Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Given the amount of time we spend inside our homes, it’s no surprise it’s where we spend the bulk of our remodeling dollars. But neglecting your home’s exterior can leave it looking tired and rundown. Here are four projects that will boost your home’s curb appeal and ensure the outside of your home looks as good as the inside.

Liven Up Your Landscaping

Brown spots in your lawn, overgrown shrubs and worn-out mulch do a lot to make your house look more worn down that it actually is. If you’re ready to spruce up your landscaping, you’ll want to do so in the spring or fall when the temps are relatively cool, especially if you’re planning on laying sod or planting new trees or shrubs. While you’re planning your project, be sure to take a look at the grade surrounding your home. Over time, it can become compacted and slope towards your house. If that happens, water will will flow towards your foundation instead from away from it, putting your home’s foundation at risk.

Before you do any planting, take care of those brown spots in your lawn. A lush, green lawn might look simple, but it gives your exterior a clean, attractive appearance. You may want to fertilize or seed your lawn depending on how healthy your grass is already. Total lawn seeding costs, on average, a bit over $700, but if you’re only working on rough patches you won’t spend that much. To do more extensive landscaping, you can expect to spend between $1,600 and $5,000 depending on the total area and whether you want part of it to be covered with grass, which is cheaper.

Touch It Up

Your home’s exterior paint should last about 15 years, but over time, it will begin to chip and peel. Left untouched, your siding could start to rot, mold or warp. Thankfully, a little preventative maintenance can help stave off any costly siding repairs. If you notice chipping or peeling paint, it’s time to breakout the sandpaper, primer, paint and paintbrushes. Most of the time, it’s a project that you can knock out in an afternoon. However, it could be that your project involves more work than you have time to put in. If that’s the case, now is a good time to start talking to pros. Pro Tip: Pressure washing your home each spring removes dirt and can help prevent mold and mildew infestations.

Even if your siding is in need of repair, thankfully it’s not an expensive project. The average homeowner only spends $575 on siding repair, and unless your siding is seriously rotten, you won’t need to replace it entirely. A new coat of paint will freshen up that newly repaired siding, leaving more of your budget for other exterior areas that need attention.

Repair Your Roofing and Gutters

Missing shingles and sagging gutters do more than make your home look shoddy; they can cause seriously spendy problems. Water takes the path of least resistance and exploits any crack, gap or hole it can find. Left unrepaired, the damage can quickly make its way down to your sub roofing, or, in the case of damaged gutters, down to your foundation. If you notice that your gutters are having trouble moving water away from your foundation, or if it’s been a while since you’ve had your roof inspected, it’s a good idea to have a roofing pro stop by for an inspection.

The average cost to have your roof inspected is $230, and if there is damage you can’t see, it’ll be worth every penny. Do it before the damage is too extensive. It’s only about $650 to have your roof repaired, but it can cost $6,500 or more to have a new roof installed.

Fantastic Fencing

Has your fence seen better days? If so, taking the time to fix it now could prevent you from having to replace the whole thing down the road. In many cases, all you’ll need to do is pressure wash it, replace missing or damaged boards, and throw on a fresh coat of stain or paint. Unless it’s really worse for wear, you should be able to tackle the project in a weekend. Don’t have a fence? Now’s the perfect time to start gathering estimates from at least three pros.

If all you’re doing is staining or painting your fence, you probably won’t spend much more than $100 if you do it yourself. When installing a fence, you must take into account the length you need and what materials you’d like. Don’t install a chain link fence; it won’t do anything to help your curb appeal. Wood and vinyl both look nice, with wood costing an average of $2,500 and vinyl, $3,500.

Dress up Your Windows

Old shutters, metal gratings and decaying flower boxes give your home’s exterior a sad, neglected air. Remove the old window dressings and replace them with something new and stylish. You may prefer wood shutters, stylish awnings or simply a fresh coat of paint. Choose whatever looks nice with the style of your home (for example, the classic look shutters provide doesn’t always match ultra-modern exteriors.)

New exterior shutters will cost you, on average, just under $1,600, though the project can range anywhere from $700 to $2,500. Assuming your windows are a standard size, vinyl shutters will be, on average, $100 to $250 cheaper than wood shutters per window. However, vinyl shutters come in many styles and colors and often look just like wood unless you get very close.

