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Landscaping Without a Lawn

Agreeing to have and maintain a lawn is a bigger, more complex obligation than it frequently gets credit for being. Sure, you can go through your year essentially not paying much attention to your lawn and letting it do what it will, but if you do that it won’t look good, and if your lawn looks poor your home’s overall aesthetic power is great diminished as a result. So what if you want your home to look great but you don’t want to have to worry about maintaining a lawn? Or what if you don’t even really have a lawn in the first place but you’d still like to liven up your home with some plant life. Below are listed a few of the many ways you can effectively landscape the exterior of your home, no lawn necessary. Follow these steps and you’ll have all the benefits of a lawn without all of the difficult year-round maintenance and hassle.

  • Use Flowers Instead of Grass: We generally think of flowers as being much more demanding than grass, but that’s actually frequently not the case. Pick a plant which will naturally thrive in your environment, one which has the disposition to grow without effort in your climate, and the plant will do most of the work for you. You likely won’t even need pesticides or fertilizers, just a little watering now and then. You’ll likely have to water the plants often early in their lifespan, but once they’ve been established you’ll only have to water them once a week or so. Just make sure you purchase the right plants for your area. Consulting an expert is always a wise idea.
  • Look Into Artificial Grass: If you still want the look of a regular lawn but you don’t want to put in the effort to maintain it, artificial grass can be a great alternative. It looks and even feels virtually identical, and innovations in the industry continue to this day. With artificial grass you’ll have to do essentially no maintenance at all and you’ll get a fantastic looking lawn for your trouble.
  • Consider Hardscaping Your Lawn: Perhaps you don’t want to have to deal with anything living, or anything resembling anything living for that matter. Substituting flowers for grass can help, but those flowers still require some degree of maintenance. If you don’t want to both, consider building a rock garden or a brick path instead, or perhaps even a large patio. You could even install a pond. Any of these items can replace a traditional pond without forcing you to compromise aesthetic impact.

Lawn Maintenance During the Winter

For some the title of this article might seem a bit counter-intuitive. After all, during the winter how much lawn maintenance can really be done, especially for those who live in areas where bitterly cold temperatures and snow are prevalent. Regardless of  what you might believe, there are in fact steps you can take during or immediately before the winter to ensure that your lawn will be able to bounce back resiliently in the spring. Turf is able to withstand a bit of abuse, and if you make sure the damage isn’t too great during the winter months it’ll return without conflict. However, many people use the winter as an excuse to not care for their lawns at all. This is a mistake. Minimize the amount of damage done during winter and you’ll be fine during the spring. Let the season take its toll, but don’t make the situation worse. Here are a few small things you can do to help your lawn get through the winter in one piece.

  • Cut Your Grass to the Appropriate Height: You’re probably not going to be cutting your lawn in the middle of winter, but before the snow and ice come out in full force you’ll want to give it one final trim. Here the details are extremely important. Cut your grass too short and the crown of the plants in your yard might become exposed. This can lead to them being damaged much more severely in the winter months than they would otherwise be. On the other hand, if you leave your grass too long it may smother itself during the winter as it is compacted by snow and ice. Overall, you’re going to want to cut it about .5-1 inch lower than you normally would. Doing this the last time you mow before winter is very important, but doing it twice before winter arrives is even better for the grass.
  • Clean Your Yard: You don’t have to go crazy cleaning every inch of your yard, but at least remove the larger items. Excessive debris, lawn items or even leaves can crush your grass as snow and ice are piled upon them. Some items can also rot beneath the snow, making effected spots a prime destination for mice and insects. A cursory cleaning can help prevent dead patches, as well as infestations. Once again, you’ll want to do this before winter takes hold.
  • Keep an Eye on Your Yard During the Winter: Mowing and cleaning are basically all you can do before winter begins, but it’s important to keep an eye on your yard even after that time has passed. Too much traffic over a certain area can effect it much more deeply during the winter, and too much ice can damage your turf. If you need to divert traffic to another area or chip away a bit of ice, do it without hesitation. Your lawn will be far better off as a result.

Common Garden Weeds and How to Stop Them

Weeds need no introduction. You see them everywhere, especially in places they should not be. Most don’t damage your garden in any unique or interesting ways. With the exception of creeping vines which strangle surrounding plants as they continue to grow, all that most weeds do is take up space. Their roots invade those of neighboring plants, not allowing them to grow as fully as they normally would. Weeds can also make surrounding plants less healthy, taking nutrients and water from the soil that their neighbors would normally consume. If eliminating weeds is a priority for you, read on. With the help of this small guide, you just might be able to get your garden back under your control, for a while anyway.

Crab Grass: One of the most common weeds, crab grass is found all across North America. Basically looking like a very thick, stalky blade of grass, the best way to kill them is to pull them up by the roots. Digging it out is more effective than trying to yank it by hand. Be sure to get as much of the plant as possible, because what little might remain could regenerate in time. You can also try pouring boiling water on the weed, as long as it’s not too close to any plants you actually enjoy.

Bermuda Grass: As far as grasses go, Bermuda is very resilient, requiring little maintenance and enduring the whole year round. Of course, if you’re dealing with it as an unwanted weed these pluses become decidedly less favorable. Once again, digging it up is the way to go, making sure the roots have been pulled out completely. Consider a rototiller or mulching as well. Using either (or both) can rob the Bermuda grass of much needed energy, causing it to die prematurely.

Dandelions: One of the more commonly spotted weeds, some people enjoy the look of dandelions enough to allow them to grow where they wish. If you’re of a different opinion, you’ll be discouraged to learn that the older a dandelion gets the harder it is to kill. With time, they form something called a taproot, which can grow to more than a foot. For this reason, they are harder to dig up than most weeds. Fortunately, a tool has been invented for that very purpose: a dandelion puller. Heavy mulch can also work.

