Category Archives: Home and Garden

Turning Your Home’s Yard into a Community Garden

The benefits of starting a crop garden are endless: it’s great exercise, gives you the chance for fresh air and time in nature, can give you an outlet for burning off stress — not to mention the wholesome, fresh produce you’ll be adding to your diet. But one of the most wonderful things about gardens is the way they can bring together a group of people, large or small. Converting your yard into a community garden is a rewarding experience for a homeowner, and can have far-reaching positive benefits on your neighborhood.

This guide will cover all you need to know about turning your yard into a community garden, including the different kinds of community gardens there are to choose from. There are quite a few factors to consider in your planning and specific rules to set along the way, so don’t underestimate the power of getting organized. Talk to your home insurance company about your options for community garden coverage. Be sure to also check with your homeowners association or local municipality for any standards or restrictions your area might have, and be willing to make some compromises. You can create a truly beneficial garden even if your original plans must shift, so focus on what you can do and make the most of it.

A Cooperative Garden

One option you have for a community garden is a cooperative project, where neighbors and other volunteers contribute to maintenance and upkeep. The number of people who will be helping can be a major factor in determining the size of the garden, especially if you’re considering using a large portion of land, so assess community interest as soon as possible. You can start by reaching out to neighbors by mail, flyers, or perhaps in your neighborhood’s online community. Suggest a meeting where everyone can gather and talk over the idea.

At your meeting, you’ll want to discuss the positive impacts you see the garden having on the community as a whole:

  • It’s a great opportunity to give everyone a health boost by offering fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs to take home
  • It brings people from all different ages and backgrounds together for a common good
  • It can create a greater familiarity among neighbors
  • It can engage children in both the process of gardening and eating healthy, getting them excited about seeing a seed grow into delicious, nutrient-rich food
  • People at all ages and abilities can contribute in some way

Once you’ve established neighborhood interest, you’ll want to collectively think about expanding interest even further. See who has contacts with local businesses or other potential partners in the community who might be interested in donating funds, seeds, tools, or other supplies to your garden. Even a small one-time donation to help to get your project started can go a long way toward your goals, so be gracious for every gift.

 

It’s a good idea to come up with committees or groups in charge of certain areas: watering and irrigation, weeding, pest control, tool repair, and supplies are just a few to consider. Though you’ll want everyone to contribute to multiple tasks, designating people to keep a special eye on how the tasks are going can help identify and remedy problems much more quickly. Committee leaders might also keep track of who volunteers and which tasks are completed each work day.

Designate a growing season for your garden based on your area’s climate and conditions. It might only be a summer project, or if you’re in a more temperate region, it can extend from spring to fall. Establish what people want to grow during each. This might also settle the question of whether to assign plots or to simply have items in their own zones; go with whichever strategy will best maximize the available space.

The cooperative community garden should also come up with written, agreed-upon rules. This sets up expectations for all participants and establishes actionable resolutions to problems you may encounter. It’s important that everyone is held to the same standard and respects the established rules in order to create a harmonious working environment, but allow for several reminders or warnings before enforcing any consequences. Topics for rules might include:

  • Dues or fees (if any) — how much, how often, and how they’ll be used
  • The space each person is entitled to
  • How common areas like pathways and borders are maintained
  • Using and storing tools
  • Adult supervision for children who are gardening
  • Approved materials and products (some neighbors may want a section for organic gardening, for example)
  • How produce is gathered and distributed
  • Regular performance of certain tasks like weeding, watering, or sweeping

As the homeowner, you’ll also want to establish acceptable working hours. Talk to your family about what works best for them, but generally a schedule like 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily should suffice. Keep in mind that many neighbors may want to come in the morning before work, on their lunch breaks, during the afternoon if they work nights, or after work in the evenings. Give people an adequate chance to participate, but don’t sacrifice too much if you think it could become disruptive to your family’s life. For example, if you have a child who goes to bed early and is easily frightened in the dark, you might want to ask that people only come during daylight hours. In the beginning, you may simply need to let your neighbors know that the hours may change slightly once you see what works best — most families will understand!

Next, consider the tools that will be used in your garden. Have some kind of shed or other storage on-site that is kept locked when unused. Neighbors may want to bring and store their own tools for everyone to use, or dues can be used to purchase specific utensils for the garden. Make sure to cover which tools should only be used by adults and with adult supervision, ideally keeping them stored securely even within the shed. Have a plan for what to do if a tool breaks, including notifying others and seeking repairs. If some tools require cleaning or additional maintenance after each use, consider printing and keeping instructions on the process in waterproof sheet protectors.

Irrigation is another important conversation. Hand watering may be necessary for many of your plants, especially in the beginning. Come up with a watering schedule that holds everyone equally accountable. If you’ll be using your own sprinkler system, ask your neighbors to keep a sharp eye out for malfunctioning spigots or flooded areas so you can fix them as quickly as possible. Have a specific hose, watering can, and faucet designated for your garden so there are always tools present, and people can bring their own as needed. If the majority of watering costs will come from your household usage, consider proposing that a portion of dues are directed to the bill.

 

Most community garden cooperatives like to have regular meetings, typically once a month or so. You might have more in the beginning and fewer as time goes on and the kinks are all worked out, so be flexible to the schedule. Having some kind of home base for communication — like a group on social media, webpage, or blog — is a helpful way to distribute information and updates more quickly. Some gardens also have a water-resistant bulletin board set up. If your garden is in the backyard, consider placing some kind of marker or sign on your mailbox to let neighbors know where the garden is.