It’s All About Borders

Make your driveway and front path inviting by creating borders up their lengths. Stone edging, flowers and outdoor path lights are all great options. As always, you want to match your borders with the rest of your exterior decor. Path lighting, for example, looks beautiful if you have manicured landscaping, but won’t work if hedges already border your driveway and walkways. Stone borders, on the other hand, look beautiful with concrete driveways but may get lost if you have gravel.

Belgium block is one of the most popular edging materials. A 4x4x4 inch cube usually costs $3, while longer options typically cost between $3 and $7. You’ll have to measure your driveway or garden path to determine how many blocks you need and how much it will cost you. Don’t forget to multiply by two to account for both sides. A project like this will probably cost just under $2,000. Path lights have a greater variation in cost. Small solar-powered lights that you stick into the ground may only cost you $15 a light, while if you install an electric path lighting system, it can reach almost $5,000.

Focus on the Front Door

The front door is the centerpiece of your house’s exterior. A beautiful wood front door with glass paneling and an old-fashioned knocker evokes a welcoming ambience, whereas an old storm door with a torn screen and a broken latch feels dilapidated. Your front door reflects your style as a homeowner; you may go for a boldly painted front door, a glass storm door or a vintage option with beautiful patterned glass.

Since front doors are much heavier than interior doors, unless you’re good at DIY, call a professional to install your front door. A door made of aluminum may cost you as low as $200while a high-quality front door with patterned glass made of mahogany can run anywhere between $600 and $2,000 or more. Shoot for somewhere in the middle: get a good-quality door with the kind of paneling and windows you want, then paint or refinish it yourself, and dress it up with a stylish knocker and frame it with sconce lights.

Learn More About Organic Home Gardening Tips

Are you wondering how to grow organically? People all over the United States are getting involved in organic gardening so they can provide safe, healthy, low-cost food to their family. Gardening for delicious organic food is happening everywhere from backyards in Florida to window boxes in Maine. To get started, however, it’s a good idea to start by answering the question, “exactly what is the organic way of gardening?” While many people have different ideas about this, a basic definition is easy to agree on: It’s a form of gardening that does not allow the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. While this is a very rewarding approach to growing plants, it can also be quite challenging!

Pesticides

There are a limited number of pesticides permitted in organic gardens, but without artificial chemicals to rely on, would-be organic gardeners need to learn the ins and outs of cultivating an entire ecosystem that will naturally support their plants. This requires them to learn a lot about their crops, the soil they have available, and possible pests that could harm their crops. It all begins with choosing the right seeds for your vegetable patch. Some of the easiest crops to grow organically include mainstays like tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and strawberries, though of course, you should choose crops that will flourish in your climate and soil type. Companion planting can be a smart way to optimize the use of your space, but knowing what to plant and when is also key. For instance, clover, oats, and buckwheat flourish in the summer, while many beans and peas prefer winter.

Preventing Weeds & Insects

When you’re considering how to start an organic garden, you need to give consideration to insects and weeds that could prove problematic. That starts with learning about organic pest control and removal and discovering which garden insects tend to be helpful. In organic gardening, it’s impossible to completely eliminate pests and plant diseases, but you can go a long way toward minimizing problems by encouraging beneficial insects that prey on pests. How do you do it? Incorporate plants that produce the pollen and nectar that these insects crave. If you’re finding that pests are gaining the upper hand, you can actually purchase eggs or larvae for many beneficial insects from your local specialty gardening shop. It may still take a few weeks before you notice a difference, but the end results are well worth it!

Weeds can be a serious issue in organic gardening. Rotation, mulching, and weeding can all help protect your plants from harm. Some good mulching materials include compost, wood chips, pine needles, grass clippings, shredded leaves, and aged sawdust. In small amounts, black plastic or clear plastic can also be used to keep weeds at bay. Crop rotation of different plant families will improve the soil’s ability to maintain growth: Switch between members of the lily family, squash family, carrot family, beet family, and cabbage-mustard family regularly for best results. Intercropping can also help: For example, pair shade-tolerant plants under those that love sunlight, fast growers with slower growers, and those with deep root systems alongside those with shallow roots to maximize your yield.

