Maintaining a nice looking yard on a budget is not always an easy task. However, it is not impossible, either. With just a little know-how and a lot of hard work and sweat you, too, can create a yard—both front and back—that appears as if it was designed and manicured by professional gardeners.To help you in this quest, here we have highlighted and explained several terrific ways in which to maintain a nice, beautiful yard without the help of professional landscapers—tips that most anyone can do starting today.
- Lawn Tips
- Other Tips for Maintaining a Great Looking Yard
The first four tips for maintaining a nice yard fall under the category of lawns, which typically make up the majority of all outdoor spaces. Here are just a few lawn tips you can start to implement right now to make your grass greener and healthier.
1. Mow Only the Top One-Third of Your Lawn
According to experts, when you are mowing your lawn you should adjust your cutting blade so that it only mows the top 1/3 of your lawn, and you should NOT rake up or catch the clippings in a bag. That means if your lawn is three inches high, you should only be mowing one inch off the top every time you mow—and should leave the clippings where they are cut.
The top one-third of your lawn is very thin and leafy. It decomposes rapidly when cut and can contribute up to one-third of the nitrogen your lawn needs to thrive. Moreover, while the clippings are decomposing, they help slow water evaporation and they keep weeds from germinating and choking out your grass. Cutting more than the top third also shocks grass roots and exposes stems, which tend to burn in direct sunlight.
2. Fertilize for a Healthy, Weed-Free Lawn
Fertilizing is one of the best things you can do for your yard, but when it comes to fertilizing the timing is very important. We all hate when weeds pop up in—or takeover—or lawns, but the best defense against weeds is a thick and healthy lawn that does not provide the weeds the adequate sunlight or open space they need to germinate.
Spraying for weeds should be done in the early spring or summer, before they have an opportunity to develop deep root systems. Keep in mind that different weeds require different chemicals to attack them, so be sure and check with your nursery before buying a weed control product.
As for fertilizing, it should always be done in the early spring months to help jump-start the development of the grass roots. Fall feedings can help restore the grass from summer damage and encourage the root growth that goes on for quite a few weeks even after the top growth stops; this helps grass endure the winter. Light feedings in between these seasons can help maintain healthy growth.
3. Aerating Your Lawn Allows It to Breathe
The roots of grass need plenty of oxygen to grow, as well as water and other nutrients. Aerating the lawn, the process of removing small plugs of soil, can provide many benefits that will keep your grass healthy and green.
First, it enhances air-to-soil interaction. It enables water and fertilizer to penetrate the soil deeper and easier, and it reduces soil impaction and opens up room for more roots to grow. Aerating also removes thatch and simulates the breakdown of the remaining thatch.
Aerating is best done with a gas aerator, which can be rented at any equipment supply facility, but it can also be done manually with a specialized aerator. The timing for aerating is critical. Although it can be done in spring, the autumn months—after the kids have finished trampling the grass for the summer—is usually the best time to aerate.
4. Give Your Grass a Good Soaking
Most people water their lawn for just a few minutes, once or twice a day. Although this is better than no watering at all, it is NOT the most efficient and beneficial manner in which to water your grass. Instead you should water about every third day. And on those days, you should give the grass a real good soaking—for about 45 minutes or more.
When lawns are merely sprayed for a few minutes, most of the moisture will evaporate before it has an opportunity to do the grass any good. When soaking the lawn, on the other hand, you allow the water to reach way down to the roots, which ultimately makes them strong and healthy over the long term.
Other Tips for Maintaining a Great Looking Yard
Now that you understand some of the methods for keeping your yard green and healthy, let’s look at a few other things you can do to make your yard the envy of all your neighbors.
5. Create a Lawn Island
If you are like many homeowners, you may have large expanses of lawn in your front yard or backyard space. If this is the case, you might want to try adding an island or cut-out to your lawn as a way to create a focal point and to break up the greenery of the grass into more manageable and gorgeous components.
The most difficult part of this garden chore is removing the grass in the spot at which you intend to build your island. As a good first step, we recommend marking out the area using temporary spray paint. You can elect for any shape you wish, but to make it look completely natural you may want to choose a non-shape—one with meandering borders that appears as if it was there all along.
Once you have delineated the area, cut around the border using a flat-head shovel, and carefully remove the grass while leaving the dirt. Next, you will need to pull out all of the remaining roots to ensure no grass will grow back. When the grass has been completely removed from the area, you can begin building up your island or cut-out vertically with soil and mulch. This will give the area dimension and create the focal point you seek.
Once the island has been built up to your satisfaction, you can begin adding pops of color using perennials and flowering shrubs, or even a small tree. You can also add more vertical dimensions with the help of small to medium-sized boulders or garden sculptures. Finally, to truly make this area standout you can add some natural or colorful edging using small bricks or pavers, available in almost every color under the sun.
6. Create a Water Feature
A water feature in your backyard not only looks great, it can create an extra measure of serenity and peace. Today there are many kits you can purchase from lawn and garden and home center stores that allow you to build your own water feature for just a few dollars. One idea is to create some vertical beauty by making a waterfall type feature out of stacked wooden barrels—an idea that is as rustic as it is serene.
7. Add Flower Bed Borders
Flower bed borders help to define the space between your lawn and garden, giving it a bit of texture and appeal. There are many affordable edging products you can use, such as bendable borders, edging bricks, etc, and all of them make for an easy way to highlight your flower garden without the help of an expensive landscaper.
8. Give Your Hose a Cover
If you can build a small box you already possess all the skills you need to build a beautiful wood cover for your unsightly hose. Using four 1 x 2 posts, simply nail or glue sheets of wood to create a three-sided panel box just large enough to cover the hose, while still giving you access to the faucet.
9. Make a Tree Stump Planter
Do you have an old tree stump that is a focal point in your front or backyard for all the wrong reasons? If so, why not create some beauty from it by building a tree stump planter. By hollowing out just a small portion of the tree stump using an ax or electric saw of some kind, you can then add soil and some your favorite flower varieties to achieve a real pop of color.
10. Hanging Colander Planters
Colanders, which can usually be purchased at a discount store for about a dollar, make great hanging plant containers and provide you with a fun DIY project. Simply paint the colanders using some of your favorite pastel colors, and add some decorative yarn or twine to the sides of the strainer. Then, add soil and some of your favorite hanging plants—perhaps a nice fern—and you’ll have a DIY hanging garden that is sure to impress your friends.
11. Lay Faux Grass to an Outdoor Seating Area
Concrete seating areas in your backyard are not only less than attractive; they also tend to get hot and steamy. To add some color and coolness to spots like these you can pick up some faux grass and cover the area in less than an afternoon. Faux grass kits typically come with all the supplies you need to do the job yourself.