7 tips for a low-cost, easy-care yard

June 19, 2015

As a garden owner, let your best-kept secret be how little you invested financially, and how easy it is to maintain.

7 tips for a low-cost, easy-care yard

1. Set your blade at the right height to control weeds

  • Cutting grass too short weakens it. Longer grass grows stronger and thicker and crowds out weeds. Weed seeds can't germinate easily since they don't get much light. Established weeds have a tougher time competing with the surrounding turf.
  • Each type of grass has an ideal mowing height to maintain its health and thickness. If you're not sure of your grass type, take a sample to a local nursery. Or type "identify grass" into an online search engine for help.

2. Add mulch to protect trees and avoid trimming

  • Clipping the grass around trees by hand is time-consuming. By adding a 10-centimetre-deep (four-inch-deep) ring of mulch, you eliminate that chore. You'll also better protect newly planted trees and bushes.
  • Nursery pros report that the most common reason young trees die is that lawn mowers and whipper snippers damage the bark.

3. Plant hardy ground covers in shady areas

  • Grass is a sun-loving plant. It typically needs six to eight hours of sunlight daily for good health.
  • While several shade-tolerant species may do well under trees and in other sheltered spots, it's more likely that you'll end up with weeds, scraggly grass and bare ground.
  • It's much better to plant a shade garden or a shade-tolerant ground cover that in a few years will blanket the area like a green carpet. And you won't have to mow.
  • A local nursery expert will advise you on which plants and ground covers do best in your region.

4. Build paths that you can mow right over

  • Paths that conform to the landscape require less upkeep than more formal paths that include steps, walls and curbs.
  • The key is to set the stones or pavers no higher than 2.5 centimetres (one inch) above ground level. Then you can mow right over them — no trimming!

5. Fertilize in the fall

  • If you want the best lawn in town, fertilize four times a year. But you can keep it simple and still have a great lawn if you only fertilize once — in the fall.
  • Ask an expert at a garden centre for advice about the best fertilizer blend for your grass type and local soil conditions.
  • Apply the fertilizer about three weeks before the last mowing of the season.
  • Fertilizing in the fall provides energy and nutrients for the grass roots as they multiply in cooler weather before the grass goes dormant.
  • The roots store food for the winter as well, which gives the grass an initial growth spurt when it emerges from dormancy in the spring.

6. Install mowing borders

  • Mowing borders keep grass from growing along flower beds, walls, fences and other obstacles where your lawn mower can't reach.
  • You can run your mower right over the borders and clip off every blade of grass. You'll save time and effort because you won't have to go back and trim later.

7. Mulch planting beds for less weeding and watering

  • A layer of mulch, usually shredded wood or bark, vastly reduces gardening chores.
  • It discourages weeds by shutting out light to the soil and keeping weed seeds from germinating.
  • It reduces the need for watering by slowing evaporation. And it enriches the soil as it breaks down, reducing the need for fertilizer.
  • Apply a 10-centimetre (four-inch) layer of mulch to the bare soil for best results. It'll gradually decompose, so you'll have to replenish it every few years.
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