Photo by Jeremy Levine

Update: When doing a cost analysis for landscaping your gardens, you have to think about both the initial outlay of cash and the ongoing maintenance bill. It may be cheaper now to fill your yard with lush shrubs, flowers and trees as well as a water feature, but in the long run the upkeep on all this will become expensive. Vegetation that needs to be cut back regularly, trees that may be susceptible to diseases and ponds or fountains that need frequent cleaning will cost you both time and money. Keep in mind that there are many attractive ways to landscape your yard with low maintenance design ideas such as patios and decking that will require a minimum of maintenance for years to come.

A home with a manicured lawn, mature shade trees, lush flower beds, maybe a water feature — that’s the dream of many homeowners, but what will it really cost? Can homeowners have the yards of their dreams and still save money?

As many a homeowner already knows, the expense of landscaping comes not only from the initial cost of installation, but also from the ongoing maintenance to keep it looking good. All landscaping requires some maintenance, but the proper design, selection, and planning of your landscape can go a long way towards saving you valuable time and money.

The key step to ensuring that you build a low maintenance landscape is planning. You need to do the homework involved to ensure that you are landscaping in the right areas to maximize or minimize shade, sunlight, moisture and other weather factors, and to make sure you’re planting the correct plants, shrubs and flowers for each area.

It is important to remember that you do not need to finish the entire job in one day. It can be much more beneficial to complete your landscape over a period of days — or even weeks. This ensures that you will have time to see your plan developing and then make the modifications that better suit your landscape overall, and your individual taste.

The following steps can help ensure that your landscaping turns out as well as you planned it. These tips will minimize daily maintenance, which will save you time and money.

1. Reduce the size of the area for landscaping. This can be accomplished in two different ways. First, simply choose to landscape a smaller portion of the yard. Instead of taking on the entire backyard as the project, one area that needs it the most should be developed. Concentrate on one area to maintain your focus, and if it turns out well, impart these lessons to the next plot of land you wish to develop. Second, reduce the size of the landscaping area by using rocks and gravel, which require almost no maintenance and no watering.

2. Landscape elements requiring less care include patios, sheds, arbors, and walks. The initial cost of materials and long-term maintenance should be considered before arriving at a decision about what to do and what to use.

3. In order to save money and maintenance costs, resist the temptation to purchase elaborate statues and garden features that may or may not go with the theme and feel of the landscaped area. Additionally, vegetable gardens can be a great addition to a landscape, but remember, their maintenance is a time-consuming task.

4. Arrange your plants and flowers by similarities. Group together plants that don’t need a lot of water, so you can care for them at the same time. Establish a healthy balance between high-maintenance and hardy plants. Solo plants spread out over your landscape will require much more time to maintain. Bulbs and annual flowers require individualized maintenance, whereas flower beds of compatible plants allow for easier mowing than spots of isolated vegetation.

5. Choose indigenous plants that are native to where you live. They are easier to maintain and hardier than exotic species. Keep in mind the size of mature plants when plotting out where to establish larger species. Also, trees that require yearly pruning or shed leaves continuously might be more work than you bargained for — research trees well before buying and planting.

6. Edging reduces maintenance by keeping the mulch and the lawn separate. Edging made from steel and plastic is available at any garden or home improvement store, and it’s easy to install. If you have a lot of land around your house, you can retain the natural state around you, such as woodlands, or you can “landscape” a meadow garden by scattering wildflower seeds, which is maintenance free.

7. The soil close to the house should be graded to channel water away from the residential structure, and plants that require less water should be planted closer to the house. Ground covers should be at least six inches away from any wooden structure, and the foundation of the home should be at least one foot away from any organic mulch in order to avoid giving insects a bridge to the house.