Finally, consider asking fellow gardeners to sign a hold harmless agreement to clear you of liability should injury occur in the garden. After an attorney drafts and checks over the document, hand them out to your neighbors and allow them plenty of time to let their own lawyers take a look. The chances that anything dramatic will happen in your garden are probably low, but it’s important to protect yourself and your family.

Grow-and-Give Community Garden

If you don’t have enough community interest for a group project, or perhaps you’re simply not comfortable with using your property this way, you can still use your garden for the good of your community. Some people choose to plant extra fruits and vegetables in their garden to donate to their local food bank, soup kitchen, or food pantry. You’ll need to consult individual organizations to find out who accepts fresh donations, as well as which days and times you can drop them off.

One of the great things about this method is that anyone who perhaps didn’t have the time to devote to garden work can still help out. Perhaps one of your neighbors works down the street from a food bank and can take donations. It could even be as simple as someone helping you buy more fertilizer with their truck on a Sunday afternoon. Every little bit of help counts, especially when it comes to ending hunger in your community.

Ideas to Remember for Designing the Garden

Deciding on the size will depend mostly on how much land you have and plan to use. If planning a cooperative garden, you’ll also want to consider how that space will be divided up: will each family have its own plot, or will everyone agree on which produce to grow and care for it collectively? Additionally, if you plan on growing more space-consuming foods like berries, watermelon, or gourds, you’ll want to allocate adequate space for them to thrive.

 

Creating some kind of perimeter, whether it’s bushes or fencing, can not only help ward off pests and the curious noses of pets walking by, it can even add curb appeal for projects visible from the street (and potentially quell any woes from the homeowners association). You may also need some kind of border or strategic landscaping to help irrigate your plants. And don’t forget about perimeters around plots: account for pathways throughout your garden. They should be big enough to easily navigate with a wheelbarrow. A locked gate is a good way to keep intruders out, but cooperatives will need to establish a system of transferring or creating keys among leaders.

If children will be involved, consider creating a special section just for them. They’ll still have the opportunity to get their hands dirty and experience the process, but at their own speed and without affecting crops people are depending on. Keep some child-friendly tools handy in your storage shed. You can even offer gardening classes for kids and newbies so that everyone can start off on a more solid foot.

However you plan and implement it, a community garden is one of the most rewarding ways to give back. You’ll create unforgettable memories and connections with your neighbors, improve your diet, encourage your children to embrace healthy habits, and positively impact hunger in your town — all from your very own yard!

Right Flowers For Your Garden

There are few home projects that compare to the benefits gardening provides. Not only does it create a natural beauty in your yard, but it’s also a great hobby, exercise and creative outlet. Though some are concerned about upkeep, you can burn between 300 and 400 calories for every hour spent moderately gardening, making it a worthwhile investment for your home and your body.

One of the biggest errors beginners make is choosing the wrong plant. This can leave homeowners discouraged and yards neglected. We’re here to make this easier with a few tips on how you can choose the right flowers and plants for your beautiful garden.

Annuals

From growth to bloom, annuals live for just one season. Annuals are beneficial to any garden and any person who likes to get creative from year to year. These types of plants are typically cheaper than their perennial counterparts and will bloom all season long, so you have ample time to admire them. Some annuals are self-seeding, so you may end up with a few of the same flowers the following year. This is an important detail to remember if you intend on planting new annual flowers every year.

Here are some beautiful annuals to add color to your flower bed.

  • Begonia
  • Cosmos
  • Geranium
  • Helenium
  • Marigold
  • Milkweed
  • Petunia
  • Snapdragon
  • Strawflower
  • Sunflower
  • Zinnia

Biennials

Similarly, biennial flowers follow the same cycle but last for two years. The first year, the plant grows and stems, but will not bloom. In the second year, the flower will bloom for the season, then die. Many biennials are self-seeding, but this depends on the flower. Blooming and growth typically depend on the climate as well. Climates with drastically changing seasons can treat biennials as annuals, as extremes can shorten the lifecycle.

Generally, it will take two years to see the flower in bloom. Biennials tend to be less common than other flower types in household gardens. However, your patience is worth it, as biennial flowers are stunning. Here are a few to consider planting.

  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • California Poppy
  • Canterbury Bells
  • Foxglove
  • Poppy
  • Stock
  • Sweet William
  • Wallflower

Perennials

For homeowners, perennials are particularly useful as they grow year after year. They have an expected lifespan of at least three years, but can stay alive for longer depending on care and weather conditions. Some perennials can be green ground covering plants, which is great to disperse between flowers for variations. Though they might last long in your garden, they tend to be a bit more expensive and do not bloom as long. Though, the upfront cost is offset by not having to replant your flowers every spring and should be considered in your landscaping budget.

Perennials are a great and colorful investment to your yard. They add variation and splendor to the garden year after year. Here are a few to consider adding.

  • Alstroemeria
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Coneflower
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Hibiscus
  • Hydrangea
  • Iris
  • Lavender
  • Tulips
  • Speedwell

Garden Factors to Consider

Now that you know the different lifespans of flowers you can plant, you must make sure the conditions are right for them to grow properly. A great garden has a mix of types and seasonalities, like planting annual and perennials. Flowers, like most plants, need specific conditions and factors to thrive depending on species. If you’re uncertain about what flowers will work best in your garden, contact a pro.

Sunlight

Any plant needs some amount of sunlight to grow. It’s important to be aware of how much sunlight your flowers need. There are five common sunlight classifications for flowers.

