Imagine stepping into a lush, beautifully landscaped and well-cared-for garden. The perennials are expertly pruned, nothing is diseased or bug-ridden, and every plant looks perky and healthy in its ideal environment. Now imagine that yard is yours. Maybe that day seems like a long way off, but with a few garden-smart tips, you can have it sooner than you think.
1. Have a Game Plan
This might seem obvious, but before you go all out trying to beautify your yard, ask yourself a few basic questions: What do I like to look at? What will I do with my yard? What can work with the climate and my vision? The game plan for a tropical outdoor dining hangout will be very different than that for a sparsely desert-scaped garden you’ll primarily view from the living room.
2. Take Plant Needs Into Account
Plants are very sensitive to amounts of light and water. For example, shade-suited, moisture-loving plants do not do well in brightly lit, arid areas, so don’t even try. Also keep in mind that not all plants are suited to all settings. Determine your yard’s USDA planting zone and then buy plants within that range to keep them healthy, disease- and bug-free.
3. Use the Right Kind of Compost
Not all compost is created equal, and if you get the wrong kind, you risk killing or infecting plants. Only use yard waste that it is fully broken down. If you purchase composted manure, it should be at least a year old, or you can burn your plants with the heat of the decomposition process.
4. Clean Up After Your Plants
Nothing spruces up a yard like tidying and deadheading. Trim off flowers with sharp shears after they have died back (unless you want them to go to seed). Trim back bulbs once foliage is fully yellowed, but avoid doing so before, as the plant uses leaves to gather energy for the coming year.
5. Fertilize Appropriately
Blanket fertilizing is not a good practice, and you may need different fertilizers for different plants. Read the instructions for plant care and the instructions for individual fertilizers carefully to avoid overdoing it, which can burn or damage plants.
6. Consider Hydrozoning
Watering is a big chore, even more so when you have to do one plant at a time. Group plants with like watering needs in hydrozones, so you can set a sprinkler on a timer and walk away without worrying.
7. Prune at the Right Time
Different plants require different pruning times, so check each plant’s needs. The exception is when you need to remove diseased or broken limbs to avoid further harm to the plant or its neighbors.
8. Don’t Neglect the Lawn
If your lawn is a focal point of your yard, then keeping it healthy is important. Water, fertilize and mow at times specified by your particular grass type or mix. Remember that grasses, like plants, have different needs, so respect them. Before summer heat hits, give your lawn a final mow, then let it go dormant until fall.
9. Rotate Seasonal Specimens
A pop of color can brighten any yard. Try pansies in spring, cosmos in summer and chrysanthemums in fall for fresh seasonal appeal.
10. Try Color-Blocking
Although usually the term “color-block” is used derogatorily, in the garden it can actually work quite well. Choose a color or even a range – say, from light orange to cinnamon red – and group them together in organic drifts of color. Stand back and admire the effect, then see if you need to add a splash of off-theme color, like a bright purple or a yellow to really bring out the warmth of the main hues.