Show Notes

In today’s episode, we talk further about how to make a low maintenance landscape.


  • Low resource plants
  • Full coverage
  • Reduce lawn maintenance
  • Low maintenance lawn
  • Good transitions
  • Maintenance plan

Links for today’s episode:

this is the aesthetic ecosystems podcast

I’m Ben Hale your virtual design guide

to help you and your family have a

healthy beautiful landscape with less

work what’s up and welcome to episode

three of the aesthetic ecosystems

podcast today we’re going to be

continuing part two of episode two what

makes a low maintenance yard so we’re

going to talk about some more things

that you can do in your landscape your

yard that can save you time and energy

so you can have more time to do the

things you love in Episode two we talked

about several things we can do to make a

low maintenance yard the first thing and

most important which we also talked

about in more depth in episode one was

your mindset that your life is more

important than your yard while this may

seem funny to point out I think a lot of

times we have this flipped where we

prioritize our maintenance chores over

the things that are more important in

our lives so the very first and most

important thing is this mindset piece

and that’s why I’ve continued to talk

about it even though you may have heard

about it already and again like I said

in episode 2 if you haven’t gone back

and heard episode 1 in this mindset

piece I strongly encourage you to go and

do that because this piece is very

important although it might seem obvious

when we talk about it the other thing we

talked about was healthy plants having a

healthy plant makes a happy plant makes

an easy plant to take care of

in addition healthy soil healthy soil

provides the foundation for healthy

plants the right plant in the right

place makes a huge difference

perennials versus annuals in your garden

and followed up by grouped plantings

versus isolation of each plant as

individual specimens so that kind of

wraps up a summary of what episode 2 was

about if you didn’t hear it I encourage

you to go back and check it out for more

details and we’ll get into some more

cool stuff today that we can talk about

to make your look yard more


and more beautiful at the same time the

first one we’re going to talk about is

low resource plants what I mean by low

resource plants are plants that don’t

require a lot of inputs there are

certain plants that require a lot of

fertility or a lot of effort to maintain

they might require a certain condition

that you don’t have present in your

landscape already so for example we

actually have some this is a mistake I

made in our landscape we have some

blueberry bushes in our front yard

because I love blueberries the plant

itself actually is is a very attractive

plant our base soil is alkaline or high

pH or basic there’s all mean the same

thing for for you

non science nerds and blueberries

require acidic soil conditions I planted

them where we used to have some some you

bushes and generally speaking pines and

evergreens they acidify soil so I

thought well if I pull these these

evergreen bushes out and replace them

with some black or blueberry bushes they

actually might thrive in this soil well

as it turns out because our base soil is

highly alkaline the the soil has begun

to revert to its alkaline conditions and

these plants have struggled in that

space so in order to keep these plants

to thrive I need to go and maintain the

soil pH to allow them to grow properly

so by low resource plants not only

having the right plant in the right

place but plants that don’t require

inputs of fertility or other conditions

a lot of times a plant may require a lot

of fertilizing too continuous growth

year after year at the extent you want

or to continue blooming the level of

flowers you want on them or whatever

some examples of low resource plants are

the most commonly the ones that grow in

horrible horrible conditions a lot of

times these are weeds unfortunately but

there are some very beautiful plants

that can grow in minimal resources and

most often

I think about when I think of low

resource plants I think about plants

that are native to the North American

Prairie while the Prairie itself can be

a very fertile ecosystem a lot of those

plants can thrive in poor conditions to

establish themselves and to begin

growing so some an example there could

be like like goldenrod is is be quickly

becoming a very accepted plant in the

garden as a beautiful accent to your

late summer in your fall with their

beautiful golden flowers that’s a great

example of a low resource plant it

doesn’t require a whole lot it can

maintain itself take care of itself on

its own and it will provide you with

beauty at the right time next we’re

gonna talk about full coverage so this

is kind of in place together with what

we talked about with group plantings

previously but full coverage goes beyond

that and saying if you think about most

people’s garden beds you see a plant

here a clump of plants there and in

between there’s a lot of space and the

more you can crowd that space with over

without overcrowding it and making your

plants struggle the tighter you can put

your plants the less space you give

opportunity for for plants that you

don’t want such as your typical weed

plants so you if you don’t want

dandelions growing in your garden one

