Tips for a Low Maintenance Backyard

When spring arrives it brings everyone out to the backyard for games, cookouts, picnics, and a number of other fun, fair weather activities. It also brings yardwork.

With the busy schedules that most homeowners have, it can be difficult to find time to spend hours working in the yard each weekend. Depending on where you live and the size of your backyard, there are many options for making it a bit easier to take care of your lawn and garden.

In this article, we’ll give you some advice on how to make caring for your backyard a lot simpler so that you can spend your time outside enjoying the weather rather than working up a sweat.

Lawncare

In most suburban and rural neighborhoods, lawncare seems like a competition. Everyone wants their grass to look as green as their neighbor’s. But keeping a meticulous lawn can be difficult if you have kids, pets, or just don’t have the time to spend manicuring and fertilizing your lawn. What’s more, lawncare can get expensive quickly and can go wrong just as quickly in the case of droughts and pests.

There are many ways you can simplify your lawn care. If you love having a lawn, but mowing is a pain, it can be easier to remove some obstacles from your yard. Bird baths and other decorations can be a nice accept, but sometimes they make mowing more difficult than it needs to be.

If you don’t want to deal with grass at all, or want a smaller area to mow, you have a few options.

You could make your yard more of a natural meadow by planting wildflowers and encouraging long grasses. Laying a brick path down the middle creates the air of a walkthrough garden where you can view the many florae that will be ever-changing in your yard.

If you like your yard to look neat and tidy, creating a patio and placing a few choice potted plants and trees on it will save you a lot of time pushing the lawnmower.

Choose the right plants

Many people plant bushes, trees, and flowers based solely on the fact that they like them. It makes more sense in the long run, though, to choose your plants based on their hardiness, and your ability to care for them.

Some plants are marketed as being impossible to kill. However, you should still read the care requirements to make sure they’ll work with your yard’s climate, light, and water conditions.

In warmer climates, cacti and succulents are a good choice and will likely fit the scenery. For colder climates, there are a number of conifers, shrubs, and bushes that will stay green throughout the winter, adding a bit of color to the dreary season.

A good way to make sure your yard will be low maintenance year-round is to use plants and trees that are native to your area. Since they’re in their natural habitat, they’ll likely require less work on your part.

How to Save Your Grass from Your Dog

If you’re a dog owner you know well that caring for a dog is like caring for a small child who stays a small child for their entire life. They’re a lot of work, but dogs are a part of the family and anyone lucky enough to have a canine companion will tell you that they’re more than worth the trouble.

One difficulty many dog owners face is burn spots on their lawns. Most people assume that dogs are going to kill their grass one way or another and it’s useless to try to prevent it. However, with some diligence and training you can prevent dead spots from taking over your lawn.

What is lawn burn?

Dog urine is very high in nitrogen. While a little bit of nitrogen is healthy for your soil and your grass, too much makes the soil extremely acidic which kills your lawn causing “burn” spots.

If you’ve ever gardened before you might be familiar with the concept of soil’s pH number. A pH number describes how acidic (0-6) or how basic (7-14) a substance is. Different types of plant life require different levels of acidity on the pH scale.

When you buy fertilizer or plant food at the garden shop you’re really buying a mixture of chemicals that alter your soil’s pH. The ideal pH for growing healthy grass is 6.5-7, roughly midway on the pH scale.

What can be done?

Ok, so now you know the science behind why your dog doing his business kills your lawn. But what can you do about it?

There are a number of different techniques that have been proven to be effective at mitigating or eliminating the damage caused by lawn burn.

  • Training. The most effective methods of preventing lawn burn is through proper training of your dog. Find a part of your yard that you ideally want to train your dog to do their business in. This part can be dirt, rocks, or an out of sight patch of lawn that you don’t mind taking some damage. Lead them over to this area when it’s time for them to go out and give them treats and verbal praise when they do their business in that area. If they start to urinate in another area, correct them by calling them over to the area they should be in. Don’t punish them, as this will confuse dogs and they might not feel safe urinating outside at all.
  • Water down. An effective method of preventing burn spots is to simply saturate the area where the dog urinated with water immediately afterward. This will dilute the nitrogen from the urine and limit damage.
  • Healthy nutrition. Dog food is sometimes very high in protein which increases nitrogen in their urine. Pick a food that has healthy amounts of protein in it. Similarly, dehydrated dogs will have urine with a higher nitrogen level. Encourage your dog to drink plenty of water.

Myths about lawn burn

Many myths about dog-related lawn burn have appeared over the years. Some people argue that female dogs’ urine burns a lawn more than males. This is untrue. If a female dog’s urine does burn the lawn more it is simply because female dogs have a tendency to stay in one place while doing their business.

Other myths include the usefulness of feeding your dog supplements to eliminate spots or that certain dog breeds have more acidic urine and cause more spotting. These are also misconceptions.

The best options are to work together with your dog and make sure they are well-fed and hydrated. Soon your lawn will regrow to its former glory.

