GateHouse News Service's weekly Home Help, with tips on environmentally friendly lawn care, curb appeal, and climbing plants for all seasons.
Maintaining the perfect lawn is easier than you think, and with the right tools, you can be both efficient with your yard work and eco-conscious. If it's lush green turf that you're after, but you also care about your carbon footprint, there are a few tools and practices that can help you have it both ways.
Many of the tips for maintaining a truly green lawn can also save you money and time. As you're gearing up to enjoy your outdoor space this season, here are a few suggestions to follow for a healthy lawn you can feel good about:
- Give back to your lawn. One of the best treatments for your yard is to let a layer of lawn clippings settle on the top of your turf after mowing. The clippings decompose and replenish your soil, encouraging positive growth. A common misconception is that leaving the clippings on top of your lawn leads to the development of thatch, when in fact it's usually caused by other conditions. Leaving your clippings only helps your lawn, and lessens the amount of work you have to do.
- Go green with battery-powered mowers and lawn tools. Gas mowers' engines don't run nearly as clean as more thoroughly engineered car engines and contribute significantly to air pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If you make the switch to a battery-powered mower, you can start it easily every time without having to worry about polluting the air.
- Be wise with your water. With a few strategic adjustments, you can significantly reduce the amount of water you use to keep your lawn healthy. Water less frequently with a good soaking each time, the water you use will go further. Watering in the morning will also help your lawn soak up the water, rather than having it evaporate before it makes it into your soil. Installing a rain barrel is also a great way to reuse the water that runs off your house without ever having to turn on the spigot.
- Buy a discerning fertilizer. Chemical fertilizers might offer quick results, but organic fertilizers often provide more staying power as they focus more on improving soil quality rather than the quick fix of applying nutrients directly to the plant. To make sure you are effective with your fertilizer use, take a soil sample to a local garden store to analyze it and they'll recommend the best fertilizing mix for your lawn.
- Allow your lawn to protect itself. Mowing too short is a key mistake many people make. A good rule of thumb is to never cut more than one-third of the current height. This will ensure that your grass can develop deep enough roots to thrive and won't get scorched when summer temperatures arrive.
Home Selling Tip
Most homeowners don't give their roofs a second glance, but the roof is an important curb appeal item that buyers do notice, says Jean Miskimon of the Metal Roofing Alliance. Is yours missing any shingles, or is it dingy and streaked? A good cleaning or, if necessary, a roof replacement will up your home's curb appeal factor tremendously.
Did You Know...
According to the National Association of Realtors, 63 percent of homebuyers will drop by after viewing a home they like online. This means curb appeal and photos on real estate sites are good ways to hook potential buyers.
Instead of just fresh flowers in a vase, use small branches or twigs and decorate with items that tie into the season, like acorns and leaves or candy canes and small ornaments. Use branches of varying heights and fullness to give the vase a balanced appearance. Another festive twist is to glue various sized pinecones onto the branches. Consider painting the branches silver or gold for a timeless and elegant appeal.
Keeping interest in a garden all year round can be a difficult job, especially in small gardens, where the view is of the whole. Larger gardens may have the luxury of different "rooms" for different times of the year. For both, the range of climbing plants available can, through flower, foliage, and fruits, ensure that appeal is maintained through all the seasons. Failing that, a well-designed arch or pergola can be a feature itself during the winter months.
Many clematis are among the earliest flowering climbers to enliven pergolas and archways. Clematis alpine 'Frances Rivis' has pale blue flowers followed by fluffy seedheads. It tolerates exposed conditions and lower light levels than other varieties. A more vigorous clematis for this time of year is C. Montana ('Elizabeth'), whose soft pink, scented flowers appear in late spring.
This is the time of year that offers a wide choice and is the season when most people want to be outside enjoying their gardens.
Fragrant climbers flourish in summer, especially when planted around seating areas. A good example is the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), which has small, fragrant white flowers, followed by seedpods. It is an evergreen climber and, in a sheltered site, provides good screening. Actinidia kolomikta is a deciduous, twining climber. Its green leaves are tipped with pink and white, as though they have been dipped into paint.
Many of the honeysuckles (Lonicera) are useful summer climbers: they are vigorous, rapidly covering any overhead structure. Most are scented and evergreen, too. L. japonica var. repens, for example, has all these attributes and an interesting purple flush in the leaves and flowers. Roses, in many forms, can always be relied upon for summer flowers and fragrance.
Autumn and winter
Several climbers, notably grapes (Vitis) and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus) color dramatically in autumn, clothing arches and pergolas with their vibrant oranges and reds.
Few climbing plants, apart from ivy and other evergreens, have much interest in winter. An exception is the winter-flowering, evergreen Clematis cirrhosa (var. balearica).
GateHouse News Service