Over-Wintering

Virtually any organic gardener will eventually have to make plans for over-wintering. Over-wintering can be tough at first, but with a little bit of experience, you’ll be able to get better and more efficient results. In an organic ecosystem, the soil needs to be protected during the winter or its ability to support crops in warmer seasons will be compromised. Many gardeners turn to burlap as a lower “guard layer” for the soil, piling mulch made from garden debris on top. Throughout the winter, it’s important to check the soil for moisture, which might indicate whether the burlap is improperly placed.

Conclusion

Now you know the basics for getting started in organic gardening, but there is always more to learn, and plenty of people are eager to share their knowledge with those who are just starting out. Try the USDA’s tips for organic gardens, or read advice from expert organic gardeners. Some colleges even offer advice for those looking to get their feet wet in the world of organic gardening. No matter what your gardening approach, you should have aim to fun and remember to allow yourself the time and the freedom to make mistakes while you learn the ropes. Within just a few growing seasons, you could find yourself with several pounds of delicious, nutrient-rich organic food every time it’s harvest time around your home!

Learn More About The Basics of Landscaping

So you have a yard, and that’s great, but do you have landscaping? Landscaping is different from the grass in your yard, no matter how much time you have spent mowing and tending to it. Many young people move into their first home and don’t have a good idea about how to manage their yard, and with new suburban homes, they don’t really know how to go about getting proper landscaping for their particular home. The best thing to do is to get back to the basics and start learning it from the ground up (no pun intended).

It All Starts with Soil

Depending on where you live in the world, your soil can be heavily acidic or alkaline. The soil can also have large amounts of clay or iron. The point is no matter what landscaping or grass you are planning on growing, your soil has to cooperate. In order for your soil to work as well as possible, you need to have it tested. Your soil might be perfect or it might just need some nitrogen. Soil engineers can test and analyze soil from different points in your yard to help your yard perform at its best. The cost for this averages about $800.

Utility of Landscaping

What you need to understand about landscaping is that it serves more than just an artistic or aesthetic purpose. It is functional outdoor art, but it can also serve as a vehicle for privacy. Landscaping can exist to attract certain insects or birds to your home. It can also be used to cover up your foundation that sticks out from the bottom of your siding, among other things.

Good landscape architects and landscape designers are trained to utilize your yard for whatever end you desire (security, privacy, etc) with a design that is pleasing to the eye and to the neighborhood.

So think about what you are trying to accomplish with your landscaping. If you are interested in attracting butterflies or keeping neighbors from peering in, keep this in mind so that your architect or designer creates something that can serve this dual purpose.

Maintaining Your Landscape

After you have had your landscaping designed and installed, there is an issue of maintenance. You will either need to maintain your yard yourself or you can hire a landscaper to do it for you. Either way, early spring through early fall, there will be steady work to keep up with the Jones’s. But it is good work. You will be outside, sweating, and getting your hands dirty trying to get that green thumb.

Gardening Guide for Your Family

Home gardening is a great opportunity to teach your children more about nature and the world around them. You can start with a plot in the backyard, window boxes or containers, depending on what you want to grow. Don’t worry about making the garden look perfect — this is a learning experience for your children and you. Make sure you invest in tools the children can use safely before embarking on a family garden, so they can participate in the day-to-day care of the garden, too! Also consult them on what they want to grow so they feel they have a part in the process. That way everyone feels they have a piece of the garden that belongs to them. Here is more information on how to start your family home garden:

  • Basics of Gardening
  • Family Gardening
  • Gardening for Kids
  • Garden Resources
  • How To Grow A School Garden
  • How To Plant A Garden
  • Kitchen Gardening 101
  • My First Garden

Vegetable Guide

Homegrown vegetables often have more nutrients and cost less than what you’ll pay to buy them in local produce stores. It’s also more wholesome and gives you a chance to teach children about how they get food from the garden to the table. It’s a chance to do a daily outdoor chore as a family, watching the plants go from seeds to fully-shaped plants.