Keep the Invasive Pests Away Naturally with These Tips

planting flowersWe all want our yard to look perfect, or at least better than the neighbor’s. But taking care of the yard takes a lot of work and many of us come to depend on harsh weedkillers or insect deterrents to keep the yard looking pristine. What many don’t know is that there are other, more eco-friendly options that will keep the pests at bay. Better yet, many of these solutions are easily made from household items. Follow these tips to keep your yard looking great without filling the ground and air with chemicals.

Killing weeds

What is a weed? Ralph Waldo Emerson lovingly describes a weed as “a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” While this may be true, it doesn’t mean we have to let them take over our grass each year. Weeds are invasive because they spread–quickly–and kill off the plants and grasses we want in their place.

To combat weeds there’s no need for harsh chemicals that harm your yard and break your wallet. Instead, try diluting some white vinegar with water and pouring it on the weeds. This should take care of most of the weeds. However, the vinegar will drastically change the pH of your soil, so you don’t want to rely on this for the rest of the season. The next time you see a weed popping up, pour some boiling water directly on it. It will kill the weed but keep your soil healthy so your grass or flowers can keep growing normally.

Insect deterrent

Having bugs in your yard is a good thing. They’re part of the natural ecosystem that helps maintain your soil and pollenate your plants. Sometimes, however, insects can become invasive and destructive to the vegetation in your yard. If you notice beetles eating all of your plants’ leaves, dilute some plain Dawn dish soap with water and spray it onto the infected leaves. The soap won’t harm your plants but it will drive the beetles crazy, sending them off to someone else’s yard.

Nature has its own insecticides that few of us take advantage of. Plant marigolds, for example, around the perimeter of your property to deter scores of insects and other pests from ever entering your yard. See this helpful list for many other pest controlling plants.

Bug Repellant

We’ve talked a lot about protecting your yard from invasive pests. But what about protecting yourself? Whether it’s pesky flies or biting mosquitos, there are many natural ways to keep the bugs away when you’re out in the yard.

Most effective commercial insect repellants contain DEET, a strong smelling chemical insecticide. We’ve all heard about the dangers of DEET, which was developed by the U.S. Army in the 1940s for use in warfare. The chemical compound has been approved and re-approved for use by the EPA since then, but studies have raised questions of its safety. Many people object to using DEET based on its potent smell alone. So, what are the alternatives?

Many have taken the bug spray conundrum into their own hands, mixing various herbs and essential oils to keep the bugs away. Check out these recipes and let us know which one works for you!

A Beginner’s Guide to Composting

If you keep a garden but find yourself throwing away leftover food, you’re probably missing out on the opportunity to reclaim the nutrients of that food through composting. When you compost, you’re essentially speeding up nature’s process of breaking down organic matter into fertile soil. The compost can then be used to nourish the soil of your garden or lawn. Today you’ll learn how to make a compost bin, mix the compost, and then spread it into your lawn and garden so you can make the most of the extra waste you have at home.

Making a compost bin

There are endless ways to make a compost bin. In fact, a bin isn’t even necessary to make good compost, and some people choose to just keep a pile that they turn throughout the year. Making a bin has many advantages, however: it keeps the compost pile warm and moist (two essential elements that speed up decomposition), it keeps pests out of your compost, and it keeps your neighbors happy who might not want to smell decomposing food when they go outside.

Compost bins are commonly made from wood, chicken wire or plastic. Some towns even subsidize compost bins to encourage people to compost rather than throwing their compostable waste in the trash. Old wooden pallets are a great product to build compost bins from.

Adding compost to your bin

People who are new to composting often worry about what can be composted. Once you get started, though, you’ll soon realize that almost any organic matter will break down in a compost bin. Beginners often stick to vegetables, coffee grounds, grains, and materials from your yard.

Greens and Browns

Compostable materials are often broken down into greens (nitrogen-based materials) and browns (carbon-based materials). Your compost bin doesn’t need a perfect balance to be effective, but using some of each type of organic matter will produce the best results.

Too much brown matter in your bin will be hard to decompose. Too much green matter will make the compost slimy. Here are some examples of great carbon and nitrogenous materials to put in your bin:

Brown:

  • dry leaves
  • straw
  • newspaper
  • sawdust
  • wood chips

Green:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • weeds from the yard
  • fresh grass clippings
  • flowers
  • coffee grounds

Maintaining the compost pile

To create a good environment for decomposition you’ll need three things: heat, moisture, and air. This makes compost bins relatively low-maintenance, but here are some tips to speed up the decomposition process:

Heat

In the spring and summer, nature will provide this for you, but having an enclosed bin that receives plenty of sunlight will help you out.

Moisture

The bacteria that are doing the composting in your bin require water to live. But too much water will make your bin a slimy mess. Shoot for moist, not wet.

Air

A compost bin needs to be aerated to blend the ingredients together. You don’t need to turn it often; once every two to three weeks is fine.

 

Now that you know all you need to about making great compost for the lawn and garden, it’s just a matter of mixing it in and reaping the rewards. Mix compost into garden soil and lawns early in the spring and in the fall after harvest to keep the soil healthy year-round.