Tips for Designing an Eco-Friendly and Low-Maintenance Garden


If you have a backyard and want to transform it into a garden, but have little time to look after it, consider designing a low-maintenance garden. You will have a beautiful garden where you can relax over the weekend and a place requiring less time to care for.

This guide will explore tips and tricks you can apply to create the perfect low-maintenance garden through plant selection, composting, and companion planting. Keep reading for advice on creating an easy-care, sustainable landscape that looks great all year round.

What is a Low-Maintenance Garden?

A low-maintenance garden requires little effort in terms of upkeep and maintenance. This could mean choosing drought-tolerant plants, using gravel instead of grass that doesn’t need mowing, and automating maintenance. By making smart decisions regarding landscaping, you can create an outdoor space that looks beautiful and takes no more than a few minutes each week or month to maintain.

Tips for Easy Care and Sustainability

When creating a low-maintenance garden, you should take several steps to ensure its longevity and sustainability. This includes:

Choose the Right Plants

Choosing the right plant to ensure your garden is low-maintenance and eco-friendly. This can range from drought-resistant perennials, natives, succulents, and ornamental greens.

Native Plants

When choosing plants for your garden, look for the ones native to your region. This is because they are acclimated to the weather and are best at attracting birds and other pollinators. The best part about choosing native flora is that they require little maintenance and are naturally resistant to pests and diseases in your area. This eliminates the need for fertilizers, pesticides, or watering.

Drought Tolerant Plants

Since we are designing a low-upkeep garden, choosing plants that don’t need lots of water or other maintenance, like pruning, is essential. Therefore you must select plants that can handle heat, cold, and drought conditions without dying off. Some of the best drought-resistant plants include lavender ad eryngiums.


Herbs are great for adding flavor to food, contain medicinal properties, and are fantastic for creating a sustainable garden. Most herbs require minimal care, as they are hardy and resilient. So include some herbs, such as thyme, in your garden.

Plant Perennials

If you want your low-maintenance garden to look its best throughout the year, selecting perennial flowers is key. These come back every season; thus, there’s no need for replanting each spring or summer, saving time and money in the long run.

Ornamental grasses

You can also include ornamental grasses in your garden, as they add texture and appeal and are drought-resistant and easy to care for.

Use Containers

Don’t be limited to the ground; container gardening ideas are also worth considering when designing a low-maintenance garden. Using containers helps minimize the time and effort needed to care for your garden.

The best part about container gardening is moving your pots easily, minimizing weed growth, and improving soil quality and drainage. And it also enhances your garden aesthetics.

When choosing containers for your garden, you must avoid small or shallow containers as they can restrict root growth. Instead, opt for large containers to accommodate the plant’s root system as it grows.

You must also ensure you use top-quality soil and regularly add natural compost and fertilizer for the plants to thrive. Container gardening makes it possible to grow herbs and flowers on your balcony.

The best part about using containers is you can create an outdoor activity for your kids by asking them to paint the pots. This helps stimulate their creativity and teaches them about gardening.


Mulch is essential for your plants to thrive. There are different types of mulch, and they include:

  • Organic mulch: Made from natural products, such as bark, straws, and leaves. It helps the plants retain moisture and adds nutrients to the soil. However, it may be more expensive and tends to attract pests.
  • Inorganic mulch: This mulch is made from plastic, gravel, and stones. It is more durable and lasts long; however, it doesn’t offer your plants any nutrients.
  • Rubber mulch: Like the name, it’s made from recycled rubber, such as tires, and is ideal for preventing weed growth. It is more expensive and tends to leach chemicals that may harm the plants into the soil.

Companion Planting

Consider planting certain species of plants together to benefit each other. For instance, marigolds are known to repel pests when planted alongside vegetables, and basil improves the flavor of tomatoes. You can also grow garlic and onions with carrots, as they repel carrot flies.

Companion planting eliminates pesticide use and enhances plant health and yields. So do your research and select the right companion plants.

Use Plant Cover Instead of Grass

Rather than mowing and maintaining a lawn, why not cover the area with plant cover? This is because they require little to no mowing and no herbicides or pesticides. Some of the best ground covers for shady areas include moss. It is evergreen even in summer and soft under the feet.

You can also consider using clove, especially for lawns exposed to lots of sunlight. It is green throughout the year, soft and cushiony under your feet. Clove has a sweet smell and prevents soil compaction.

Ditch the Lawn

A grassy lawn may look great, but it takes considerable time and effort to keep it neat and tidy. If you’re after a low upkeep garden, consider the traditional turf to save time on maintenance without sacrificing too much style.

