Preparing your landscape for retirement

By Cynthia Bee, Conservation Garden Park

When my spouse and I built our home in our late twenties, we imagined how it would accommodate our someday family. I wanted a large yard for kids and he wanted plenty of separation from neighbors. With those goals in mind, the third acre parcel we built our home on seemed like a fabulous idea. And it was–for that stage of life.

We’re not quite so young now. We’re feeling our middle age around our waistlines and in our joints which has us looking at our large lot through slightly different eyes all these years later. Though still years from retirement, the realization that it’s getting harder physically to do major yard projects has us considering changes we can make over time that will reduce the work, water and funds required by our current landscape. Perhaps some of these ideas will work for you as well.

Simplify the Lawn

Following the Localscapes method (, we’ll be making some adjustments to our lawn. Our cul-de-sac lot makes for some awkward landscape spaces, some of which have been filled with lawn that serves no recreational purpose. The most maintenance-intensive parts of any landscape are those where lawn is used poorly and/or irrigated improperly. A central open shape of lawn facilitates more efficient irrigation but also needs less edging and has fewer places for grass to invade planting beds.

More Gathering Spaces

Localscapes calls for the use of Gathering Spaces in both the front and back yards. Patios, seating areas, perhaps a fire pit, outdoor kitchen or other improvements which have hard surfacing beneath are all considered “gathering spaces.” Sure, they’re a bit of work and cost to install but once they’re in, they need almost no maintenance. Even better, they’ll provide more hangout spaces for us to enjoy being in the yard with those grandkids we hope to someday have!

Cover with Groundcover

Planting beds will get harder to weed as we get older, so although I’m a perennial flower addict, we’re looking at areas of the yard where we can change out some of those plantings. Simplifying our side yards and perimeter beds with low-maintenance shrubs and groundcover will keep weeds down without much help from us. The key is to shade the soil with foliage and heavy mulch so weed seeds can’t germinate.

Drip Irrigation in Planting Beds

It’s best if planting beds are irrigated with drip irrigation so you’re only watering the plants you want. Controlling water controls weeds. Fortunately, our planting beds are already drip irrigated. If you’re still using overhead spray in your planting beds, the next few years will be a great time to switch over. If you can make only one change in your landscape, changing the way you water the planting beds is the most important one to make.

We all hope to stay in our homes for long as possible in our retirement years. Planning ahead for your landscape should be one of the changes you undertake while health and budgets may allow. For additional tips for retirement-friendly landscapes and plant suggestions, check out our blog at