For many of us the backyard is our home away from home, or more specifically our home outside our house. Many of us will be spending a lot of time in our yards this summer and keeping things safe is just as important in the backyard as it is inside the home. Here are some reminders for backyard safety this summer and throughout the year.
- Grills – Keep your grill at least ten feet away from the side of your house, and keep it away from decks and shrubs. Never use it inside garages or under porches for cover. Keep children and pets away from the grill while in use, and always extinguish the coals before leaving it unattended.
- Decks – Waterproofing will help keep your deck in good shape. Inspect it for cracks and splinters, as well as for screws or nails popping up through the wood. Test railings for sturdiness.
- Plants – Choose plants carefully for your landscape to prevent any interactions like rashes or worse. Likewise inspect existing plants and know what poison ivy looks like and how to remove it safely.
- Pools – Follow existing guidelines and local laws for fencing around a pool. Store chemicals in a safe place and out of reach from children. Check that the drain cover complies with established safety standards. Establish house rules for the pool including, “No one swims alone.”
- Pests – Keep the mosquito population down by eliminating sources of standing water. Change the water in birdbaths and fountains frequently. Do not overuse weed killers or pesticides and be aware of their potential dangers for humans.
- Play Sets – Check frequently for the effects of use and weather like loose bolts, splinters, rust, etc. Provide a soft cushion like wood chips around equipment. Supervise young children while they play.
- Underfoot – Eliminate dangers in the yard that may cause tripping like sticks, rocks, tree stumps and uneven terrain.
- Mower -The spinning blades of power mowers can make dangerous projectiles out of sticks, stones and even toys. Keep everyone inside, especially children, when mowing the lawn.
When spring arrives, we all find ourselves working in our yards and enhancing our landscaping. If you’re like most homeowners, you’d love to save a little cash while improving your yard. There are many ways to cut expenses when landscaping your home. We’ve provided a few ideas to get you started:
- Inspiration before Perspiration – You could hire a landscape designer to plot your lot, but if you are reading this, there is a good chance that you are ready to save some money as a do-it-yourselfer. There is a vast array of books, magazines, and websites to draw ideas from for your landscape design. Don’t forget to check out Pinterest and your friends’ and neighbors’ yards, too. Most people are proud of their yards and are willing to give you permission to snap a few photos. Some communities have house tours that include showing off the best gardens. Good ideas can also be found in public parks and botanical gardens.
- Test your Soil – Know what you are dealing by testing a few soil samples. This information will help to pinpoint the correct additives that are needed to improve your soil and correct the PH balance. Different plants have different needs. Consider choosing plants that are suitable for the soil that you already have and save on additives, all together.
- Go Native – Choose plans species that grow naturally in your region. This reduces the expense and worry of special treatment. It also insures a degree of success that will build confidence for the beginner. Once your plantings are established, you can always experiment by adding new and even exotic species gradually as you become an expert gardener.
- Divide and Conquer – Many plants, like iris, need to be dug up and divided every few years. Plan your landscape for expansion of these types of plants. Many perennials, like hostas and daisies, spread every year and can be divided and replanted. Plants that reseed themselves like pinks and bachelor’s buttons will self-propagate year after year even though they are annuals. Start small and give your plants room to expand year after year.
- Share – Once your plants are established and you have become competent at dividing and replanting, and collecting and saving seeds, it’s time to branch out. Trading with friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers is a time honored tradition and an inexpensive way to establish new plants in your landscape. If you need more sources, check out garden clubs, community gardens and online want ads.
Our outside space can be utilized in so many ways, a playground, an entertainment center, a garden showcase. By keeping organized, one can reap the most benefits with less time on upkeep and more time for enjoyment. Here are some tips to help you keep your backyard organized:
- Clean – At the end of the season, gather items together by usage, like gardening tools, the kids’ toys, grilling equipment. Cover what needs to be protected from the elements and stow away the rest. Treat your clean garden tools and mower blades to a coat of oil or lubricant to keep them from rusting.