  • How to Guide
  • Vegetable Gardening for Beginners
  • Very Basics of Vegetable Gardening

How to Grow:

  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots, Beets, and Radishes
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Loose Leaf Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Corn
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tomatoes (Indoors)
  • Vine Crops
  • Zucchini

Fruit Guide

Similar to growing vegetables, you will save time and money by investing in fruit plants. Make sure you check to see which fruit plants will thrive in your area. Citrus plants, for example, do best in tropical climates like Florida and California. If you live in areas that have four season and cold winters, you will likely have a hard time growing oranges. However, there are a wide variety of other fruits you can grow in different locations.

  • Growing Fruits in Your Garden
  • Grow Your own Fruit
  • How to Grow Fruits

How to Grow:

  • Apple Trees
  • Apricots
  • Blackberry Bushes
  • Cherries
  • Citrus Trees
  • Grapes
  • Peaches and Nectarines
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries and Blackberries
  • Strawberries

Herb Guide

For cooking enthusiasts, purchasing herbs can be expensive. Rather than making continuous trips to the grocery store, why not growing some of your own? Basil, parsley, chive — you have almost limitless options of what herbs you can grow in the backyard. This is also a chance to teach children a bit about cooking, how spices and herbs add flavor to some of their favorite foods. If you haven’t grown any herbs before, it’s a learning experience for you, too.

  • Growing Herbs Indoors
  • Herb Gardening for Beginners
  • How To Grow Herbs

How to Grow:

  • Chive
  • Dill
  • French Tarragon
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage

Diagnose and Deal With Common Lawn Problems

All you have to do to obtain a lush, green, and beautiful lawn that is the envy of all your neighbors is to keep it trimmed and water it on a regular basis, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. Once you have your turf established, fungi, lack of sunlight, pests, and even the beloved family dog can plague your lawn with dry spots, brown areas, and dead places that seem like they are almost impossible to get rid of. Here are eight common lawn problems, what causes them, and what you can to do overcome them to achieve a lawn that will be the talk of your street.

Problem: White Grubs

White grubs are pesky little critters that may be responsible for your lawn looking sparse in certain areas. You may have a white grub problem if you notice the following symptoms:

  • Beetle larvae have started to feed on the roots of your grass
  • Your lawn suffers the most in the fall
  • The dead areas of your lawn roll away easily, like carpet
  • Skunks, armadillos, and gophers make an appearance in your yard to feed on these grubs on a regular basis

If you think that white grubs are responsible for the dry and dead patches in your lawn, taking care of the problem is easy. All you have to do is apply an Imidacloprid at the end of spring or the beginning of summer to enjoy a beautiful lawn throughout the year.

Problem: Fungus Disease

Fungus isn’t just a problem that lurks in the gym bags and lockers of athletes; it’s also an issue that can cause serious issues with your lawn. Fungus may be taking over your lawn if you notice that dead spots appear in your yard almost overnight and expand at a rapid pace.

Luckily, most fungal diseases can be mitigated by adjusting your watering routines or fertilization methods. For example, you may find that your lawn becomes fungus-free if you water less or fertilize at different times of the day. If you think that applying a fungicide is your only remaining option, consult with a nurseryman in your area.

Problem: Sod Webworm

If dead spots pop up arbitrarily throughout your yard, your lawn may be infested by sod webworms. To confirm this diagnosis, soak a small patch of your lawn with a solution of soapy water. After about ten minutes, you should start to see these little worms come to the surface.

Getting rid of these little worms may take a little bit of effort. To start, aerate your lawn to reduce the amount of thatch and then apply a pesticide. If you’re not sure which pesticide to go with, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has been known to be an effective way to control these worms.

Problem: Dog Damage

Although you love your dog, you might not love what it does to your lawn. If your dog has a favorite place to go to the bathroom outside on your lawn, this area may start to dry out thanks to its excrement. While it’s more difficult than it sounds, the best way to keep these small dry spots from taking over your lawn is to keep your dog away from them. Once you’ve done this, soak these areas with a hose on a regular basis and your lawn should get back to its uniform, green appearance in just a few weeks.

Problem: A Striped Lawn

Stripes are great on clothing and accessories, but they don’t make such a hot statement on your lawn. If you notice that your lawn has strips of dark green turf and other long strips that are yellow and dried out, this is a result of uneven fertilizer application.

