An appealing first impression makes a big difference, whether you’re selling or buying a home, or just trying to fit into your neighborhood and enjoy what you see every time come home. Even your backyard has value to a buyer or your family when you make it a comfortable outdoor living space for quality time with family or friends.
There are things you can do all year to make changes to your yard or help to keep it in great shape, but spring is a great time to start. For the best results, you’ll need a plan. “What to do first?” can sometimes feel like an overwhelming question.
If you want to do a major overhaul of your yard, it can be a big help to consult a landscape architect or even your local garden store expert. Front yard landscaping should have a balance of pops of color and greenery, but a yard that looks “high-maintenance” might scare buyers away. With the advice you’ve been given, draw a picture or diagram of the end result, showing where bushes and flowers will go and labeling them to create a shopping and planting list.
Again, check with an expert to determine where and when to add each plant. It’s often tempting to overplant, so be sure to consider what your yard will look like after several years of growth. A clean and uncluttered look has the most appeal, whether you’re planting perennials or annuals.
You don’t have to do a major overhaul to give your yard more curb appeal. Here are some simple changes that anyone can make:
· Define the borders: Clean edges can help make everything in your yard look neat and well-maintained. Broad, sweeping curves that match the size of your home look better than wavy lines.
· Repair walkways and edging. Aside from damage done by your snow blower or a plow, frost heave can split concrete and knock stones out of place. To help keep a problem from worsening, seal any gaps in concrete with concrete-crack filler.
· Secure loose pavers or patio stones. If the damage is extensive, consider having a landscape contractor dig up and reset the stones.
- Add mulch. Once you’ve created a neat border, a layer of wood chip mulch adds to the clean look where lawn is not growing. It help keep weeds down, and the bright color smooths out any uneven soil surface and gives your landscaping a professional touch.
- Prune shrubs and trees.
- Look for dead and damaged limbs to prune first.
- “Skirt” trees by pruning around the base. Remove branches within 6 inches of the ground.
- Prune any plant that is touching the house to within 8 – 12 inches to prevent chipped paint, mold and bug infestations. Also, prune branches that are hanging low over a walkway or the roof, or block a window.
- It’s best to prune evergreens and hedges early, when they begin new growth. Pruning most fruit trees is best in the winter when they are dormant. Do some pruning to shape and strengthen mature trees in the spring and summer.
Set Up a Maintenance Schedule
Big changes or even year-round maintenance can be a lot of work. If you have children of any age, assign chores that let them help in any way their age dictates. Working together in the yard can be a great family activity and give your children skills that will stay with them for a lifetime. Everyone in the family will enjoy the yard more if they participate in taking care of it. Set up a schedule that works for all family members.
Check Your Mower and String Trimmer
Before your grass starts growing, start your gas mower and string trimmer to make sure they’re running well. If you didn’t winterize the gear, don’t start the mower or trimmer with stale gas in them. Remove the gasoline from each tank using a turkey baster. Then fill tanks with fresh fuel and stabilizer. Now test your tools. If any problems occur, take the equipment to the service center now, before they get overloaded with repairs.
Set your sprinkler system for consistent watering. The amount of rainfall you usually get and the character of your soil will determine how often to water. Check with a local expert for the best advice. Don’t forget the surrounding plants. Give your system a test run before you actually need to use it. Schedule or make repairs as needed.
Get Your Lawn Ready
Keeping your lawn thriving throughout the summer depends in large measure on what you do during the spring. Getting started early in the year helps to develop a lawn that’s resistant to the effects of the sun, weeds, pests and heavy foot traffic.
- Reseed bare patches. This should be done prior to peak growing season, preferably in the fall or early spring. Till the soil and spread the seed evenly across the bare spot. Water the area as you normally would
- Aerate your lawn to promote the healthy formation of the root system. Many experts suggest aerating your lawn every 1 to 3 years, but high-traffic areas may require more frequent attention. Aeration allows the grass to breathe, and also enables water and nutrients to reach the root system more efficiently. Do it in the autumn if your lawn is a cool-season grass, like bluegrass or ryegrass. If you live where warm-season grasses thrive, aerate in early spring.
- Rake your lawn to remove thatch and other debris. Go over your lawn from end to end with a rake to remove thatch or decaying plant material that has accumulated. A thick layer of thatch can block sunlight and prevent water from reaching deep down to the roots.
- Fertilize your lawn according to the type of grass you have. Apply fertilizer at least twice a year during the peak growing seasons of your lawn. Scale back fertilizing about 30 days before the highest summer temperatures hit.
- Cool-season grasses should be fertilized during early spring and at the onset of fall. Use fertilizer with higher nitrogen concentrations when fertilizing in autumn to ensure the survival of the grass.
- Warm-season grasses flourish during the summer months. A nitrogen-rich fertilizer should be spread in the spring, when the lawn shows signs of coming back to life. Fertilize again in late summer.
- Bags of fertilizer display three numbers separated by hyphens. The numbers refer to the ratio of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), in that order. A soil test will let you know what nutrients your soil is lacking.
- Bagged fertilizer is best distributed with a spreader set to release the right amount.
Start a flower bed. Designate at least one small corner of your yard to grow flowers. Plant a variety of annuals and perennials. The colors and fragrances of a flower bed add beauty to your home. Consult a gardening expert to see what types of flowers grow best in your climate.
- Prepare flowerbeds by enriching the soil with organic matter.
- Spread about 3 inches of compost across the surface; if the soil is sandy, work it in a little. Compost keep weeds down, the soil at a constant temperature, and moisture around the plants.
Plant a vegetable garden. It’s becoming popular to grow crops right in your backyards. Decide what you’d like to eat fresh—beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, squash—and make sure the soil is thoroughly aerated and suitable to grow vegetables. Your own small patches of vegetables give your yard practical appeal, while providing you and your family with homegrown food to enjoy all summer long.
Aphids and garden pests love spring growth. If you see curled or poorly formed leaves on certain plants and trees, such as roses, citrus, or fruit trees, it is a likely sign of aphids. To get rid of them, wash plants frequently with a strong jet of water, blasting the aphids from the foliage. Spraying with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil can help, too. A more natural measure is to release ladybugs at dusk this time of year. Pull snails and slugs out of your garden by hand or, if necessary, bait them.
Outdoor Living Space
Don’t forget the touches that can turn your backyard into a place for fun with family and friends. Watch for sales in the spring or fall, and purchase water-resistant furniture for your deck or patio. Even a few paving stones could support a picnic table, so meals can be enjoyed outdoors in good weather. To entice your kids or grandkids outdoors, a portable or installed basketball hoop, a badminton net, tennis rackets, or even a sandbox with some toy trucks could do the trick. With some thought and elbow grease, your yard can feel like part of your home.