Gardening

9 Clever Landscaping Hacks for Your Best-Ever Yard

Kill Weeds with Boiling Water

For an all-natural and virtually free way to kill weeds, all you need are a few kitchen basics. Fill a pot with water, bring it to a boil, then dump the water on any offending plants—the piping hot liquid will kill them instantly. This trick works especially well for weeds that pop up in cracks or joints on the patio or driveway, because the hot water could harm neighboring plants, but it won’t hurt the surrounding hardscape.

 

Use Fake Turf to Deter Dogs

Because pets use the lawn as a playground and bathroom, dog owners often end up with torn-up grass with patchy brown spots. But you can have a gorgeous lawn and keep your best friend happy too if you install lush-looking artificial grass in place of the real stuff. The turf will deter dogs from digging, conceal their bathroom area, and prevent them from tracking mud into the house. As an added bonus, homeowners with artificial grass never need to mow the lawn!

 

Plant Over a Septic Tank

Septic tank covers can be a real eyesore in a garden. Instead of ignoring the sewage necessity, try covering it with layer of mulch and beautiful flowers. Homeowners can easily sweep the mulch out of the way to access the tank, and nobody will know what lies beneath the landscaping.

 

 

Use Bulbs to Create Year-Round Color

Many flowering plants have brief bloom times, and some perennials have surprisingly short lifespans, so if you want constant color in your garden, you need to plant vibrant annuals or switch out perennials regularly. For a low-maintenance alternative, plant a mix of flowering bulbs, such as snowdrops and lilies, that bloom at different times. If you rely on bulbs, you’ll have to plant only once each year, and your garden will look great from spring to fall.

Prevent Flooding with a Rain Garden

Surfaces that don’t absorb rainwater, such as streets, sidewalks, and rooftops, can cause water to collect and pool, leading to flooding. You can capture the water runoff and return it to the environment by creating a rain garden, a depressed area in your yard planted with a mix of perennials and native plants. Rainwater will flow toward the garden, where it will nurture the plants and drain into the soil.

 

Fill Your Flower Bed with Pots

To pack your garden with color year-round, purchase pots and fill them with flowers that have different bloom times. Place the pots with blossoming plantsfront and center in your garden. As the season progresses, move the pots around to make the most of the flowers, and swap out pots when necessary.

 

 

Edge a Garden with Pine Board

Giving your garden a well-defined edge keeps things tidy and instantly increases curb appeal, but stone borders are expensive, and flexible plastic edging can be unattractive. A wooden border is a great compromise: Pretreated pine boards are readily available, inexpensive, and easy to cut. Simply outline the perimeter of the garden bed with a shovel or spade, then wedge in lengths of wood to create the edge.

 

 

Pack Planters with Peanuts

Although large, dramatic planters and pots pack a punch in any landscape, they can become inconveniently heavy when filled with soil. Fortunately, most plants don’t actually need that much soil to take root, so you can lighten the load by filling the containers halfway with packing peanuts before adding the soil. The planters will be easier to move around, and you’ll save money on soil to boot.

 

Plant Ground Covers on a Slope

Maintaining a steeply sloped section of lawn can be tricky, because it can be tough to mow and can easily erode from exposure to wind and water. Structural solutions like retaining walls or terracing can be expensive, and most plants don’t grow deep roots fast enough to control erosion. As a solution, try planting ground covers like English ivy, periwinkle, or dead nettle, all of which grow quickly and densely, making them ideal for holding the soil in place.

 

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Do’s and Don’ts of Summer Landscaping

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11 tips that will save your garden, lawn, and flowers … not to mention your green thumb rep.

Whether you’re dealing with a California drought, an mid-Atlantic heat wave or Deep South downpours, summer can be a tricky time to garden. Here’s what you need to know before you leave the comfort of the air conditioning for a steamy backyard jungle.

DON’T: Plant cool-season vegetables

Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to attempt veggies like peas, lettuce, carrots and radishes in summer. They will quickly bolt in the heat, meaning that they’ll devote their energy to blooming and producing seeds, making the edible parts bitter.