great way to do that is to prevent this

space from being even opened in the

first place so if you provide an open

available space odds are eventually

something’s going to grow there that you

probably don’t want so by covering your

space more completely you prevent

unwanted growth of other things now this

coverage can be in plants which I

generally recommend because the more

full foliage you have the less you have

to continue to keep that space and

replenish it with other things that are

inanimate such as mulch or rock or

whatever you’re filling that space with

so if you’re filling it with plants that

can take care of themselves they do the

work for you without you having to do it

some examples full coverage full

coverage plantings is if you have say a

flower bed right and you have your

flowers that grow somewhere between a

foot to two feet tall and maybe behind

it you have a small backdrop with a

shrub or two and maybe even a small

accent tree well in between these small

flowers you can also plant a ground

cover and this would be a low growing

plant that maybe doesn’t provide a whole

lot of aesthetic value on its own but

altogether it pulls the whole design

together by creating a carpet of foliage

that prevents weeds from sprouting

through and filling that space other

things you can do for this full coverage

that if you don’t have plants available

to grow there or you can’t find the

right plant for the right place is you

can also fill it with things such as

mulch or so a wood mulch or even or rock

mulch as some people like to call it

just a gravel slash rock bed around your

plants there are certain advantages and

disadvantages to mulch and rock when

you’re thinking of mulch it’s something

over time you will have to Rican tin you

to replace to prevent weed growth and

you definitely want to have the right

mulch we’ll get into that in more detail

in the future in rocks as well you you

have to make sure you remove any debris

that might pile up on top of them or

eventually it will provide a substrate

on top of the rock for weeds to grow so

there are some caveats too if you want

to use something non living like a mulch

or some other type of covering there so

just something to think about now let’s

talk about the one we haven’t really

touched a whole lot upon your lawn yet

and for most people this is one of the

biggest time investments in a landscape

is the lawn

because it covers so much area of your

property and most people do want this

beautiful green carpet in front and

behind their house for relaxing for

aesthetic appeal and to let their kids

or grandkids play on it this might be

you and that’s that all of those desires

are totally fine however with the

typical American lawn

it’s a huge time investment that for me

I find it as a drain to be honest and

yes what I like to have space to relax

and to play and and to see my kids play

I don’t like to be taken away from

playtime by having to cut the grass and

be out there every weekend when it’s

really hot and usually non-optimal times

when we don’t have things scheduled I

have to go do these chores where it

might be sometimes it’s 90 degrees out

and that’s the only time I can cut the

grass so let’s talk about how we can

reduce lawn maintenance well first just

by simple scheduling of our tasks and

blocking them together and trying to

spread them out more we can reduce the

number of times we have to maintain our

lawn so that’s a big piece there

additionally we can we can this is going

back into the mindset piece but if we’re

not so hung hung up on having a totally

spotless lawn that everybody’s envious

of just because it’s a uniform massive

green of all the same size blade with

the same proportions in the same height

if we kind of let go of that feeling of

need to control the space it’ll free up

a lot of our stress and a lot of our

energy so if if a you determine maybe

it’s okay if they’re if one or two

dandelions creep into my lawn or a

couple here and there maybe there’s some

clover or or whatever you’re not so hung

up on having to go spray your lawn

having to go mow it all the time having

to go weed it and this by itself will

save a lot of energy and stress and

that’s very important now there are all

sorts of extremes he

and you can have a very low-maintenance

lawn that looks horrible

in some people’s minds or you can have a

very low-maintenance lawn that can be

very appealing but across that spectrum

there’s a significant change in the

mindset piece that you have to have in

order to get to that point and it’s a

lot of a lot different type of space

than your typical American lawn so right

now generally speaking most people cut

their grass right around two inches

maybe even lower and in order to

maintain that uniform height without

weeds it usually requires a significant

investment of time and chemical inputs

in order to maintain that appearance and

that uniformity now when you want to

transition to something that’s less

maintenance I do strongly require or

recommend a chemical free lawn and that

transition period does take a time

investment to first of all free yourself

from the feeling of needing to maintain

it to a certain standard as well as the

time for your grass and the soil

underneath it to adapt to the new

situation to the new lifestyle it has

generally speaking with our typical

