The first thing to remember with any “yardscape” is that it’s a living, breathing entity. Even the simplest, easy-to-care for yard will need watering, feeding, cleaning, and disease prevention. If you aren’t a big fan of yard maintenance, it might be wise to design a yard that’s easy to maintain. Here are some of the basics to give you an idea of what is required to keep your landscape looking neat.
Planting areas:Some plants require constant attention, while others are relatively maintenance free. Check to see the condition of plants during spring. Covering ground with organic mulch will help soil retain moisture, and keep weeds at bay. After the first hard freeze, cut back plant branches and cover them with mulch.
Insect control:Sometimes a plant can be washed clean with a strong stream of water. Many garden centers sell insects such as ladybugs to get rid of bugs and worms. Chemicals are also an option; however, use extreme caution when applying them. Consider using household “natural” chemicals to control insects. For example, placing a shallow plate filled with beer in your slug-infested garden usually will attract and kill these pests.
Weeding:Removing the entire weed by its roots is the surest way to get rid of it. Herbicides do work, but use caution when applying. They will not only kill the weed, but also other nearby plants. Keep weeds to a minimum by covering the soil with an inch or two of mulch.
Weed prevention: An inch-thick layer of mulch will keep your planting beds relatively weed-free. Grass is a plant that grows thick and bushy when healthy and will usually choke out any other weeds with the exception of plants like crabgrass. These grow from seed every year. Some chemical fertilizers come with a “pre-emergent,” which kills the seeds in the spring when the plants are dormant.
Mowing:Don’t cut grass too frequently. Longer grass is healthier and retains water better. Many mowers come with a mulching option that cuts grass into tiny bits and returns it to the lawn. This returns important nutrients to the soil, and reduces the need for fertilizer.
Leaf removal:Remove all leaves from grassy areas. The layer of leaves can restrict the amount of light reaching the lawn and trap water near the roots.
Feeding:Depending on your climate, feed your lawn and growing beds 2 to 5 times per growing season. Both chemical and organic options are available.
Hedge and tree trimming:Shrubs and trees require seasonal pruning. Prune away dead branches as well as live branches that are getting out of control. Many hedges need to be re-shaped several times during the summer but never prune or trim during the fall.
Sprinkler maintenance:Winterize your sprinkler system during the fall by draining or “blowing out” the water from the pipes and turning off the timer. In the spring, you’ll need to re-start the system by turning on the timer and the master valve.
Spring clean up:Rake out the leftover leaves and trash that has built up over the cold months. Consider applying a fresh layer of mulch to protect fresh shoots from frost. Over time, mulch will work its way into the soil and revitalize it. Choose mulch made of small organic pieces like “bark fines” or recycled cocoa shells. Mulch made from larger wood pieces such as cedar strips or aspen will take longer to break down.
Thatching:This is a layer of dead grass that builds up over time just above the soil surface and needs to be removed. Aerate regularly and de-thatch in the spring while the lawn is still dormant.
Core aeration:Aerate your lawn at least twice a year to allow air and water to cycle in and out of the soil. Your lawn will thank you by growing thick and healthy every year.