DO: Plant hot-season vegetables

Take advantage of summer’s plentiful heat and sunshine by planting these heat-loving edibles: okra, sweet potatoes, chili peppers, cowpeas, yardlong beans and eggplant. Okra produces prolific pods all summer long, and is drought-tolerant as far as vegetables go. Sweet potatoes make an excellent temporary groundcover in veggie gardens and flowerbeds, shading out weeds until the arrival of cold weather, when they can be harvested.

DON’T: Water unless necessary

It’s tempting to set the sprinklers on a timer, kick up your feet and consider it taken care of. But here’s why that’s a problem: First off, do you really want to be the guy or gal who’s caught running sprinklers in a rain storm? Water plants when they are newly planted, or are wilting and/or dropping leaves due to drought.

DO: Use drought-tolerant plants

Drought-tolerant plants are all the rage, and not just because they conserve water. Grow drought-tolerant plants because they’re low-maintenance and because you’re an average person with — you know— a life. That said, ‘drought-tolerant’ does not mean that you can plant it and forget it. Keep the soil moist until the plant takes off on its own.

DON’T: Turn your back on the garden

Because in summer, things can change in a heartbeat. Plants can succumb to pests, drought, wet soil or rot in a matter of days. Pay attention to weather forecasts and be on the lookout for plants that are clearly struggling. Don’t hesitate to use those pruners on any bullies that seem to be taking over less vigorous plants. When in doubt, rip it out.

Smiling young woman working in roses plants at summer garden ; Shutterstock ID 222185932; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

DO: Water deeply

Water like you really mean it — with a deep soak so that the water penetrates the soil without running off or evaporating in the summer heat. Watering deeply will also encourage deeper root growth, which helps plants (especially shrubs and trees) stay healthier and more drought-tolerant in the long run. Water in the root-zone with a high falutin’ garden nozzle, a soaker hose, or nothing more than a hose and a full stream of water.

DON’T: ‘Scalp’ your lawn

If you plan on turning your summer lawn into a practical putting green and you mow your lawn close, you’ll be sorely disappointed by the results. (Unless you’re willing to settle for a putting brown, that is.) Short cuts mean less drought-tolerance, patchier growth, more weeds and shallow roots. When in doubt, cut high.

DO: Fertilize warm-season grasses

Give your lawn a pick-me-up to cope with the summer heat. Your local garden center should have a good selection of fertilizers to suit your region and/or lawn type. Fertilize according to label instructions, using a broadcast, handheld or drop spreader for even coverage. Generally speaking, don’t feed on a hot day with temps above 90 degrees.

DON’T: Water in the afternoon

It’s a myth that sunlight will become magnified by water droplets and burn the plants, but watering in the hottest part of the day is still pretty useless because many plants will go semi-dormant, and water quickly evaporate in summer. Water in the early morning so that the plants’ roots have a chance to absorb moisture.

DON’T: Let weeds go to seed

Procrastinate all you want, but pull those weeds before they have a chance to bloom and go to seed, spreading their progeny all over your garden to proliferate and give you headaches. Don’t settle for hand-pulling everything either: use a hoe or cultivator for new weeds in loose soil, or a heavy-duty weeding tool like a hori-hori knife, hook or mattock for tough, established weeds.

DO: Plant tropical bulbs

Much of your garden will slow down in the heat of summer, but tropical bulbs such as caladiums, elephant ears, cannas and gingers will only grow faster. Create a lush and jungly understory beneath shady trees by planting en masse, or use sparely for architectural interest in container combos and flowerbeds.

Planning Your Planting: Tips for Making a Garden Plan

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The best-laid plans for a garden come after living in your home for a year, watching how the sun moves throughout the day in all the seasons, how much moisture you get and where it goes, and whether one area of your yard is more prone to wind than another.

But if you want to get started right away, keep these things in mind as they’ll help you plot out a successful garden.

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Evaluating and Choosing a Site

Amount of sunlight and access to water are two major factors that go into selecting a good site for your garden. When evaluating the space, ask yourself:

  • How much sun exposure does it receive, and is it mostly morning sun or afternoon sun?
  • Are there any sheds, fences, or other objects that can obstruct the sun, especially in fall and winter?
  • Do you have deciduous trees that will block the sun in summer, flowering trees that will shed all over your garden bed, or small trees that won’t stay small for long?
  • Is the space susceptible to runoff from storms, or does it create a wind tunnel?
  • Where is the nearest water faucet, and is it convenient to run a garden hose, soaker hose, or drip irrigation line from the faucet to the garden? Can you see yourself filling a watering can and carrying it to the garden every day?