To remedy the issue, the next time you’re out applying fertilizer, make sure that you are overlapping your tracks with the spreader. However, if these stripes appear to be more tan than yellow, the issue may reside with your lawn mower. Adjust your lawn mower to cut more evenly and you’ll likely find that the striping problem disappears over time. Investing in a professional lawn mowing is often an affordable way to get issues fixed and catch the ear of a professional who can advise on how to prevent future lawn problems.

Problem: Dry Spots

Dry spots occur when one area of your lawn dries out before other parts. Often, these patches are caused by:

  • Compacted soil that prohibits grass roots from fully developing
  • People walking repeatedly on your lawn
  • A clogged or broken sprinkler system

To eradicate dry spots throughout your lawn, aerate it on an annual basis for $50 to $200. If this doesn’t help, watch your sprinklers when they run and adjust or repair them as necessary.

Problem: Thin Grass

Your lawn needs plenty of sunlight to survive. However, even in the shade, your grass should still be fairly dense. If you find that moss grows just fine in shady areas but your grass suffers, prune the trees or bushes — which could cost between $200 and $665 per tree — and aerate the space instead of watering it. If this doesn’t remedy the issue, you may need to switch to a different type of grass, like fine fescue, that is more tolerant of shade.

Problem: Chinch Bugs

Tiny insects, known as chinch bugs, suck the juice from blades of grass and cause spots that turn yellow and then eventually fade into a brownish color. If you have a St. Augustine lawn, you may be particularly at risk for a chinch bug infestation.

Like other lawn-infesting insects, it may take some time and effort to clear these critters away completely. Typically, aerating your lawn and applying an appropriately labelled pesticide can control their presence so that your lawn can thrive.

Remember, if you neglect your lawn during the spring or the fall and fail to figure out what may be causing the unsightly spots in your yard, you could end up paying for it for the rest of the year. Although identifying the exact cause of your lawn care woes and finding a solution that works may take a few cases of trial and error, it will be well worth it when you can confidently exclaim that your lawn is the best looking one in your neighborhood.

Know More About Gardening at Home with Kids

If you like digging in the dirt, you might enjoy gardening, too. Growing a garden with your kids will help you learn about plants. You might grow flowers or vegetables in your yard or inside your home in containers. As you work to take care of your plants, you will need to make sure they get water and sun to grow.

Gardening Basics

To grow a garden, you will need space for planting, seeds or plants, and tools. An adult can help you work in a garden. Adults can also teach you about caring for plants. Always handle tools carefully with an adult’s supervision so you don’t get hurt.

  • Gardening With Children and Youth: Dig in the dirt to grow different flowers and vegetables.
  • Garden Safety for Kids Part 2: Using Tools and Preventing Injury: Use tools for gardening carefully.
  • Gardening for Kids: People of all ages and abilities can have fun gardening.
  • Gardening Ideas for Children with Special Needs: Choose a special gardening project to grow plants.
  • Children in the Garden: Vegetables often grow quickly, so you can see what you planted.
  • Got Dirt? You don’t need a big space for growing.
  • Build a Bean Tower: A bean tower will support bean plants as they grow.
  • Gardening With Young Children: Dig in! Garden in the spring with an adult to grow plants.
  • Child Safety in the Garden: Stay safe in the garden by using tools carefully.

Vegetable Gardens

Grow food for your family with a vegetable garden. Vegetable gardens can be any size, even as small as a container or two. Plant vegetables that you like or want to eat. You can then watch as they grow and develop into food that is ready to eat.

  • Let’s Get Growing in Containers: Grow vegetables in containers if you don’t have room in your yard.
  • Kids Thrive with Vegetable Gardening: Growing vegetables might make you healthier because you can eat what you grow.
  • Benefits of Growing Your Own Fruits and Vegetables: Planting a vegetable garden can give you exercise.
  • Gardening Grows Healthy Kids: Start a small vegetable garden to grow vegetables.
  • Kids in the Garden: Nutritious and Fun: Start a garden by planning the vegetables you will grow and planting the seeds.
  • Growing Healthy Kids With Gardening: Lots of people have fun digging in the dirt.
  • Appetite for Change: Teaching Kids About Organics and Gardening: Learn about organic gardening by planting an organic garden.
  • Benefits of Gardening for Children: Learn how to take care of the earth by planting a garden.
  • Edible Gardens: An edible garden has plants you can eat.
  • Gardening With Kids: Planning a garden can be exciting as you choose the plants you want to grow.
  • Planting Pizza: A pizza garden has plants you need to make pizza, such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, and basil.

