazy (i.e. low-maintenance) Gardeners. Don't let them intimidate or corrupt you. Lazy Gardeners unite!

Browse your local bookstore or visit your library. Most libraries have quite a selection of Gardening, Landscaping and Home Improvement books. Be sure to look in the “oversize” section usually at the end of the aisle. A lot of gardening books don’t fit on a standard library book shelf.

Gardening Magazines

Buy yourself a few gardeners’ magazines. If you have friends who are serious gardeners, they will have some back issues you can borrow. They always do. However, gardening magazines are a great investment. You can keep them and refer back to them for years and years. Gardens don’t go out of style the way clothes do. Here are some good ones.

  • Fine Gardening
  • Garden Design
  • The English Garden
  • Garden Gate
  • Birds & Blooms
  • Country Living’s specialty garden magazines
  • Better Homes and Gardens specialty garden magazines
  • Any regional gardening magazine you can find for your area

Gardening Catalogs

I love gardening catalogs. They give you not only great pictures, but accurate, to the point descriptions that are so helpful when making planting decisions. And...they're free!  Here are some of the best.

White Flower Farm

Spring Hill Nursery

Park Seed


Wayside Gardens

Jackson and Perkins


Begin Step One: Dream!

As you are browsing through your gardening books, magazines and catalogs, pay attention to what you like. Think about color, texture, and size. Are you drawn to bright sunny colors, or cool serene colors? Do you like the formal gardens (I hope not if you truly are a Lazy Gardener) or do you prefer a more relaxed informal look. Do you like the shade gardens or the sun gardens or a combination of both? Do you like the giant tree or the tiny flower? You might like the decks, porches, patios, and pools more than the plants. That’s important. Take note.

In fact, keep a notebook close by and jot down thoughts as you dream. Insert post-it notes to mark your favorite pages in your books, magazines and catalogs. This will be helpful when you move on to the next step in low maintenance gardening: Step Two: Define Your Needs. The work is coming.

For now, for today, whatever the weather outside your window, let it be spring in your heart. Enjoy Step One: Dream. Be a Lazy Gardener.

Happy Garden Dreaming!

Step Two: Define Your Needs

Happy Spring!

People are going crazy for the warm weather here in Ohio. The long, cold, snowy winter has made the promise of spring oh so sweet. And finally, I am ready to turn my brain from the dreaming of a beautiful low-maintenance garden to the planning and prep work necessary to create a beautiful low-maintenance garden. Who’s with me?

Define Your Needs

One of my all time favorite quotes is

“A problem well defined is half solved.” –Ben Franklin.

I live by that quote. You can apply it to any problem that needs solving! Thanks Ben, you rock!

Now it’s time to define your yard and garden needs. Grab that notebook you used when Garden Dreaming and write down your answers to the following questions.


How much yard/lawn/grass do you need? Why?

Do you need room for a playscape for the kids, sandbox, room for the dog(s) to run, room to play soccer, kickball, baseball, volleyball, crochet, horseshoes, cornhole, room to park the camper, boat?

Who maintains your lawn?

Yourself, spouse, teenager, lawn service company?

Are you happy with your lawn maintenance situation: cutting the grass, fertilizing, scooping the dog doo, etc?

Will this much lawn do for you?
Will this much lawn do for you?


Do you need room for an outdoor entertainment area, table and chairs, shade umbrella, grill, fire pit, swing for the grown-ups, lounge chair, comfy seating area?

Boundaries/Your Properties Edge

The low-maintenance gardening goal concerning the boundaries of your property is: simplify and beautify. It’s easiest for me to picture a suburban yard, because that is what I have, but this is true for any property. Are the boundaries of your property well-maintained? Are you happy with them? And if not, what can you do to change it?

First, create edging that is easy to maintain. This is worth your time. Time spent on good edging will result in lots of time saved later.


Sketch It Out!

In your Gardening Notebook, sketch out your entire yard. Include everything: house, driveway, garage, storage shed, etc. It doesn’t have to be pretty or even to scale. So long as you know what you are looking at, it’s fine.

Looking back at your list of what you need, sketch in the things you want to add or change.


What is the one most important thing to accomplish in your yard? You probably know exactly what that is and that is what you should tackle first. Duh! If you really aren’t sure where to start, from a low-maintenance gardening perspective, I suggest you start the boundaries of your property. ..what the neighbors see.

Think about your lawnmower. Is it easy to cut the grass along your property’s edges? Flowing curves are almost always easier to maintain than straight lines with right angle corners. Curves don’t have to be perfect to look good…and they do look good! Classy and elegant.

The best time for a lazy gardener to tackle this project is on a day when the ground is soft from a good soaking rain. What I mean by this is simply that the ground will be much easier to dig. Lay out a hose in the shape you want along the edges you want to fix. With a good sharp spade, dig up only as much turf as you have to in order to create your desired shape. A sharp spade will save you time and backbreaking work. If you have a compost pile, add your dug up turf to it.

Do everything you can to make this a pleasant experience for yourself, you lazy gardener you. Keep a water bottle close (or beverage of your choice). Turn on some tunes and feel free to sing along. I suggest throwing in a few dance moves to entertain the neighbors.