  1. Full-Shade: No direct sunlight here. This space will likely be on the north side of your home, under dense trees or shadowed by a neighbor’s home.
  2. Partial-Shade: Sunlight will reach the area for part of the day, either in the morning or afternoon.
  3. Light-Shade: Sunlight reaches the ground after passing through leaves of trees and bushes.
  4. Partial-Sun: Similar to partial-shade, however, these plants in this category can handle the midday sun.
  5. Full-Sun: These plants can withstand the midday sun and need at least seven hours of sunlight to thrive.

Many times, homeowners will write off a low sun area in their yard just because they don’t understand that there are some flowers that grow in shade. In fact, flowers such as forget-me-nots, coral bells, impatiens and primroses are beautiful choices that do well in shady spots. These plants will either stop growing or die in the midday summer sun. Always check the light requirements needed before planting.

When to Plant Flowers

Flowers can be very temperamental if planted in the wrong season. Depending on the climate you live in or how long it takes for the flower to grow and bloom, figuring out when to plant your garden can seem like a puzzle that is impossible to put together. Many flowers can’t survive moderate frosts, so be aware of your area’s predicted frost date to get an idea of when you can start planting.

If you have an idea on what flowers you’d like to plant, check this handy planting guide to end some of the frustration. If you’re in a warmer climate, you’ll want to start planting your garden around February, so the flowers will be blooming in early spring. Colder climates will need to wait a few months until about late April to expect blooms in mid-to-late summer.

If you’re excited to get planting, but live in a colder climate, you have the option of starting some seeds indoors and transfering outdoors when the warm weather arrives. You can create your own seed starter kit with materials you have at home like toilet paper and egg cartons, to make for easy outdoor transfers. When in doubt, check the packaging of the seeds or store bought starter plants.

Growing Size

This is an important step in the garden planning process. Not all flowers are small. Know what dimensions will work best in your garden plot. Then, research the dimensions of your intended flowers when they hit full maturity. If you want a mixed garden, know if the flower will continue to spread and plant as to not overtake the other plants. Some flowers, like sunflowers, grow very tall and could visually look disproportionate with your garden.

When to Water

A crucial element to any flower growth is water. In addition to sunlight, your garden will need water to be healthy. Water quantity requirements may vary by flower species and the amount of light it receives. Generally, you’ll want to pick a time to regularly water, either late in the evening or early in the morning. Keep all water distributed evenly, directed at the ground and not at the leaves of the plant, as this can create mold or burn marks from the midday sun. Choosing a quality soil to plant your flowers in will not only add nutrients to the flower, but likely will stay moist throughout the day.

Native Plants

Your garden is more than just a beautiful yard adornment; it’s an important part of your local ecology, and should be considered when planning a garden. When you’re planning the foliage you’d like to include in your flower bed, be sure include native plants. These plants have significant value to wildlife and are likely to thrive in your current climate. Plants that do well on the East Coast may easily die on the West Coast.

A Rooftop Garden

Living in an urban environment is not the same as living in a house and having a garden yard. While it is true that the urban environment doesn’t quite present the same possibilities, there is one option you can consider and that is designing your very own rooftop garden.

All you need is a roof that can support gardening conditions and the environment and you are good to go. It doesn’t take much to get the project going. In fact, it’s a relatively easy endeavor, which mostly requires motivation and a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Following some basic tips from Handy Gardeners Ltd. on how to get started and easily create your very own green retreat in the middle of the city.

Here is what areas of your rooftop garden you have to work on:

Floor

A garden space is not all about the plants and greenery you have there; it is also about having the right flooring to add accent or to simply look good. Concrete pavers are most commonly found on condos, but those contribute to a cold and impersonal look. The way to go, if such is the case with your building, is to install decking over existing pavers. Wood makes an excellent choice, but there are also other recycled decking materials on the market that offer colorful patterns and finishes.

Soil

One of the most important components for roof gardening is soil. Do not go after your usual triple mix, as that will not work. The mixture is easily compacted and because the soil is on the roof, there will be less chance for aeration. What you can do is get some container mix and slow release fertilizer. Add some Vermiculite or Perlite and you have yourself a fantastic soil mixture.

Containers & Pots

While Terra Cotta is certainly the most common option in any gardening attempt, you should opt for something different. The problem with this material is that the pots and containers dry out very fast when there is no shade, which is generally the case with rooftops. The best option is to have insulated, custom-made planters.

Drainage

Water needs to drain out of your containers in some way. For this reason, you must not forget to leave some space open at the bottom of the pots for air to move.

Plants

Effective gardening requires careful selection of plants. If you are after perennials, you are on a good track, but you must ensure that you have deep enough pots to support new growth and that the plants are insulated from the elements. Flowers of all kinds look really beautiful and make an excellent addition to any rooftop garden. Remember that you should add foliage, as it requires little maintenance.

Caution

When designing your rooftop garden, you may be tempted to feature a great deal of containers and plants. But do consider what weight the structure can support and don’t get carried away. Also, consider that rooftops can get extremely windy at times. For this reason, you should be careful about lightweight additions to your garden. See to it that your furniture and garden inventory is well secured so that it doesn’t get tipped over by wind or birds.

Garden Maintenance And Improvement

Keeping your garden healthy is not only a way to beautify your yard, it can actually addsignificant value to your home.

Whether you’re a green-thumbed newbie or have been gardening for years, it’s important to know how to maintain your plants in the most efficient and cost-effective ways. From regular upkeep to making additions, we’re here to guide you through the best garden maintenance and improvements.

General Garden Upkeep

Watering

It’s important to note that some areas have watering restrictions, as well as strict laws when it comes to watering during droughts. Enter your zip code here to see if your area is experiencing a drought  and check local watering guidelines for your city.

