Whether your idea of backyard bliss is a lush garden, a shady retreat or a perfectly manicured landscape, these tips will help you create the low-maintenance yard of your dreams.
When you start a new perennial border, spread non-woven polypropylene black landscape fabric over the soil. The fabric keeps weeds under control, holds heat in cool spring weather (giving your plants a faster start), and lets water soak through to the roots. At a local garden center, buy a nonbiodegradable fabric that weighs about 3.4 ozs. per square yard (about $10 for a 3 x 25-ft. piece). Use U-shaped metal stakes ($2 for a pack of 10) to hold down the fabric.
Instead of throwing away empty laundry detergent containers, rinse them out thoroughly and then recycle them for watering plants. Drill 1/8-in. holes in the top of the cap, and a 1/2-in. hole just above the handle to relieve pressure so the water flows freely.
If you use spike-type sprinklers, try setting them in permanent sockets made from 1-in. PVC pipe. These sockets will make it a snap to move the sprinklers, and they'll keep them upright and shooting water where you want it.
When you sow seeds, it can be hard to tell little weeds from the young sprouts. Cut cardboard tubes from toilet paper into one-third sections to encircle the seed and keep you from plucking out your young plants.
If you have a small yard, don't waste any precious real estate on a bulky hose reel. Pound a 4-ft. length of galvanized steel pipe ($7 at home centers) into the ground, coil up to 50 ft. of hose around it and top the end with a nozzle that hooks into the pipe's end.
This hose holder's narrow profile is both space saving and attractive.
Attach a spray bottle of herbicide to your tractor or lawn mower so that when you're mowing your lawn, you can spray weeds right when you see them for weed control on the fly.
Attach the bottle of herbicide to your lawn tractor or mower with a hook-and-loop strip (like Velcro) in a spot where you can easily grab it.
If you're building a fence, a retaining wall or a planter, set a course of protruding stones in the soil beneath it. That way, your mower can cut all the grass—no trimming by hand needed. The stones should protrude about 4 in. from the wall and stand at least an inch above the soil so grass doesn't creep over them. You will still have to pull out grass from between the stones occasionally.
A sprinkler isn't always the most efficient way to water your plants, especially if you live in a hot, dry climate. Soaker hoses ensure that the plants get most of the water, and you don't need to spend $25 at a garden center to get one. Give your worn-out hoses a second career by converting them. Just plug the end of the hose with a round stick and perforate the hose with a sharp nail. You'll get a free soaker hose and conserve water at the same time.
Tired of water draining too quickly through hanging baskets? Try ice cubes. They'll melt slowly enough so plants can absorb as much water as they need.
Apply liquid herbicides only on calm, windless mornings. When the wind's blowing, you'll not only waste material but also possibly kill nearby shrubs and flowers.