chemical treated lawn you’re killing the

soil with the application of the

synthetic herbicides that you apply to

it and the synthetic fertilizers that

you apply to it so while it gives the

physical appearance of health underneath

the the grass plants themselves are

really struggling and the soil

underneath it is also dying at the same

time and that’s why if you find that you

start this process you continue to need

to reapply it on a more frequent basis

whether it’s a fertilizer or an

herbicide it’s a dependency that is a

self-fulfilling cycle so to break that

cycle is very difficult well I know I’ve

kind of gone off on a tangent here we’ll

go into more debt

on this and future episodes of how to

transition your lawn to something that

doesn’t take as much work and is also

much healthier for your family so we’ll

talk about that more but that’s a very

big piece in order to reduce your lawn


in addition to reducing the maintenance

burden of your current lawn there are

also more extreme or radical transitions

you can do that replace your lawn or

transition your lawn to a

low-maintenance type lawn itself and it

doesn’t sound very clear there but

essentially what I’m saying is there’s

certain varieties of grass or other low

growing ground covers that provide a lot

of times they’re called an alternative

lawn but really I don’t necessarily see

them as an alternative is just say a

different type of one and some examples

of this we’ve actually tested some of

these in our own landscape is I’ve had a

really great success with this one type

of lawn called a no mow fescue lawn this

is only a northern climate lawn so in

southern Ohio were actually in the

transition phase of this lawn where if

you’re much south of say like Kentucky

or you’re middle of Tennessee this lawn

might not do well in the heat of the

summer in the warmer months it actually

requires a certain amount of cold cold

period to thrive that’s when the roots

develop on these colder season grasses

so this Nommo fescue it actually is a

very it’s a mix of varieties of

different fine fescues that can grow

these these very thin blades and they

grow they still grow almost eight to

twelve inches but they as they grow

they’re their blades aren’t strong

enough to support themselves so it kind

of flops over and gives us it’s kind of

like a little bit of a shaggy appearance

but it’s actually really appealing look

with like a rolling carpet of a lawn and

there’s a lot of nuances that go into

establishing certain different varieties

of grass even just your conventional

lawn making sure you establish it


it goes a really long way to ensuring

the success and this goes

just as same with this this no mow lawn

and there are other examples as well but

this is one that I’ve specifically

experimented with with success but like

I said establishment is very important

as well with it so you can also

transition your lawn to wear this no mow

lawn that we have

I only mow are our most successful

section of it that is relatively free of


I don’t irrigate it I don’t water her

your I don’t irrigate it I don’t water

it and I don’t fertilize it and I only

mow it when it goes to seed in about

mid-june I’ll mow it then and I might

mow it toward the end of fall just

before the leaf drop and so I can pick

up the leaves and that’s about it it’s

really truly a no slash low-maintenance

lawn and it’s great so I think we’ve

done a pretty good bit on the lawns

there’s a lot that goes into lawn

maintenance and how we can reduce work

there but that’s all we’re gonna touch

on now for the sake of time and let’s

move on to the next piece which is good

quality transitions if you think about

your landscape

there are several transitions that occur

between one type of space to another so

this could be a transition between your

driveway to your lawn or walkway to your

lawn it could be transition between the

lawn and the garden bed or different

types of space like that the area around

a tree versus the rest of your garden or

area around a tree versus your lawn so

each of these transitions between

different types of space requires some

sort of border or barrier to prevent

unwanted growth of certain things and or

at the same time these transition can

also prevent the growth of unwanted

things such as wheats so if you don’t

have the right type of transition a good

durable transition then you will get

ongoing maintenance necessary or

unwanted growth of unwanted plants some

examples of good transitions the the

mind immediately goes toward borders

right so

these border pieces edging that you can

put in to mark the barrier between say a

lawn and a garden and those things as

long as you put in a durable border

these things can be very effective at

preventing unwanted growth of different

plants so things to think about when you

are looking at a transition space how do

you prevent the extended growth of

certain things whether it’s a garden

plant that you have that might expand

into your lawn you would want to prevent

that or alternatively providing an

unwanted plant space to grow we’re gonna

finish up with a maintenance plan so a

low-maintenance yard requires a low

maintenance plan that’s the simple piece

here so a lot of time if you consider

your maintenance regime for your yard

most people they have a flurry of

activity in the spring followed by a

summer maintenance routine and and you