- Stow it – Designate one area of your garage or basement just for storing outdoor items. If you are maxing out your garage storage or just tired of toting items up and down the basement stairs, consider investing in a shed or purchasing a storage shed of shed blueprints and building your own. Organizing here is easily accomplished with shelves, pegboards, hooks, and storage containers. Use see through containers or labels to save time when locating and retrieving items.
- Down Under – Additional storage space may be found and used under porches and decks. You may want to install some lattice work to help keep it out of sight.
- Reel it in – To keep hoses from becoming unsightly, dangerous tangles invest in a hose reel. Not only does it keep it in its place, it helps drain the water out of it for winter storage.
- Pave it – If you have a beaten path in your lawn because it is traversed so often, like the route to the trash cans or pool, consider setting some pavers or stepping stones. It will save time and money from constant reseeding or sodding and as a bonus, keep you on track.
Summertime drought conditions can cause havoc for your lawn, garden, trees, and other landscaping. Below are a few tips to help beat the heat and keep your green spaces looking vibrant, healthy and strong:
- Plants: An easy way to protect plants in dry conditions is to use mulch around them. Experts suggest using three to four inches of organic mulch around plants to lock in moisture and prevent water loss due to evaporation. Mulch also prevents soil compaction, reduces soil temperature, and prevents weeds that use up valuable water.
- Lawn: The more compact your soil is the more water will be lost from evaporation. It is a good idea to aerate your lawn from time to time and water the lawn slowly with some type of sprinkler system or a simple lawn and garden sprinkler.
- Trees: Your tress should be your top priority. When in good health, they create a shaded canopy over your lawn keeping it cooler and less “thirsty” for water. Experts suggest drilling several holes in the soil around the base of the tree. The holes should be at least 24 inches deep. Fill them with compost. This will help water penetrate the ground more easily and reach the tree’s roots more efficiently.
- Bugs & Pests: Keep an eye on your lawn and other vegetation for bugs and other pests that might find their ways into your lawn, garden, etc., in search of food during drought conditions. Contact a local exterminator or seek professional advice from a lawn and garden center about killing or removing these pests.
- Conserve Water: Water your plants and lawn early in the morning when you’ll lose less water to evaporation. Make your own rain barrel and collect roof water from downspouts. Use this water before you turn on the hose. Also, water your lawn slowly using a sprinkler, allowing the water to soak into the ground. This will prevent water from sitting on top of the soil where it will simply evaporate.
Following these handy tips will help keep your lawn and landscaping healthy, green and strong through summertime drought conditions.
The birds are chirping. The days grow longer. The sun seems warmer. It must be spring. No more hesitation. It is time to get outside and prepare your lawn for the hot days of summer. Below are a few hints to help you get started:
1. Rake – Using a lawn sweeper or a good old fashioned rake, remove accumulated debris like sticks, leaves and litter. Raking also helps to remove dead weeds and grass. Thick lawns may require a dethatcher.
2. Aerate – You can aerate the ground by poking holes with a garden fork. This is especially critical if you have heavy clay soil. This will allow water and fertilizer to saturate the soil giving your lawn a jump start.
3. Fertilize – This replenishes the food reserves that the plants use up in the winter months. Apply an organic fertilizer or compost tea. This is accomplished by soaking compost in water then spraying the liquid on the lawn.
4. Weed – By using a pre-emergent weed killer, you give the grass a chance to grow tall and strong without competition from weeds.
5. Reseed – Reseed bare areas. Over-seed the entire lawn if it appears patchy or thin.
6. Mow – As soon as the grass is growing it is time to start mowing. Sharpen up your blade as a dull one causes brown dried out edges on the grass. Also it will tear out new growth. Don’t cut it too short. It is better to mow more often than too short. Keeping the lawn at a proper height, 2 1/2 to 3 inches tall allows the roots to fully develop.