Flower Gardens

If you like colorful flowers, try growing some in your own garden. Flowers might bloom for one season only, or they could come back every year. Some flowers like the sun, and others like to grow in shady spots. Choose flowers in colors you like, and have fun tending them in your yard. If you need to, consult with a gardening contractor on which ones will thrive best in your climate.

  • Keeping Kids Safe in the Flower Garden: Working in the garden can be fun, but stay safe as you use tools.
  • My First Garden: Growing a flower garden involves different tasks.
  • Garden Themes for Kids: Plan an ABC garden with flowers beginning with different letters of the alphabet.
  • Childhood in the Garden: Spending time in a flower garden can teach you about flowers.
  • Butterfly Garden Activities Stir Children’s Sense of Wonder: Plant a butterfly garden with colorful flowers.
  • Anthurium, Flamingo Flower: Some flowers have unusual names, such as the flamingo flower.
  • Kid-Friendly Flower Guide: Learn about different kinds of flowers so you can choose the ones you want to plant.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?: Start with a little garden so you can learn how to grow plants.
  • Plants for Kids: Understand how plants grow and then tend them in a garden.
  • Exploring Flowers: Learn about flowers by observing how they grow.
  • The Sunflower is a Sun Flower: Sunflowers grow quickly into tall, colorful flowers.

Gardening Projects

Projects help you learn about gardening. You can even work on gardening projects during the winter. Try different projects, such as growing plants inside your home or growing a garden with a theme. An adult can help you plan a gardening project.

  • Victory Garden Project: During World War II, families planted victory gardens for extra food.
  • Flora Explorers: Discovering the Structures and Needs of Plants: Learn about the things plants need to grow.
  • Make Your Own Herbarium: Make a herbarium out of dried leaves from herb plants.
  • Winter Garden Projects Can Be Fun, Too: Try gardening projects over the winter, such as a windowsill garden.
  • Forcing Bulbs for Indoor Beauty in Winter: Plant flower bulbs inside during the winter so they will bloom.
  • Easy Water-Wise Gardening: Plant a garden full of plants that don’t need lots of water to thrive.
  • The Value of Soil: An apple can teach you about the earth and its soil.
  • Traveling Seeds: Plants spread to different places by seeds that travel on the wind or on clothing.
  • Vegetable Gardening in Containers: Learn how to grow vegetable plants in containers on a porch or deck.
  • Watering Container Gardens: Keep your plants growing in containers healthy with lots of water.
  • Teaching Your Kids to Garden with Garbage: Learn how to turn garbage into compost to feed your plants.

All About Lay Sod

Sod offers a fast and easy way for you to create a new lawn or rehabilitate a scraggly one. While growing grass from seed takes months of time and ongoing care, a newly sodded lawn typically takes a little longer than an hour to install (depending on the square footage of your yard) and about three weeks to become established enough to use. One of the biggest benefits is the nearly instant greenery that transforms the landscape of your home, which can give the home’s value a boost of 15% to 20%, while making your house a more attractive option for buyers with kids or pets.

In addition to the fast installation, sod also uses less water and it can be installed at almost any time of the year as long as the ground isn’t frozen. Laying sod also controls erosion from day one because the grass is already fully mature. Although many homeowners may mistakenly believe that laying sod is a complicated project, it can be completed as a DIY job, which saves a significant amount of money. The key to success is careful preparation of the soil in the area; after much of the prep work is done, letting your sod establish itself is a relatively hands-off process that reaps beautiful rewards.