might have a certain project or two that

you’re building projects are great

that’s how you transition on yard is and

grow beauty and in your yard is through

projects so we’re not going to talk

about the project piece here but

specifically the ongoing maintenance

part so aside from projects in summer

you also have your summer maintenance

routine a lot of times this is mowing

weeding spraying sometimes there’s a

fertilizing going on and then followed

up by your fall activity again which is

a lot of times there’s a fertilization

routine for your lawn and your garden

getting ready for the dormancy of a

cooler season in northern climates and

moving into winter or or a dormant

season of the colder seasons during this

whole year-long maintenance regime most

people have quite a bit of activity that

they’re doing in their yard that they

don’t necessarily want to be doing but

they want the beauty that comes out of

this maintenance plan so if we

transition to just overall focusing on

reducing mate

it’s that focus in itself will help

release some of the burden that you put

on yourself to maintain your yard so by

just letting things get out of control

just a little bit more in between your

maintenance program or spending a little

more time in between mowings really can

go a long way to stretching out some of

this maintenance regime that you might

have and free up more time and space in

your lifestyle so aside from complete

redesign or incremental redesign of your

space there are just typical mindset

things you can do to change your

lifestyle around your yard so for me

with our yard I actually put a priority

over our yard with our family and this

means when I get home from work during

the summer a lot of times when I’m

planning to mow the lawn or take care of

some over growing weeds in the garden

instead what I’ll do is sometimes I’ll

I’ll push off those plans in order to go

to the park with my kids or go take them

for a hike if it’s a beautiful day why

waste such a beautiful day doing chores

when you could be spending it with your

family so to the chagrin of my neighbors

sometimes I put off maintenance plans

and everybody’s the better for it really

at the end of the day because by waiting

just a few more days to cut the grass or

to pull some weeds it doesn’t really

make it matter it actually frees up your

time and your energy and your stress and

then in the the low points of activity

or when things aren’t as great it might

be a cloudy day or whatever you can go

out and you mow the grass take care of

things or when you’re feeling low energy

and maybe a little bored it can be

something you do to get up and get

moving so just this change it kind of

goes back to the the first point change

in mindset with this change of mindset

and seeing how it affects your

maintenance plan you can really free up

some of your time and more importantly

your energy and a reduced stress level

that can make a big difference in your

life so that’s all I’ve got as far as

what makes a low maintenance yard that

covers a lot of points there are a lot

of nuances that can go in here we could

talk and talk about other things we can

do but overall these are the points I

picked out as the primary drivers of

making a low maintenance yard

aside from total redesign of your yard

in your landscape which to be honest

that that would be great that would be

awesome I would love to do it to our

yard but the reality is a lot of times

we don’t have the time to do a complete

full overhaul or the money or the just

physical planning capability to do

something like that so in the mean time

these are the things that we can do in

our yard in our life to free up time to

reduce our burden when it comes to our

yard and to still have a beautiful

attractive landscape so to kind of recap

some of these things we’ve talked about

we started off by talking about the

right mindset so episode 1 we talked

about that your your life your family

your loved ones your time is much more

important than your yard and while we

want to have a beautiful yard we don’t

want it to rule our lifestyle a lot of

the factors that go into it is is around

plants and so we talked about healthy

plants having good happy healthy plants

goes a long way toward making a

low-maintenance landscape and so

understanding the right factors that

make a healthy plant without having to

provide continuous long-term inputs to

make that happy plant will in turn make

a beautiful landscape with less work

healthy soil is the foundation to

healthy plants so that’s the next piece

is ensuring that you have good healthy

soil as a foundation for your plant

growth having the right plant in the

right place whether it’s a native plant

that’s well adapted to your

through long-term evolution or more

recently it might be a introduced exotic

that hopefully is not invasive but well

adapted to the conditions that you live

in perennial plants provide a long-term

beauty that comes back every year

without a significant amount of input

provided that you’ve put it in the right

place with the right conditions grouped

plantings provide a reduced maintenance

burden by grouping together the type of

maintenance you have to do in a specific

space so that was in a nutshell what

episode 2 is about in episode 3 we

talked about having low resource plants

to begin with so low resource plants are