Although watering your garden probably seems like the most straightforward part of upkeep, there are actually a few things to keep in mind:

  • Stick to a watering schedule and try to water early in the morning when the ground is cool and the sun isn’t as bright.
  • You should water deeply at the base of the plant so the roots can easily access the water. Focusing on the leaves and upper foliage not only deprives the roots of nutrients, it can lead to fungus.
  • Trees and shrubs should receive direct watering about every 7-10 days.
  • Potted and other contained plants in general should be watered once a day. (Not sure if you’re overwatering? Try placing your finger into the soil up to your second knuckle. If it’s dry all the way through, it needs water.)

If you use a sprinkler system, use one with fixtures close to the ground instead of those that waste water by shooting it into the air where it mostly evaporates.

There are also a few watering tools you should use for the most effective hydration depending on what kind of garden you’re raising:

  • For vegetable gardens, use a soaker hose.
  • For annuals and perennials, use a watering wand.
  • For potted plants, use a watering can or wand.

Soil Testing

It’s important to ensure that you use the best possible soil for your garden and the best way to figure out where yours measures up is to perform a soil test. This will allow you to discover its pH level, how acidic (sometimes called “sour”) or alkaline (“sweet”) it is, and thus how easily your plants are able to pull nutrients from it. pH is measured on a scale from 1 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline), with 7 acting as the general neutral point around which most plants prefer.

You can find a soil testing kit at most gardening or home improvement stores. Within minutes of testing, you’ll learn both your soil’s pH and nutrient levels. Some will also tell you specifically what your soil is lacking, as well as how to fix the issue. Generally, overly-acidic soil can be remedied with lime and overly-alkaline soil calls for a sulfur-based conditioner.

Read and follow the kit instructions carefully. Most will have you take a soil sample, then add a designated chemical along with distilled water. After a designated amount of time (usually just a few minutes), you’ll use a color chart to evaluate your results. Newer gardeners may benefit from asking for a gardening buddy’s expertise for the first test to help assess both the results of the test and how to best fix any problems.

Fertilizing

There are a few choices to make when it comes to fertilizing. You can buy manmade plant food and fertilizer from your local gardening, home improvement, or even some grocery stores. Or if you prefer the all-natural route, you can opt to compost or buy organic fertilizer.

Fertilizer comes in a few different forms such as dry, liquid, slow-releasing and manure:

Dry fertilizer is used mainly as a way to improve the fertility of soil ready for planting, or for increasing the nutrients in well-established plants. It can be dispersed around developed shrubs and trees, or even to perennial beds.

Liquid fertilizer is often used with fruit and vegetable gardens, or for other plants simply in need of a nutrient boost. You can dilute it and add it to soil or compost, or add it to a spraying system to use as foliage feed.

Slow-release fertilizer is great for the gardener on the go: it feeds plants over an extended period of time and typically only requires a single application. You can mix it into compost or add it right to the soil to be absorbed.

Manure is one of the most basic, albeit probably the smelliest, forms of fertilizer and has some amazing benefits. Not only is it rich with nutrients, it also has the ability to improve the soil’s ability to retain water. Use it as a kind of mulching for developed gardens or add it to dug areas you’re preparing to plant.

No matter the form, don’t forget to always wear gloves when working with fertilizer!

Let your soil test help guide your decision as far as what nutrients you look for in a fertilizer. Pay close attention to the product’s instructions for how much and often to fertilize. Too little can lead to weak plant growth, while too much can cause soft, sappy shoot systems attractive to bugs and weak against colder conditions. If a plant seems to be struggling but you can’t figure out its deficiency on your own, talk to a local gardening specialist, even bringing in the plant if possible.

Weeding

The key to preventing and eliminating weeds is to understand how they work. Though their seeds spread easily (and just about everywhere), not all of them are high enough in the soil to receive the sunlight needed to grow. However when you break into a piece of ground and move around the soil, you run the risk of bringing some of the deeper seedlings to surface and accidentally making them viable. A general rule to avoid this is to dig only when you must and once done, cover the area with mulch or other plants.

Ideally it’s best to weed while it’s wet outside and a fishtail weeder can help you pull invasive plants up from their roots. For weeding while it’s dry outside, use a sharp-edged hoe to cut a weed just below the soil line. Some more stubborn weeds may call for stronger or sharper tools like weed wackers, but always use them with caution and keep a close eye out for curious animals and children who may not realize the danger. If you’re unable to completely remove a weed, you can cut off their seed-spreading tops for a quick, but temporary, fix.

Garden Improvements

Perhaps you’re putting your house on the market and hope to add curb appeal with some nice accents to your garden, or maybe you’ve got a pest problem that needs resolved. It could even be that you’re simply bored with its current look. You can recruit the help of a landscapedesigner or come up with your own plan, but either way there are plenty of options for making improvements to your garden.

Tree and Stump Removal

It could be that you’ve decided to get rid of an overgrown eyesore, or maybe the old stump that once made a folksy addition to your garden display is now too rotted to stick around. Whatever the case, there are a few routes you can take to getting rid of unwanted trees and stumps. Keep in mind that if you’re not used to working with large power tools, it might be worth the investment to hire professional help to avoid personal injury or home damage.

Whenever possible, it’s best to remove the stump completely. Small trees should be cut with about four feet of height so they can be pulled out using a winch and a relatively powerful automobile. If the stump is too big to remove in one shot, you can use a mini excavator to break down the root system or with large but rotted stumps, use a grub hoe to clear it out. If you’re really experienced, you can opt for a stump grinder, though hiring a professional is always the safest route.

