I have the opposite of a green thumb and need a yard that is going to be very easy, especially if it is down at the ranch where I’ll only be taking care of it about once a month! Even if you don’t have a ranch, this advice still applies if you’re looking for low maintenance lawns.
With wildlife and livestock eager to mow down whatever I plant and the sun burning a hole in the ground, our yard there simply can’t look like an English garden. Here are a few ideas and tricks I’ve found that can help you have an appealing but easy to manage ranch yard:
1. Get an automatic watering system.
Automatic sprinkler systems and soaker hoses are a must.
2. Keep the landscaping simple.
Try to minimize edges to trim and make it so that you can zip through the yard easily on a riding lawnmower. Eliminate anything that could brake or require a repair n one of your trips down to the ranch.
3. Use natives.
Native plants deeper roots and are more tolerant of the conditions on your ranch. I’ve seen some landowners find unique succulents out on their ranch and transplant them to their yard. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center sells a native short meadow grass mix that is great for lawns, though just a warning, it does require a good deal of maintenance until it is well established — at which point it can thrive on its own. Definitely plant native Texas milkweed to provide habitat for Monarch butterflies! (But be sure they receive your automatic watering.)
4. Use a solid wall barrier as a fence or limit the amount of fencing.
Volunteer trees, vines, and shrubs love to spring up along open fences, and can cost you a lot of elbow grease keeping them at bay. A low wall can make for a great barrier from the rough country you’re in and gives you a good border for mowing. Or if you like the seamless landscape view out of your window, opt for no fences at all.
5. Xeriscape with rocks.
Some of the nicest ranches I’ve seen have utilized ample amounts of gravel, interspersed with native flower beds and patches of yard grass, for a simple landscape. Consider a plastic weed barrier underneath.
6. Plant antique roses for color and hardiness.
You can mail order them or buy in person from the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas. Many years ago, my mom and I planted a few down our ranch and were really proud of ourselves. My grandad, who lived on the farm, couldn’t stand them and ended up cutting them all down, much to our chagrin!
7. Use plants that are deer resistant.
A great list, “Deer Resistant Species” is available on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, www.wildflower.org.
8. Install rain barrels.
It’s amazing how much water can be collected from even just a ¼” rainfall! The only consideration here is if you are an absentee landowner, you’ll need to go empty it out (or have a ranch worker or neighbor do that for you) in between big rainfall events.
9. Freeze resistant plants are a must.
10. Prioritize shade.
Once established, trees are the ultimate in low maintenance and can prevent the rest of your yard from boiling on a hot summer day. Planting a tree can be water intensive at first but worth it in the end.
11. Limit tall grasses near walkways and the house.
Snakes love to hide in tall grasses and so try to prevent them finding suitable habitat in your yard.
Other fun ideas: Install a small windmill and water trough. This can be a really fun design element to have in your yard because it attracts birds and is a cool place to take a dip in the summer. Furthermore, it provides water to the rest of your landscaping. A fruit orchard can be a great addition too, if you live on the property and can maintain it or have someone there regularly who can help you. One of the first things I would always do when visiting my grandad on the farm was go out and pick fresh fruit off his trees, and the thought of it still makes my mouth water to this day!