If you live in a hot desert climate, you may want to consider how the light hits your garden from midday to afternoon when the sun is harshest and your plants are prone to drying out quicker.

On the flip side, you might realize that your yard is shaded for several hours a day, and this will affect what you’re able to grow in that space. Perhaps you can prune a tree to provide more light, or rearrange the patio furniture to make room for a small sunny bed.

If you have your heart set on growing a vegetable garden, you may want to place it close to the kitchen where you have easy access for cooking, or in a spot where you see it every day so you can keep an eye on pests and weeds.

The amount of foot traffic can also be a pro or con when choosing a space. Will your kids trample all over the flower bed in your backyard? Will guests get to enjoy the fragrant border you plant in your entryway?

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Costs to Consider

Once you’ve settled on a suitable space, consider the costs of starting a garden there. Figure in the expense of any containers or beds you’ll have to buy or build, the amount of soil you’ll need to fill them, and trellises or arbors you may want to add. Decide how you’ll be irrigating your garden and any labor or equipment costs associated with that, whether you hand water all your plants or have drip lines installed along your beds.

And finally, are there any auxiliary expenses you might incur down the line, such as installation of a potting bench, a compost bin, or a shed to store tools? Will you need to build a fence or a flagstone path as your garden grows?

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Protecting Your Garden From Pets and Critters

If you have dogs that freely roam your yard, consider how destructive they could potentially be with a freshly planted garden. Do they like to urinate on greenery? Run through bushes? Eat grass?

Then, there are opossums, raccoons, rabbits, and moles — all of these animals are notorious for wrecking many a garden. Whether it’s a raccoon digging for grubs or a rabbit feasting on cabbage, you have to plan for any possible outcome if your neighborhood is known for these unwanted visitors.

Garden beds that sit at ground level may need protective fencing to deter digging, or you might want to elevate your raised beds even more to keep your furbaby away from your prized berries. Think of all the possible scenarios that could happen with your garden, as they could very well change your mind about the type of garden you want to plant.

(Image credits: Apartment Therapy ; Linda Ly)


Expert Tip: Sketch it out. Take measurements, plan where your containers and beds will go, how all of your plants will be laid out, and even how your irrigation will run through the space. Having this visual on hand will keep you focused on what you actually need when you start shopping.

How Do You Make Your Garden Glow?

3 lighting ideas to make your outdoor space beautiful 24/7

Photo by California Waterscapes (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons]

 

Outdoor lighting can seem like an overwhelming prospect — too expensive, too complicated, too time-consuming. But while it is true that you can spend thousands of dollars and hours lighting up your landscape, it is also true that a little lighting can go a long way — without costing an arm and a leg.

1. Use The Power of the Sun

The sun can light up your landscape even at night. Solar powered lights have come a long way from the black posts that flicker unsteadily in the dark. From hanging lights to accent lights to pathway lights to tiki lights, solar lights are available in a variety of styles, forms and strengths. If you search for “solar garden lights” on Amazon.com, you get more than 4,000 results.

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Britta Hanging Solar Garden Light – Cornet Shaped Solar Lights (at Amazon.com)

2. Double the Light — Make the Most of Your Garden’s Water Features

Illuminating water features is a beautiful way to light up your garden at night — think of all the famous fountains in the world you’ve seen brilliantly lit at night. Whether you light from below, the side or floating on top, adding lights to a water feature is a sure-fire way to bring your garden to life at night.

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Bellagio Hotel Fountain in Las Vegas at night

 

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Chill Lite Bubble Floating Light Show – 3 Pack With Remote (at Amazon.com)

3. Watch Your Step with Motion Sensor Lights

Motion sensor lights have also come a long way from the big, metal spotlights mounted above doors and on the corners of your home. LED motion sensor lights can be placed on steps, down paths, on patios and decks — adding light where you need it when you need it.

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Mr. Beams Battery Powered Motion Sensing LED Remote Path Light (at Amazon.com)