Stump killers are another helpful tool for this improvement endeavor. Often, this involves drilling holes or re-cutting the stump at the top since the chemicals used will be most effective on freshly-cut wood. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely and wear gloves while working.

Paths

A pathway through your garden or yard is a beautiful addition that can really bring the whole look together. Whether you’re looking for a more polished look or something a little more rustic, there are a few basic options to choose from:

  • Mulch
  • Gravel
  • Stepping stones
  • Planted paths

Mulch and gravel will be two of the least expensive options and are relatively simple to build. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll have to edge your pathways to avoid the material spreading. Gravel will be heavier and somewhat more stagnant, but mulch is softer and more kid-friendly, especially if you have little ones who haven’t quite mastered walking just yet!

Stepping stones require little digging and because they allow you to maximize so much space with just one stone, they can be a cost effective option. Generally, you’ll want stones about 18 inches across and 2 inches thick. You’ll have to see specifically which kinds of stone are available in your area, but your local home improvement store should give you great insight into your best options.

Planted paths are a great choice if you’re worried about the tedious task of lining up the stones just right. Any imperfections or uneven placements can be hidden with ground cover plants and give it a more rustic look.

Garden fencing

If critters are creating a problem in your garden, a fence is a terrific way to deter them. The kind of fence you choose may depend on the look you want to achieve, but when possible it’s ideal to make it solid. If the animal can’t see what he’s missing, he’s a lot less likely to try to break in! An alternative would be to install an electric fence that, while more expensive, will be effective at protecting your garden as well as less restrictive on the view.

If it’s a household pet that can’t contain its curiosity, a 3-foot wire mesh fence with strong posts is an easy fix. If your pet is prone to digging, reinforce the fence even further by bending the base into a 2-foot wide apron. Rabbits can be deterred with a similar structure, though it’s recommended you use chicken wire with 1-inch diameter holes. Don’t forget the apron — a hungry rabbit just might dig to get his dinner!

Learn More About French Drains

Excess water in your yard can be a pain. Having your basement flood every time you get a heavy rain can be even worse. Inadequate yard draining can keep you from your chores, from enjoying your lawn, or it can even wear away your home’s foundation, causing structural damage. These problems may seem ubiquitous and largely unsolvable, but the reality is a simple landscape installation can dry out your lawn and protect your foundation. A French drain is a simple trench drain that siphons water away from the more important and heavily used areas of your yard. It’s a home improvement gem in that it’s a simple, economical installation that can reap huge benefits.

Why This is Happening to You

What can be particularly frustrating is when your yard is overrun with water while your neighbor’s yard is just fine. There are several contributing factors to inadequate drainage and some of them may apply to your yard but not your neighbor’s. The two biggest factors are your lawn’s soil content and its lack of contour. When water enters your lawn it sinks into the soil and displaces the air, pushing it up. Heavy, compacted clay may contain a significantly less amount of air to displace, causing water to crest above the surface of your lawn much more easily.

The ability of water to move around your lawn also greatly increases its ability to effectively drain. If your neighbor’s lawn is above yours his or her rain water can be feeding into your lawn. Meanwhile, if you have a mostly level lawn, that water is just going to sit there. When these two factors are working together, they are simply waiting for the next heavy rain to turn your lawn into a swamp.

Hiring a Contractor

The installation of a French drain is a little more complicated than digging a ditch and laying down pipe, but not much. You need to make sure you have a consistent slope for the drain to work. You need to make sure you lay down washed gravel underneath and above the pipe.

The complicated part of a French drain isn’t the installation work, it’s the knowledge of where to dig the ditch to make sure the drain is effective. To dry out your lawn, for example, you should start at the highest point of your lawn and run the trench down to the lowest point. However, this type of trench drain won’t protect your foundation. A linear drain that acts like a moat may need to be installed around your foundation. Depending on how level your lawn is, a series of trenches may need to be dug to effectively drain your lawn.

Ideally, your trench drain should extend to a lightly used area of your lawn that has a more sand-based soil. Your situation may make this impractical. Plus, if your drain extends anywhere close to a neighbor’s property, you should consult a professional before you simply run all your water off into your neighbor’s lawn.

Learn More About Garden Art

Any gardener will tell you that the best gardens usually involve the placing of “garden bones.” Garden bones are more permanent structures that you build the rest of your garden around. This can be something as organic as evergreen trees or as stylized as metal garden art. Of course, garden art can function as more than just the framing structure for your garden. It can provide you with a place to sit or lounge as you enjoy your garden or simply enhance the stroll through your backyard.

Custom Garden Art

You may have a very specific idea of what you want. Garden styles are various and prescriptive, and by the time you add your own touch to the appearance of your garden, you may have trouble finding what you’re looking for. It may not occur to you, but contractors are out there who specialize in customized decorative pieces for your home. You can tell them the material you want and the design you want and they can make it for you. Depending on what you want, you may have to pay a premium price, but if you’re working within a budget, the contractor may have suggestions to produce something similar within your price range.

Use Recycled Items for Garden Art

Recycled items may not be the first thing that comes to your mind for garden art, and admittedly, it’s not for everyone. If you’re looking for a way to spruce up your garden on a truly limited budget, this may be the way to do it. Old newspapers or soda cans aren’t going to work, but any number of household items can be reused as garden art long after they’ve worn out their welcome indoors. Old furniture, especially unique coffee tables, storage cabinets, or baby cribs, can be garden gems. Plus, you’d be surprised how your old bathtub can be transformed into a beautiful piece of garden art. Even though newspaper doesn’t last and has no particular visual appeal, other household items such as old clothes, book covers, or other flat items of possible sentimental or aesthetic value can make for one amazing scarecrow.

