Steele: Reduce landscape maintenance

Certain principles provide the easiest guide to creating a successful xeriscaped garden/landscape.

Mass planting of ornamental grasses and sturdy

Mass planting of ornamental grasses and sturdy

Although the word xeriscape is synonymous with water-wise, the principles of xeriscape go well beyond water conservation.

To me, these principles are the easiest guide to creating a successful garden/landscape.

A successful landscape is one that gives pleasure, is in harmony with natural systems, does no harm, and is easy to maintain.

In my classes and workshops, I’m increasingly emphasizing planning ahead to minimize long-term maintenance costs and yard tasks.

As winter is a good time for garden planning, here are some suggestions for reducing maintenance.


Minimize the amount of lawn. A traditionally-tended lawn gets mowed and edged 20 to 30 times a year, making it a labour intensive task.

Hard to maintain turf areas include slopes, very hot dry places, hard to water areas, hard to mow areas, on sandy soil, under trees (dense shade and tree roots).

When planting a tree or shrub in a lawn, create a wide mulched circle around it to remove growth competition from grass and to permanently protect the trunk from damage by mowing equipment.

If planting more than one tree or shrub in a lawn, link them all in a flowing, easy-to-mow-around, mulched bed.

Use a hose to lay out the shape of garden beds bordered by lawn. Then check the ease of mowing.

Use an edging such as bricks to create a barrier between garden and lawn and to run the mower wheel on, eliminating the need for edge trimming.


To minimize pruning tasks, choose trees and shrubs carefully to ensure they can grow to mature size without blocking a view, conflicting with overhead wires, or crowding out adjacent vegetation or a walkway.

Choose trees and shrubs that naturally grow to a shape you like.

Research their appearance in all seasons.

Deciduous ones will have bare branches for four to five months.

Never prune a shrub into a ball. It will produce ugly, ‘porcupine-like’ pokey twigs within a few weeks and need constant pruning—the epitome of a make-work project.


To drastically reduce weed growth and water needs, keep all bare ground covered with mulch.

Remove all weeds and make sure the ground is moist before mulching.

Avoid rock mulch.

Weed seeds and soil will inevitably blow in.

Except for screened crusher chips or pea gravel, rock mulch is very hard to weed out of.

Avoid landscape fabric, especially anywhere that you may want to dig in future to add or remove plants.

Plant maintenance

Minimize plant replacement by choosing the right plants for your conditions of light water and soil.

Group plants by water needs. Remove invasive plants.

Pest control

Remove plants that attract pests and diseases.

Plant a wide diversity of plants to attract birds and beneficial insects. They will eat any pests.

Do not use pesticidesas they also kill the beneficial insects.

Kelowna Capital News

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A COVID-19 exposure has been confirmed at Black Mountain Elementary in Kelowna Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Google Image)
Another COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Kelowna school

Interior Health confirmed an exposure at Black Mountain Elementary School Saturday

Members of BCEHS Station 343 in Lake Country receive a donation of treats and wine from the community in December. (Contributed)
‘Unexpected and heartwarming’: Okanagan community supports paramedics

Cards, discounts, treats, more given to Lake Country paramedics in sign of support

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis has served as the band’s chief since his first of six electoral wins in 1991. (File photo)
Okanagan Indian Band seeks nominations for upcoming election

A new OKIB chief and council will be elected March 30, 2021

An individual at Rutland Senior Secondary school has tested positive for COVID-19. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Individual at Kelowna school tests positive for COVID-19

Authorities say they are self-isolating at home with support from local health teams

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

(Hal Brindley - Dreamstime)
Enderby farmers caught between coyotes and bylaw tickets

The Smith family is stuck in a Catch-22 between protecting their livestock and incurring noise complaints

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read