On This Page:

  1. Soil Preparation
  2. Soil Testing Kits
  3. Scheduling Delivery
  4. How to Lay Sod
    • Common Mistakes
  5. Sod Types
  6. Hiring a Pro For Some or Part of the Job
  7. FAQs

Soil Preparation

Good soil is key to your sod-laying success. Taking the time to assess your soil and create an optimal growing environment has numerous benefits, including:

  • Denser sod
  • More uniform sod
  • A more forgiving lawn that can withstand wear and tear from pets and kids
  • Less reliance on water and chemicals
  • Less necessary maintenance

This type of turf likes well-aerated soil that’s rich in nutrients and has a pH that measures between 6.0 and 6.5. It also prefers prefers sandy loam, loamy sand and loam soil, and it doesn’t grow as well on clay soils. If your soil does have a higher percentage of clay, you can add sand when aerating to create a mixture that’s loose enough for the sod to establish its root structure.

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Soil Testing Kits

Buy a soil testing kit from your local nursery, garden center or online to test your soil’s pH. If it’s alkaline, meaning soils that read 7.5 or higher, add gypsum or sulfur to acidify the soil. If the soil is very acidic, with a pH lower than 6.0, adding lime can raise the pH to optimal levels. Before adding anything to the soil, consult a garden center to get detailed instructions on the best product for your soil and the ideal application methods. Local stores may be more familiar with the common types of soil in your area and the necessary remedies to make it more sod-friendly.

Area Prep Steps

Approximately two months before you plan to lay the sod, begin preparing the site. Clear the area of any rocks, stumps, debris or building materials such as cement or bricks. If possible, grade the area so that it slopes away from buildings to prevent flooding near the foundations. Top the area with 2 to 4 inches of topsoil before working 4 to 6 inches of composted organic matter into the soil and leveling it off with a rake.

Apply a high-phosphorus starter fertilizer and work it into the top 4 inches of soil. Finish by walking over the prepared ground on your heels, first in one direction and then again working right angles in the opposite direction. Alternatively, use a lawn roller that’s filled one-third of the way full with water to settle the area’s surface and to make it easy to see any low areas that need to be filled in to create a completely level patch of land. Water the planting area thoroughly to add moisture and help the soil settle.

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Scheduling Delivery

Grab a measuring tape to measure the area you plan to sod. Before you start measuring the area, sketch your future lawn dimensions on a piece of paper and include any unusual features. Measure the length and width and note the measurements on your sketch so you can refer to it when you order the sod. Add approximately 5% to the actual measurement of your yard to provide enough leeway for cutting around any curved areas.

Where you buy the sod depends mostly on where you live. If you live near a sod farm, that’s an ideal spot. Alternatively, you can order through your local garden center. If you have the option, inspect the sod before you buy it to make sure it’s free of disease and weeds, and let the company you order through know about the sun exposure levels of your yard. For best results, you want your sod to be very fresh. Ideally, you should have your delivery within 24 hours of the sod being cut, and you should lay it on the same day if possible. Because of the time-sensitive nature of this project, you need to have the area fully prepped and ready to go when you receive delivery.

A Step by Step Guide to Laying Sod

  1. Moisten the soil in the prepared area right before you begin laying the sod. Start by finding the straightest edge and unrolling the sod to create the first row. Press the ends and edges of the pieces together as you lay the rows so that you eliminate gaps and overlaps without stretching. Cut and trim corners as necessary.

Tip: If the weather is hot on the day of your project, stack the unlaid sod in a shady area and cover it with moist burlap to prevent it from drying out while you work or until it’s cool enough in the day to begin the installation process.

  1. Continue laying the whole pieces one at a time, positioning them end to end against the edge of the previous row and staggering the joints similarly to how a brick wall is arranged. Avoid walking on the turf while you work, and smooth any wrinkles as you go. As you lay each piece, pat it gently into place to get rid of any air pockets.
  2. Avoid arranging small pieces of sod at the edges of the new lawn, where there’s a greater chance that they’ll dry out. Lay them in the middle of the area before scattering sandy loam into the joints to fill in any gaps.
  3. Begin watering your new lawn within 30 minutes of laying it. Water it well by saturating at least an inch of soil below the sod.
  4. Water every day for the first week to keep it moist while it becomes established. Starting in the second week, water every other day to encourage deep rooting. By the third week, water twice a week. Beginning in the fourth week, make sure the sod receives one inch of water every week by rainfall or supplemental irrigation.
  5. Once the sod grows 3 inches high and at least 10 days have passed, you can begin mowing the grass. Use a walk-behind mower with a bag to catch the clippings.
  6. Fertilize the grass with a starter fertilizer after it’s been growing for four weeks.