Garden Art Alternatives

Garden art can be almost anything, even when it’s not called garden art. Garden furniture, most commonly benches but also tables and chairs, is great for livening up your garden with an artist’s touch. Trellises or other walkway coverings are an ideal way to create a secluded, romantic atmosphere to your garden. Birdbaths, bat houses, and other artificial wildlife habitats can be just as decorative as any other piece of art and are just as integral as the flowers you plant to create a wildlife garden.

Metal Garden Art

Metal may seem like a strange material to include in your garden, but it offers a flexibility and affordability that few other materials can. Be it a classic wrought iron bench or gate, or a more custom metal sculpture, you’re bound to find some piece of metal garden art that will greatly enhance the look of an outdoor space. Metal fabricators can create a wide variety of customized metal garden art, including animal sculptures and other complicated and decorative designs. For larger garden items, such as gazebos, a metal like aluminum may be the only way to make the project feasible, as it is a lot cheaper (and more durable) than wood.

Flowers Bloom In Spring

After a cold winter, the sight of spring approaching is a welcomed sight. Trees begin to get their leaves and flowers begin to sprout up again. It’s an exciting time for all who enjoy time in their garden. If you’ve recently bought your home, you may not know what flowers are in your garden currently or you may be unsure of what to start planting.

While some spring flowers last for the season, others you won’t see until the weather turns again. A spring garden can add additional curb appeal to your home. A beautiful spring garden takes proper preparation. To start planning, see a few flowers that bloom in spring.

Any garden takes proper care and maintenance. If you could use a little help caring for your plants this year, contact a landscaping pro for up to four quotes from contractors in your area for free.

Gardening Costs

Like any landscaping project, it’s a good idea to have a budget ready. If you’re starting a new garden, it’s a good idea to consider having your soil tested before planting anything. A soil test can tell you if pH levels are sufficient for optimal gardening. After testing, you’ll know if the flower garden you desire is set up for success or what you may need to do to change it. The average cost to test soil is $1,142. However, there are a few DIY soil tests you can do that may not be as accurate, but give you an idea of how acidic your soil is.

As any gardener knows, simply planting a few seeds will not grow a healthy garden. These gardens need to be maintained regularly. Make watering daily less of a chore by installing a drip irrigation system into the flower bed. The average cost to install a drip irrigation system is between $300 and $750 per 500sf. This depends on the size of your flower garden and what quality parts are used.

When To Plant Spring Flowers

To some, this may sound strange, but the best time to plant spring flowers is actually in the fall. Bulbs and perennials will return year after year, so fall is the perfect opportunity to get a jump start on next year’s garden. Bulbs should be planted before the ground is frozen for an immediate spring bloom. Perennials that are cold-tolerant should be planted in the early fall, so they can get enough nutrients before the winter begins.

Spring Flower Bulbs

Blooming bulbs are one of the first signs that spring is here. Sometimes, you can see a few blooms before the snow has all melted away. One of the most common bulb, tulips, has up to 100 varieties in many colors. It’s often one of the first flowers to arrive in spring. However, this bloom has a short lifecycle of about two to three weeks. Here are a few other common bulbs you might see this spring:

  • Lily
  • Daffodil
  • Hyacinth
  • Snowdrop

Early Spring Flowers

As I mentioned, the tulip is one of the first flowers you’ll see blooming in spring. However, it won’t be the only flower to take center stage. Keep in mind, these flowers can bloom at different times depending on your zone, so always check before planting. Perennials and flowering trees will start to bud and add a little bit of color to the landscape. Here are a few to look out for:

  • Bloodroot, characterized by white petals and yellow center.
  • Forsynthia, a shrub with many golden-yellow flowers.
  • Iris, often purple petals that fold open.
  • Lilac, a shrub with small purple blooms and a strong floral smell.

Late Spring Flowers

As an encore, there are many flowers that show off a bit later in the spring and stay through the early summer. Late spring flowers will begin blooming after the last frost. These tend to be less of the bulb variety and more perennials. Some blooms will even last through the summer season. These flowers are a great choice for lasting color in your garden. Here are a few to consider adding:

  • Alstroemeria, a variety of colors with different markings on the petals.
  • Common bluebell, blooms blue hues face downward.
  • Cherry blossom, pink flowers that adorn the steams of the tree.
  • Magnolia, varieties of trees or shrubs with large flowers of pink, white or purple.

What Flowers To Plant In Spring

Once your spring flowers have bloomed, you should start thinking about what to garden for the rest of the year. Certain flowers bloom at certain times depending on your zone. In some places, you could see blooms even into late fall. Begonias and dahlias are two popular summer bulb choices that will last.

Additionally, spring is the perfect time to start your vegetable garden. Seedlings can even be started indoors as early as march and be transferred outside after the last frost. Herbs like lavender, sage and basil look beautiful as well and add flavor to your garden.

Simple Tips For Preparing Yard For A Cold Winter

As summer comes to a close, many homeowners begin to look ahead to the colder months. Unpacking sweaters they may have stored and bringing out their coat racks to fill with scarves and mittens. For many of us, winter presents blustery cold conditions, keeping us inside our cozy homes for the next few months.

But before you get ready to hibernate indoors, take care of what’s outside first. You’ve likely put a lot of time and thought into your landscaping around the home. If not prepared, the frosty temperatures can destroy the spring blooms you anticipate every year. So take advantage of a sunny fall day and prepare your yard for a cold winter with these tips.