plants that don’t require a ton of

fertility unless you live in beautiful

lush forests with great soil most likely

the fertility in your landscape is

slightly reduced or significantly

reduced and so establishing plants that

can take care of themselves and reduce

fertility conditions are very important

providing full coverage in your garden

areas and in your lawn prevents the

unwanted growth of weeds or well that’s

basically it unwanted growth of weeds an

unwanted plant is considered a weed so

so growth of weeds is prevented by full

coverage of your landscape a reduced

lawn maintenance routine really goes a

long way to providing you extra time and

reducing your stress per in workload

along with that establishing a

low-maintenance lawn to begin with if

you’re establishing a new lawn are ready

to re-establish your lawn this these

options can be really beneficial in the

long term by providing Beauty on its own

without significant inputs like a

conventional one good strong transition

phases are very important in between

different types of areas of your garden

in your lawn so this could be

the barrier between a garden bed and

your lawns such as your typically

thought of Porter so a durable border

goes a long way to preventing expansion

of your garden bed into your lawn or

expansion of your lawn into your garden

bed at the same time it also helps

prevent weed growth in these transition

areas and to wrap up we kind of came

full circle with a maintenance plan that

reflects your mindset that your life

your lifestyle is more important than

your yard when it comes to maintenance

so with that we wrap up our review of

what makes a low-maintenance yard and I

really hope these these ideas kind of

spur some new thinking for you of how

you can transform your life through your

landscape so I’d love to hear from you

what you’re planning on doing with your

yard as well as I would love to hear

Hugh subscribing to the podcast to

listen to new episodes and to leave a

review in iTunes or your favorite format

to listen to this show okay now it’s

time to talk about the launch party guys

excuse me not party but partay the

launch party is for the first two months

of the show from March 11th through May

help spread the word spread the word

about the show I really appreciate your

enthusiasm and interest in this show and

I want to get you guys involved and have

some fun while we’re doing it so this is

a chance to have some fun too for us to

get connected to win some prizes and

let’s talk about the prizes before we

talk about what we’re doing so what are

the prizes weakly I’m offering a free

consultation with me Ben Hale which is

normally a $99 value so one person each

week that gets involved in the launch

partay gets a free consultation I’m also

giving away a free offer for one of my

ebooks ten ways to get more beauty with

less work which is the $19 value next

the grand prize there is only one of

these we’re giving away through this

whole launch party so at the end of the

launch partay the organic lawn care

manual by

two key so Paul Tookie himself has

offered to give away one free book to a

lucky winner that’s getting involved in

this launch party and this book is all

about how to manage a healthy lawn from

anything from a golf course style on to

your low maintenance lawn which of

course is something I prefer here on

this show right

I own this book I’ve read this book

multiple times I’ve given it away it’s a

kind of a tattered and worn version that

I have and I use some of these practices

in my own lines so I love this book and

I highly promoted as well and you’ll

hear me talk about it throughout the

show but Paul Tookie has been kind

enough to offer a copy of his book as a

grand prize and there’s also a special

surprise for everybody that’s going to

be getting involved in the launch partay

the rolling river nursery out of

California has offered a special

surprise for everybody that’s involved

the rolling river nursery is a USDA

certified organic nursery so I went

online and I looked around for nurseries

that have online availability ship

through the continental US and have some

great offerings and rolling river

nursery is being kind enough to become

involved with our launch party and

they’re not only are they online

availability but they also are certified

organic which means they don’t use any

harmful herbicides or pesticides that

you have to be concerned with your

family about and so what you’re getting

is a safe and healthy plant they also

offer a ton of edible plants and trees

and shrubs cacti and succulents so they

offer several trees and shrubs that are

adaptable throughout the most of the

United States so definitely worth

checking them out and in addition these

guys are also involved with a nonprofit

in Southern California to help local

food movements called planting justice

org so if you want to learn more about

them you can go to rolling River nursery

calm and I also want to give a shout out

to Paul Tukey’s website for his organic

lawn care manual and his other works is

Paul to keep calm PA UL t uke Y and to

sum up guys okay you want to learn how

to get involved with this launch party

go over to aesthetic ecosystems calm

/ pod launch and that’s p OD Lau n CH

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remember whatever you do live with

passion and make tomorrow better than