When you have a nice curvy, easy to maintain boundary to your property, you are ready to move on to Step Three: filling your borders.

Val Lockhart, a.k.a. the Lazy Gardener a.k.a. Pigfish (on Hubpages)

...has been gardening for 17+ years in Southwest Ohio and Indiana.  She completed the Master Gardener training program twice (once in Indiana and once in Ohio) and works in a garden center sharing her wisdom with all who seek it. <Big laugh here>  Val’s Lazy Gardener philosophy is that “you shouldn’t spend any more time working on your yard and garden than you want to”.


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    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Lots of fun here, I like browsing the garden catalogs also! Can't wait to have a garden again someday, your article makes me long for my own echinacea!

    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 7 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Well like any good gardener, I have plenty of echinacea to share! Thanks for stopping by Ben Zoltak.

    • profile image

      Ohio2NH 7 years ago

      Love the pictures! It is making me begin the dreaming stage. But the fire, warm blanket and warm drink will have to wait a week while I go to FL to get a dose (hopefully) of warmth and color. Just what I need to come home and begin to plan for the day the snow is gone. Thanks for the pick-me-up.

    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 7 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Florida! Now that sounds nice. Have an iced tea for me Ohio2NH and enjoy.

    • profile image

      pat 7 years ago

      love this

      by the way I still use the gardening books you gave me and I spread the info to my daughters too.


    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 7 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thanks Pat! Gardeners are the best at sharing...plants, seeds, gardening books, experience, friendship. Glad you came by! ;0)

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Ah, it's almost time. I'm here in NYC where we have had lots of snow. I have very little room for gardening (but I can always enjoy the pictures) luckily my son and DIL have a new home and I can garden there.

      There is nothing better than the beautiful outdoors.

      Thanks for all the information and those pictures. Mmmmmm.

    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 7 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Our snow is really starting to melt today, BkCreative. That makes me very happy. How wonderful for you that you can garden at your son and DIL's...wonderful for them too! That's how I got started. My mom helped me dig up some dead shrubs at our first house and put in a flower garden. She's 85 and still gardening.

    • profile image

      Linda Myshrall 7 years ago

      Oh Val! You have awakened my sleeping giant. I get into way too much trouble with the seed catalogs and gardening magazines! They do, though, keep me from carousing the streets---my husband's way of referring to the malls ;) Thanks for an enjoyable morning of dreaming of dirty fingernails and earthworms-- that's a good thing!

    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 7 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Your husband is funny. Well, garden dreaming is free and involves no backbreaking slave labor from our husbands. ;0) Soon enough it will be time to get those fingernails dirty. My daughter used to make pets out of earthworms and would smother them with love until they died. Thank goodness for the earthworms she grew up. Thanks for stopping by Linda!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 7 years ago from UK

      How much time do you currently spend on your garden? ZERO

      How much time do you want to spend on your garden? FROM ONE TO TEN? ONE

      Why? - Lazy IS PUTTING IT MILDLY


      Heeeeeeeeelp :-)

    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 7 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      De Greek, why don't you just write what you really feel. Haha. I appreciate your honesty.'ve already moved on to the next step in the Low Maintenance Garden Hub series: Define Your Needs (this Hub is in the works as we speak!). Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a NO maintenance garden. I don't know what part of the country you are in, but if your garden centers are selling pansies, for now, plant some pansies/violas in a big pot, put it on your front porch, water well and call it a day. Half hour tops.

    • profile image

      Debbie Lockhart 7 years ago

      I love this, Val this is fun and encourging to me. We are excited to start a low maintenance garden. Can't wait to start planting!

    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 7 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thank you Debbie! I am sure you two will create a lovely landscape at your new home. Happy gardening!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      This is amazing and beautiful and thanks so much for the ideas. Love my garden by don't have enough time so "low maintenance" it is by default!

      Love and peace


    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thank you tonymac04! Low maintenance is the way to go so you have time to enjoy the really important things in that adorable little boy in your profile pic!

    • Kamran100 profile image

      Kamran100 6 years ago beautiful...i love gardening..very beautiful photo you have in hub....thanks...i love natural beauty..

    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thank you Kamran. I had so much fun finding the photos for this hub. Like you, I also love natural beauty and you can see! Thanks for stopping by.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Good ideas with tips. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Are you ready for spring RTalloni? Glad you stopped by!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago

      What a beautiful garden and great pictures.

    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 5 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Thank you molometer. This mild winter has me itching to get out in it!

    • NotTooTall profile image

      NotTooTall 4 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi pigfish,

      I enjoyed reading your Hub. I'm all for a low maintenance approach for gardening on my property. Keeping up on watering keeps me busy enough, who wants to fuss with high maintenance plantings? Not me.

      Love the Easter Island statue!

      N T T

    • profile image

      Plant Nursery 3 years ago

      there is really no low maintence gardening with weed growing

    • profile image

      Plant Nursery 3 years ago

      We own a nursery, and there's never a dull moment or a free moment. that's correct, the weed's outgrows all the plants for sure!

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