Low Maintenance Shrubs

Shrubs such as boxwood, myrtus, osmanthus, and choisya are ideal if you want something that lasts several years without regular pruning or other maintenance. They also provide good structure in any landscape design, which helps create an attractive outdoor space irrespective of the garden size.

You can also include some deciduous plant species, such as Sambuca and Deutzia, which help maintain proper form and structure throughout the year.


Composting is essential to sustainable gardening since it recycles organic materials into nutrient-rich soil perfect for growing plants. Besides, it helps you eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers.

Ensure your composting pit is tucked far from the house and away from the public sight. It should hold all your decomposing household waste, such as egg shells, vegetable scraps, newspaper, wood shavings, and weeds. This mixture creates the right environment for making composting bugs, and within a few months, you’ll have ready-to-use and nutrient-rich compost.

Trap Rainwater

Collecting rainwater provides natural irrigation throughout the year plus reduces water bills. Place barrels around downspouts or install underground tanks connected directly to piping systems so rainfall can automatically fill them up whenever it rains heavily outside.

Terraces On Steep Gardens

Not all gardens are flats; some have steep slopes, and if the pathways are not constructed well, caring for your garden will be tricky, especially during the rainy season due to slippage. Therefore terracing your garden is a great way to enhance movement and prevent soil erosion and water runoff.

When terracing your garden, you must level off sections to create a flat surface perfect for planting. You can create several sections and include stairs for easy access. Although they are costly to install, terraced gardens look beautiful due to their varied levels.

Gravel Pathways

Gravel pathways are great for creating a low-maintenance garden because they require little upkeep. You only need to rake the gravel occasionally if it becomes compacted over time. They also add texture and allow water to drain freely.

Plant Where Rainwater Pools

If your yard collects puddles during the rainy season, take advantage of this by planting perennials that thrive in soggy conditions, such as water lilies, irises, and marsh marigolds, which will help transform these areas into lush flower beds with minimal effort.

Consider Using Raised Gardening Beds

Raising bed gardening makes weeding easier by elevating soil off the ground level, usually using logs, bricks, or concrete blocks. It also enhances drainage helping plants get adequate oxygen through their roots. Besides, it reduces the chances of pest invasion.

Minimize the Use of Fertilizer

Try not to rely on synthetic fertilizers when growing crops outside; instead, opt for organic composts made from kitchen waste which provide all necessary nutrients without any nasty chemicals. This environmentally friendly approach also helps encourage beneficial insects like ladybugs which can keep pest populations down naturally.

Natural Pest Control Measures

Protect your plants against insect damage by adding companion plants alongside those vulnerable ones, such as garlic and onions near carrots or petunias beside cucumbers. Many bugs dislike certain smells, so having strong scent-releasing varieties nearby should act deterrent most times.

Alternatively, spraying with neem oil diluted in water works too but only needs doing every few weeks, so it requires less maintenance overall than chemical options available commercially.

Create Wide Areas Along the Pathways

When planning pathways, try creating wider areas regularly along each route. This leaves room for more decorative features like benches, fountains, and sculptures. It also makes it easier to access specific inner garden parts later, even if there’s lots of vegetation planted around the edges blocking views.

Solar-Powered Lighting

Installing solar-powered lighting systems eliminates electricity costs associated with traditional outdoor lights but still provides enough illumination to stay safe after dark. Some come with motion sensors meaning they switch on and off automatically whenever someone passes by, saving energy long run.

Automate Garden Maintenance

Technological advancement allows gardeners to automate certain aspects of their garden maintenance, thus saving them time. Some tasks you can automate include watering by installing an automatic sprinkler system.

Make Weeding a Priority

Despite being a low-maintenance garden, weeds will crop up occasionally, making your garden unsightly. So, please make a point of removing weeds occasionally to prevent the risk of them spreading. The best part, you can do gardening with your kids, and as we know, kids love playing with soil. It will keep them busy and also teach them life skills.

Final Thoughts

Creating beautiful yet low-maintenance gardens doesn’t have to be complicated. Following the tips and tricks outlined above, you can have an outdoor space that looks great all year round with minimal effort. With some planning and preparation, your garden could be transformed into something special in no time. And if you need help figuring out where to start, look for landscaping experts in your area for help.

Paula Johnson

With a Master’s in Environmental Design from Yale University, Paula Johnson started contributing to our site in 2020. Her focus on landscaping stems from her 20 years in sustainable garden design and management. Her expertise includes native plant landscaping and water-efficient gardens. Paula’s articles offer insights into creating harmonious and eco-friendly outdoor areas. She enjoys creating wildlife habitats in her garden and is a volunteer in community greening projects. She is a beekeeping enthusiast and advocates for pollinator-friendly landscaping practices.

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