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Don't Get Caught Doing These Things in Your Yard

by Shari Smith

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Whoa! I'm not talking about planting skunkweed or doing a nude rain dance in your yard! I'm talking about those budget busting habits that can drain your wallet faster than a nest of termites can chew through a woodpile. Here are 10 things you definitely don't want to get caught doing in your yard this summer.

  1. Buy the cheapest grass seed you can find. This is counter-productive if you don't also check that the seed will grow well in your yard. Know the zone you're in and shop accordingly. Sometimes buying the more expensive seed is cheaper in the long run.
  2. Pay big bucks for weed killer. Besides dousing your lawn with enough chemicals to create your own mini science experiment, most weed killers do a poor job. Instead, buy a dandelion digger for about $5 and go to work digging up the individual weeds. If you do it once in the spring and occasionally throughout the season, the weeds will leave your lawn alone.
  3. Pick a mower by how many clippings it can hold; the bigger the better. Instead, go for a mulching mower. The decomposing clippings help add nitrogen back to the soil.
  4. Spend a lot of money on fertilizer for your lawn. Most cities have a free soil and fertilizer giveaway, usually in the spring and fall. Check with your public works department. Or you could start your own compost pile and make your own organic fertilizer for free!
  5. Don't waste time and money mulching your garden and flower beds. Mulching actually saves time by suppressing the weeds, holding moisture in, and enriching the soil as it deteriorates. You can also get one pickup load free, if your city gives away free mulch.
  6. Water your lawn every day. Too much water is just as detrimental as too little, besides running up a huge water bill. Test the soil first. If it is hard and crumbly, it's time to water. Better yet, set up rain barrels under your gutters to catch the rain. It's free and better for your garden and grass.
  7. Fill every bare spot in your yard with expensive new plants. Start a sharing program with your neighbors. You can divide the irises that are taking over your yard and she can give you some of her prolific lilies. Hosta plants are another type that need to be divided and are great for sharing.
  8. Need a fence? Go with the biggest ad in the yellow pages. No! First, decide what kind of fence you want. Get ideas by driving around the neighborhood. Then get at least three bids, comparing price as well as companies. Only hire companies with licenses and references. Don't ever pay for the whole job upfront. Instead, pay a deposit as necessary but keep at least half of the payment for when the job is completely done to your satisfaction.
  9. Trimming bushes and trees stunts their growth. On the contrary, trimming about a 1/2" will encourage growth and fullness. You can get free gardening advice at Lowe's or other home improvement centers.
  10. Mow every day. If you want a healthy lawn, experts say to let it grow to about 3" and cut off about 1" at a time. This keeps the blades of grass stronger and provides more shade for the roots. Keep your mower blade sharp to get even cuts. It only costs about $3 to sharpen them at a hardware store or your local small engine repair shop.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to maintain a nice yard, but you don't want to spend all your money on it, either. Get outside and enjoy your yard, but don't get caught doing these 10 things!

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