Summer means balmy weather, longer evenings and a more leisurely pace of life. If you’d love to sit back and enjoy your garden but are too busy planting, weeding and watering, it’s time to stop. Take a closer look at yard care habits that are wasting your time, not to mention money and natural resources. Then apply the following easy-to-do life hacks to simplify your lawn and garden maintenance routine … and give you more time to relax.
Fighting Mother Nature. Do a soil test and find out which nutrients should be added to your yard to grow healthy grass or other plants. Choose a species of grass that will flourish in your particular soil and climate conditions. These actions will pay off in terms of a yard that needs weeding less often; the right grass in the right soil generally crowds out weeds.
Mowing your lawn too much. Adjust the lawn mower height to 2-3 inches (and use a manual or electric mower for the sake of the planet). Your grass doesn’t need a crew cut and in fact, the “longhair look” will expose more leaf surface to the sun’s rays, enabling it to photosynthesize more efficiently. This makes your grass stronger, more drought resistant and better able to compete with weeds for space in your lawn. While you’re at it, start fertilizing less as well. Twice a year – once every spring and fall – is plenty.
Fighting the grass at the edge of your flower beds. You’ll have no need to use a weed whacker to cut in close to stone borders if you set the stones level with the earth. This also holds true for flagstone paths.
Trying to create a golf course in your backyard. Mega-lawns are also mega-water guzzlers. Replace at least part of your grassy lawn with native plants, especially if you live in a drought-prone area. Pozo surf, a hardy bush with attractive bright green foliage, would be an excellent choice for the dry San Diego landscape, for example.
Watering the garden too much and incorrectly. One inch of water weekly is generally recommended for both lawns and vegetable gardens. Subtract the amount of rainfall per week from this figure to calculate how much you’ll need to supplement. Water early in the morning, before 9:00 AM, to minimize water loss due to evaporation. Watering deeply two or three times a week – as opposed to a light sprinkle every day – promotes deep root growth, which helps plants to utilize the moisture more efficiently and increases resistance to dryness and heat. Try to direct the water toward the roots rather than the leaves; wet foliage is more vulnerable to sunburn.
Not using recycled water. Set up a rain barrel (simple), or greywater (more complicated but worth it in the long run) system to recycle water from precipitation or household runoff for use in hydrating your lawn and garden. You can also use a shower bucket to help water plants.
Having a wasteful water feature. We may sound a tad obsessed by this point, but water conservation is such an easy way to help the environment … and it reduces your bills as a homeowner, so here goes: Recirculate the H2O used by your yard’s water feature with a closed loop system. Or go even more green by harvesting rainwater for your fountain, waterfall or pond.
Not letting your lawn breathe free. Aerate it – a project that is simple to DIY – twice a year, in springtime and autumn, to improve drainage and allow air, water and nutrients increased access to your grass’s roots.
Weeding your vegetable garden too much. There is a modification you can make for next year that will revolutionize your gardening habits. Replace your conventional veggie garden with raised beds, raised rows or containers. Besides less weeding, these offer many other benefits: a smaller area that needs mitigation through fertilizing and composting, better water retention in sandy soil, improved drainage in clay, less soil erosion and fewer pests like snails and slugs.
By Laura Firszt, Networx.
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