This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in May 2012.
I can’t claim to be a landscaping professional, not even close, but I’m learning things as I go. This month marks the beginning of the 4th summer spent in my house, a little American Foursquare on a modest 1/10-acre lot in Rochester, NY, and every year I try to take to make the property a little more defined, a little more personalized. It’s hard. I have wild pipe dreams about owning more sizable property someday, so I’m taking this small property as an opportunity to learn some of the basics. It was rough when I moved in, and parts of it would undoubtedly be eligible for a Desperate Landscapes renovation, but keep on reading to see some of the simple tips I’ve been employing to improve the property simply and easily.
1. I fill in bare patches. A lot.
I have a dog, a dog who not only does business outside but also has his little routine running loops which wear the grass down over time. To keep the grass lush and avoid muddy bare spots, we’ve gotten into the habit of reseeding pretty regularly with a store-bought sun-shade mix for my accurately defined sun-shade lot, especially getting on out there to sprinkle seeds before a spring or summertime rainstorm is about to strike. So far, it’s helped to keep bare patches consumed, and especially this time of year, seeding helps to quickly anchor new growth.
2. Fact: When the leaves fall every autumn, I don’t clean up every last one.
Especially in the gardening beds, I let them accumulate to serve as nature’s little insulation, protecting plants from the sometimes harsh NY (zone 5) winters. It admittedly makes the gardens look pretty tired as springtime rolls in, but whatever remains in the beds I rake free or fold in as a mulching agent, rendering the underlaying soil rich. The plants remain healthy and thrive, sometimes even popping through the leaves where I haven’t yet raked. These little yellow guys are the first flowers that appear in my yard every year. What are they? Anyways, something as easy as raking trashed leaves off your garden is a quick way to make the property look fresh with all of the popping plants in springtime.
3. We clean up and sharpen the lawn mower blade.
We, meaning Pete because he’s radically precise, but I’ve tried my hand at it too. The mower itself was something we salvaged for free, so it is ragged out and rusty, but because Pete repaired a filter and made it work again, sharpening the blade is an easy springtime to-do to keep the grass blades cut cleanly allowing our bargain find last us one more season. You can take your blade (or the whole mower) into a shop for spring maintenance easily enough, but also consider saving yourself a few dollars and doing those updates with a Dremel tool or a bench grinder.
It’s getting to a point where now, depending on the plant’s behavior, it may be better to wait for fall, but we do like to transplant in the springtime. For instance, toss some raspberry plants in the ground and by this time next year, you’ll not only have fruit, but you’ll see mass expansion and growth. Our berries are popping up through the lawn 15-feet from the actual garden bed this spring, it’s a little extreme. We did a lot of planting last fall which took a lot of pressure of our spring to-do list, but we were able to have a new tree planted to enhance the curb appeal a few weeks ago.
5. Edging a garden really cleans up the looks of things.
Whether or not there’s a formal border delineating the garden from the grass or not, those stray blades of grass that pop up just out of reach of your mower along fences, garden beds, and sidewalks are easy to take care of if you have a simple string trimmer. I don’t use it every week, but every 2-3 weeks it’s nice to clean up rough edges with a quick pass. And it’s good for instantly improving the edges along the driveway and sidewalk too. Just as satisfying as having your split ends cleaned up.
Of course, there are lots of springtime to-do’s that I’m not mentioning, things like fertilizing, endless weeding, and mulching. What do you do to maintain your landscape in the springtime?