If you’re ready to get started on your lawn care, contact a pro today for up to four free quotes from landscaping contractors in your area.

Clean Up

Fall is a beautiful time of year when you’re able to see leaves in a variety of warm hues. As beautiful as it is, eventually, those leaves will end up in your lawn. At first, it’s fine to continue mowing over them, as it turns to mulch and provides added nutrients to your lawn. But, once the leaves become too much to mow over, you must rake them up.

Another thing you should clean and store for the winter months is any lawn furniture you’ve enjoyed in the summer. Leaving them out in the winter elements can change their appearance and ruin any finishes on them. This is especially true for wood furniture. Store away in a shed or garage until you’re ready to use again next year.

Prep Your Water System

Winter weather can have a terrible effect on your outdoor water systems and features. Make sure all the water is shut off, hoses unattached and put away. If you have a rain barrel, you’ll want to drain that for the winter as water can freeze and damage the barrel.

This is also a great time to clean out your gutters. It’s recommended that gutters are cleaned at least twice a year and it’s important to go into the winter months with a clean gutter to prevent any damage.

Mowing

The last day you mow for the year depends on the climate you live in. Ideally, you’ll want to stop mowing after the first fall frost. You can look up the prediction for your area using the Farmer’s Almanac to better plan your last mow. Use the lowest setting on your lawn mower the last few times you cut the grass.

You also may want to consider applying a winter fertilizer to your grass to give it an extra boost for the spring.

Aeration

An important, but often forgotten aspect about lawn care task is aeration. This creates small holes in your lawn to allow nutrients to get into the ground and refresh your grass. Fall is an ideal time to do this task, because your lawn needs time to soak in the nutrients and regrow without disturbance. To aerate your yard, you can do this yourself by renting a machine or purchasing special shoes that allow you to do this task while walking around your lawn. For larger lawns, it’s best to contact a pro who has the right tools to help.

Protect Your Perennials

Your beautiful flowers that were a delight this summer now need proper care to bloom again next year. First, you should know what flowers are perennials and annuals. Annuals, unless they are self-seeding, need to be pulled up as they will not come back the next year.

However, perennial flowers should be expected to return the next year, if you have cared for them properly during the season. But to ensure they bloom the next year, you’ll want to protect them from the snow and cold. Add extra mulch around them after the first frost and cut them back to allow for new flowers to bloom in the spring.

Garden Prep

If you have a fruit and vegetable garden, winterizing it gives you a start to the best produce the following year. As wonderful as your garden has been this year, it’s now time to remove any plants that are done growing. Pests can inhabit old plants during the late-fall months and potentially ruin your garden the following year. Remove any weeds you see as well.

Now that the season has ended, consider having your soil tested. This way, you’ll know the pH levels and nutrients that are in your soil to determine what plants will thrive next year.

Plan Ahead

Now that your yard is winterized, you have a few months to consider how you want your landscaping to look next season. Plan out any major projects you’d like to complete like installing a water feature or flowerbed. If you have a garden or intend to plant new flowers, this is an important step because many need to be planted at a specific time of year. Be aware so you don’t plant a late-summer flower in early spring!

Plant For Spring

You may be surprised to hear that there actually is some planting to be done in the fall months. Spring bulbs and shrubs are best planted in the fall, before the first frost. This will give them time to grow and flowers ready to bloom as the weather begins to change in the spring.

Some Benefits Of Installing A Rain Barrel

From washing the dishes to using the shower, water consumption is a part of every household. Many of us will likely turn on a faucet today, without giving it a second thought. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American uses 320 gallons of water per day and out of that, 30% is used for the outdoors. That means there is almost 100 gallons being used to water lawns, gardens and other landscaping features.

For many, that number might be surprising. If your household is trying to reduce your environmental impact, there are plenty of ways you can reduce your water consumption, especially outdoors. Rain barrels have gained in popularity across the country. If you don’t have one, now is a great time to consider a rain barrel installation.

How Does A Rain Barrel Work?

Rain barrels are a great way to save money and the environment. This practice is not new; it actually dates back to ancient times when people would use wooden barrels to catch the water and use for various household purposes. Now, barrels come in plastic with many modern features, but stick to the same idea; collecting water from a natural source and use for landscaping.

Today, many rain barrels collect water with the help of a downspout coming from the roof or gutter, directed into the barrel with the help of a diverter. The water is filtered through a screen that covers the top, to catch any debris such as leaves and sticks. In simpler models, water flows simply with the help of gravity when you’re ready to water your lawn and garden.

Saving Money & the Earth

As previously mentioned, by utilizing a rain barrel to collect water, it helps cut down on water usage, saving you money on your water bill and reducing the amount of water used. But did you know that rainwater is actually the best water you can use for your plants? Treated water that flows from your hose has salts and chemicals that are tough on plants. Rainwater has nutrients and minerals that your garden will love.

It also helps improve erosion in your yard. Many times, the area near the roof will eventually erode, making it difficult to landscape in that specific area. With the help of a downspout, the water is directed into the rain barrel, helping your garden and protecting your lawn.

Additionally, if you live in an area where drought or water restrictions are frequent, rain barrels provide your own reserve during this time to keep your garden growing.

Rain Barrel Costs

The benefits of a rain barrel can be just what your lawn and garden needs. But what are the costs? A 55-gallon standard rain barrel kit can range from $100 to $150, depending on the style you choose. However, many cities have programs to assist with these costs, so be sure to research before you buy.

Some don’t include downspouts, diverters, stands or other amenities you may need for your set up.