Bindweed: Presenting as small white flowers on green, leafy vines, bindweed is one of the hardest weeds to kill. Its vines can snake around plants, essentially suffocating them. Its roots can extend as far as 30 feet down. Unfortunately, as with all of the weeds described here, pulling them up is the only way to kill this weed. Trying to do so by hand is futile. Use a gardening fork, and get as deep as you can. You probably won’t get the entire weed, but if you keep breaking it down it won’t have a chance to thrive. If you don’t feel like pulling up the weeds just yet, be sure to, at the very least, carefully remove all of those white flowers from the plant. Bindweed seeds can spread quickly and remain viable for as many as fifty years. Like all weeds, bindweed isn’t easy to kill, but doing so is certainly worth it if you want your garden to thrive.

What Type of Mulch is Best for Your Garden

There’s probably much in your garden whether you want it there or not, and the good news is that you almost certainly do. A highly diverse collection of organic materials can be categorized under the blanket term of “mulch,” everything from leaves to rocks. Basically, mulch is a layer of organic mater which lies atop a patch of soil. This layer helps keep the soil moist and fertile, improving its health and its growing potential. It also helps eliminate unwanted plants like weeds, essentially by depriving them of the sunlight and nutrients that they need to grow. Finally, mulch can be used to simply improve the aesthetic appeal of a certain area. It can be a part of a larger design scheme, or it can be a purely functional tool. Clearly, mulch is a valuable resource to have at your disposal. But which type should you choose?

Leaves: If leaves fall into your yard during the autumn, considering leaving them where they lie. Leaves make excellent mulch, particularly during the winter. They break down fast unfortunately, but while they last they’re quite an ideal option.

Grass Clippings: One of the more inconspicuous types of mulch, grass clippings are even better for soil than leaves. They break down almost as quickly, but when they do they leave nutrients behind, making them one of the more valuable types of organic mulch. That being said, if the grass has been treated with chemicals it’s probably not the best option, as the kind of chemicals which are ideal for the growth of grass may not be so ideal for any other plants you attempt to grow in that soil.

Shredded Bark: One of the least expensive types of mulch, shredded bark breaks down slowly and is very environmentally friendly. The only issue is that it can rob the soil beneath it of some of its nutrients. Using it in conjunction with organic fertilizer is a good idea.

Compost: An excellent option, compost is rich with the kind of nutrients that soil needs to truly thrive. Compost can be created in the home using organic food and plant scraps broken down over time, or it can be purchased. Unlike some types of mulch which can interfere with your garden’s aesthetic, compost  basically looks like dark soil, allowing it to blend in beautifully.

Wood Chips: A very common type of mulch, wood chips are great at lowering acidity levels in soil, making the area in which they’re placed more hospitable to a wide range of plants.

Gravel/Pebbles: To be honest, rocks probably aren’t the best option as mulch. Their main advantage is that they take far longer to break down than any other mulching material. However, they don’t add anything to the soil either. In fact, besides killing any weeds beneath them, they don’t do much of anything at all, and they’re quite hard to remove if you decide you’d rather go with a more beneficial option. Plus, they can impede the growth of certain plants you might actually want, like perennials. That being said, if you like their look, pebbles are always an option.

What Type of Fertilizer is Best for You?

It goes without saying that finding and utilizing an effective fertilizer is absolutely key to sustaining any healthy garden. After all, without nutrients plants cannot thrive. Most soil has plenty of riches to go around, at least at first, but years of planting and re-planting can rob a once fertile area of its precious resources. If your soil has been sapped of its nutrients over time, fertilizer is an absolutely necessary mediation, a way to close the gap between way a plant needs and what little spent soil has to offer. But which kind of fertilizer to buy? There are many different types, some organic and some chemical-based, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. A few of them are listed below for your convenience.

  • Organic Fertilizers: There are a great many types of organic fertilizers, too many to cover here. One of the most popular options is manure. Though effective, manure can obviously add an unpleasant smell to your yard or garden, along with presenting certain health risks. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options. Bone meal is full of phosphorous, a nutrient which a wide variety of plants require, along with nitrogen and calcium. You also don’t need very much, with a tablespoon covering up to two square feet. Fish emulsion smells temporarily, but that problem doesn’t last for long. Use it early in the spring and it can be a major boon to your plants. Blood meal contains lots of nitrogen, and is ideal for assisting in the growth of edible plants. There are many more organic fertilizers to consider as well, but the options described here are among the most effective. Mulch is an example of an organic fertilizer.
  • Inorganic Fertilizers: Whereas organic fertilizers are naturally occurring products which just happen to be good for plants, inorganic fertilizers are compounds specifically created for that purpose. Organic options are great if you plan on using them at the beginning of the season and letting them do their gradual, but effective, work. If you need to supply your soil with nutrients in a hurry, an inorganic fertilizer is a great option.
  • Plant-Specific Fertilizer: Some plants have markedly different needs than others. If you have a picker plant growing in your yard or garden, do a little searching to see if there’s a fertilizer just for that product. Chances are fairly high that there is.
  • Liquid Fertilizer: The fastest option of all, liquid fertilizer goes right to the roots of your plants, allowing it to go to work almost instantly. The trade-off is that liquid fertilizer doesn’t last for long, so you’ll need to reapply a short time later. For this reason, it is only truly useful for smaller applications.
  • Time Release Fertilizer: Most inorganic fertilizers release all of their nutrients immediately. This can sometimes cause plants to be overwhelmed and actually be negatively effected. Time release fertilizer releases nutrients slowly over time, a slower but more beneficial method.