Getting a healthy and beautiful lawn and garden isn't rocket science, but it does take time, patience and the right information. We asked our top lawn and garden experts for their best advice about how to turn your lawn and garden into a low maintenance, high-beauty paradise.
Soil pH (acidity level) is very important,
and just because your dirt looks rich and
black doesn't mean it's the right pH for
grass. Take samples around the yard and send
them to your local extension service for testing.
You can fix soil pH problems by adding lime to
raise the pH or iron to lower it. Most grasses
prefer a pH of 6.0 to 7.2.
People tend to overapply fertilizer to
shady areas because the grass is struggling.
But that just kills it faster! A lawn in full sun
and a shaded lawn that may get only two
to four hours of direct sun have different
water and fertilizer needs.
The grass in shady areas needs less water
because less evaporates, and it needs less
fertilizer because with less sun it doesn't
grow as much. When you go into shade,
shift the controls on the spreader so you're
spreading about half the amount.
Before you buy a tree, look at the shade
pattern it'll have when it's grown. You're
going to start with this cute little tree, and
it's going to look good when you plant it
near the house, but once it grows up, it's
going to be a problem with the roof and
Lawns that are nutrient-stressed are a
breeding ground for weeds, so the best
defense is a healthy lawn.
Test the soil to see what type and
quantity of fertilizer are needed to
help your lawn. Proper fertilization
improves lawn health, so grass can
compete better and crowd out weeds—
without a lot of weed killer.
Ground covers are an easy way to soften rock features and patios or control erosion
on slopes. If the soil's good, kill the existing vegetation and leave it in place on the slope
to stabilize the bank and serve as mulch. Then plant through the layer of dead material.
Add another layer of shredded bark or other mulch after planting to conserve
moisture and reduce weed problems while your ground cover becomes established.
One-size-fits-all doesn't work for fertilizer,
weed killer and grass seed, even though
that's what the chain stores sell. Lawn
products that work great in Georgia clay
may not be good for Kansas or Oregon.
The best way to find out about growing
conditions in your area and what to put
on your lawn, and when, is to talk to a
local garden center or your agricultural
Plastic edging will go up and
down hills as long as you spike
it in well, but over time, straight
lines will get a little wavy.
Brick edging looks good, but grass
will creep into the cracks,
so you've got a little more
Steel edging will
hold a good, straight edge, but
it won't roll up hills well.
Rock mulch will reflect heat back
into shrubs and heat up shallow
roots, so it's not as good for the health
of the plant. Shredded mulch holds
moisture better and stays cooler.
As long as at least a quarter of the grass is still showing through the leaves, you can
mulch the leaves with your mower. But if the lawn is 80 to 90 percent covered, you'd
better rake some of it up. That much mulch creates too much residue, it won't degrade
well, and in spring it'll be a matted mess that kills the grass.
If you're mulching a big area, use a
cheaper hardwood mulch for most of it,
then top-dress it with cedar or cypress.
You can also top-dress old, ratty-looking
mulch—just sprinkle on a fresh 1-inch
layer and it'll look brand new. That way
you're not paying for something you don't
Protect exposed tree roots at the surface
of the yard by mulching around the root
area. A 2- to 4-inch layer of
wood chips or shredded bark protects
the roots and creates a good growing
environment. Planting grass right up to a tree trunk is
a common practice, but it's not good
for the tree because grass and trees
compete for water and nutrients. The
tree will be healthier and grow faster if
you put a 3- to 4-ft. border of mulch
around it instead of grass.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.
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