DIY Rain Barrel Installation

When you’re ready to install your rain barrel, you can either install it yourself or call a pro, depending on how comfortable you are with DIY projects. There are two ways to install a rain barrel. For either method, you’ll want to place your barrel on a flat, raised surface. Many people use cement blocks or bricks to do so. One way is to simply position it under a downspout, that is if your downspout doesn’t reach the ground all the way. An elbow can help direct the flow of water if needed.

A more common and recommended way is to install a diverter in your downspout, to easily direct the flow of water from your roof and allow overflow to exit through the existing downspout. A diverter is easy to disconnect during winter months and allows for debris to flow away from the house as normal. A rain barrel kit typically comes with all the materials you need to start harvesting rainwater with the use of a diverter. It should also come with instructions that may vary by product. Outside of what the kit provides, you’ll likely need:

  • Hacksaw
  • Utility Knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Screws
  • Pencil
  • Measuring Tape
  • Gutter Bracket (optional)

Start by locating the place you wish to place your diverter. Measure and mark this section on the downspout. It’s best to keep it level with the top of the rain barrel for even flow of water. Safely saw off the portion of the downspout you wish to remove, from the highest point you marked with your pencil. If you’re able, take the downspout off the house to saw. Attach the diverter as instructed. Once installed, place the connecting tube to the port and attach to the rain barrel. You now have your own water storage system!

Rain Barrel Maintenance

Once you’ve installed your rain barrel, you’ll want to be sure you care for it properly. Always disconnect before the first freeze, if you live in a colder climate. As temperatures cool, the water can quickly become ice that could damage your barrel. It’s also recommended that when the barrel is disconnected for the season, it’s given a quick scrub with a water and vinegar solution to get rid of any residue from the summer season.

Learn Where Grass Won’t Grow

Every homeowner dreams of an outdoor space with lush, green grass. But the reality is that for many of us, that doesn’t exist. Maybe you haven’t quite found time for proper lawn care maintenance or there’s a patch of grass you can’t bring back to life. Dead grass reduces curb appeal and can simply be a reason not to spend time in your yard.

The good news is that there are other options besides grass as a ground cover. It’s time to get creative and replace that dead grass with something new. See a few ideas to landscape where grass simply will not grow.

You can revive your yard with a new landscape design. Contact a landscaping pro today for up to four quotes from contractors in your area for free.

Reasons Why Grass Won’t Grow

While grass seems to be everywhere, it’s not exactly the easiest ground cover to keep healthy. Regular maintenance is a key factor in healthy, growing grass. If you’re not watering regularly or cutting your grass too short, this can contribute to dead grass.

Soil nutrients are another factor in green grass. If you have a regular lawn maintenance schedule but the grass is still unhealthy, consider a soil test. This can detect if the grass is getting the right nourishment it needs or it can result in patchy, brown spots in the lawn. The average cost to test soil is $1,142, with most homeowners spending between $947 and $1,550. When the results come back, you can find the appropriate fertilizer to improve the nutrient levels in the soil.

Now, if you’ve tried it all, but grass simply won’t grow, it’s likely due to not enough sunlight. Your lawn needs six hours of daily sunlight to truly thrive. If you have grass on the side of a house, under a tree or any other area of partial sunlight, it’s time to consider alternatives.

1. Create An Outdoor Living Area

If you’re ready to start enjoying your backyard again, an outdoor living area could be the fix you need. A patio takes much less regular maintenance and is there to enjoy whenever you want to relax outside. The average cost to install a patio is $2,844, but you could lower these costs by making it a DIY project.

A patio is great, but to really turn it into something for all to enjoy, you’ll need comfortable outdoor furniture to complete the look. Invest in quality items that are weather-resistant. An outdoor fireplace is also a great patio addition where all can gather. Whatever you choose, it will certainly give the backyard a new look you’ll love.

2. Install Turf

Some homeowners love the look of grass, but simply can’t grow it. As an alternative, turf can give the healthy grass look with far less maintenance. Since synthetic grass is designed to last a lifetime, the upfront cost will pay for itself in time. The average cost to install turf is $4,211.

3. Invest In Mulch

If your grass is patchier in some areas than others, mulch can be a great-looking alternative without removing the healthy chunks of the lawn. This is a great solution for grass in shady areas such as under trees or near a house. As mulch breaks down, it fertilizes plants as well, making it a great spot to grow flowers. Mulch is low maintenance, needing to be replaced only once a year, usually in spring.

4. Install A Pond

Water features are hot in landscape design and is a unique solution for almost any area, boosting curb appeal instantly. A small pond can be just what your backyard needs to make it a relaxing oasis. Pond liners in fiberglass or concrete are the best option for low-maintenance. The average cost to install a pond is $2,837, with most homeowners spending between $1,609and $3,462.

5. Plant Low Maintenance Ground Cover

Thinking outside the box, a no-mow lawn could be just what you need. Ground cover isn’t just limited to grass. There are many other plants that spread quickly for ground cover and add a pop of color. If you have a spot where grass won’t grow, this could be a great addition. Here are a few variations to consider:

  • Creeping Thyme
  • Periwinkle
  • Moss
  • Pachysandra
  • Liriope
  • New Zealand Burr

6. Install A Play Area

If you have children, this might be the best use of a space where grass can’t grow. A permanent area for playtime can help encourage your child to get outside more often and increase their creativity. What better way to do so than with a playground? Sand or rubber mulch is a safe choice for ground cover under a swing set or playground. It’s also low maintenance, just needing to be refilled as needed and cleaned of any debris. The average cost to install a playground or swing set is $574. This cost does not include the cost of swing set.