Common Mistakes

Failing to choose sod that grows well in their area is one of the many mistakes that homeowners make when they DIY. For example, if you have a sun-loving sod that you plant in a shady yard, you’re setting your lawn up for failure from the beginning. Other common mistakes include the following:

  • Not preparing the soil properly. Without the right pH balance, nutrient levels and cultivation processes, you risk failure. Once the grass starts growing, there’s not much you can do to improve the soil.
  • Overlapping the pieces. Many homeowners overlap sod pieces without realizing that this creates an uneven lawn.
  • Failing to pat the sod down. All areas of your sod should have direct contact with the soil so that the sod grows deep enough roots.
  • Failing to maintain the sod properly. Water immediately, and then regularly thereafter to give it the moisture it needs to grow strong and healthy.

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Sod Types

Sod typically contains a mix to two to three turf grasses that growers choose based on their texture, vigor and color. Some of the most common grasses used include the following. The cost figures are based on 450 square feet of sod and the recommended extra 20%.

  • Zoysia grows deep, vigorous roots, which makes it a hardy addition to the mix. It requires minimal watering and mowing compared to other grasses, and it provides a thick, lush feel. Costs range from $169 for economy grade to $370 for high grade.
  • Bermuda grass is rugged, with a dense, low-growth pattern. Costs range from $170 for economy-grade to $375 for high grade.
  • St. Augustine grass is prized for its heat tolerance and plush feel. Costs range from $146 to $320.
  • Fescue grass has a coarse texture, durable nature and fine blades. It performs well for erosion control and typically costs between $132 and $300.

Should You Hire a Pro?

Landscapers often charge by the square foot for this job, with prices that range from $2,200 to $4,000 on average, depending on the size of the area and cost of the sod. Professionals have experience in laying sod and preparing the area. This might be the best option if you have a steep slope or numerous curves that make laying more challenging. Professionals also know how to grade the ground in the planting area for optimal drainage and lay the sod to hide the seams between pieces. In general, a complete installation job done by a pro can include preparing the area by removing old lawn or garden beds, expanding or redesigning the new lawn shape, prepping the soil with an appropriate mixture for your area, grading the ground for drainage and finally installing the sod.

Full DIY Option

To do this as a full DIY, you need to take the time to prepare the area, research the right types of sod to choose and the most reputable company or grower to buy it from. For example, some grasses, such as St. Augustine, thrive in hot climates while others, such as fescue, thrive in cooler climates. It also takes a significant amount of time to properly prepare the soil. It could take even longer if you need to adjust the soil’s pH.

In all, most homeowners spend between $421 and $670 to do this as a DIY project. Unless you have the necessary equipment, you also need to rent or buy the tools needed to prepare the area and lay the sod correctly. Examples include:

  • Rototiller: $80 per day rental
  • Sod cutter: $80 per day rental
  • A shovel for $10 to $20
  • Soil test kit for $14 to $15
  • Hand tamper for $35

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Hiring a Pro for Some Parts of the Job

Get the best of options, try a mix of doing part of it as a DIY, and hiring a pro for the rest. For example, you could get a pro to prep the planting area so it’s ready to go when you have time to install the sod strips yourself. Alternatively, you could prep the area and let a pro install. Both partial DIY options save considerable money and time on part of the job, while providing the peace of mind of having a professional oversee a portion of the work. Partial DIY options typically cost an average of $500 for the professional work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: I have a 500 square-foot area. How long will it take to install sod?
Answer: For this amount of space, you can expect to work for between 60 and 90 minutes to lay out and arrange all the sod strips on your own.

Question: I can’t install all of the sod on the day it’s delivered. What should I do?
Answer: Unroll the sod and give it a good drink of water. Place it in the shade to prevent it from drying out. Keep it moist until you’re able to attend to the installation up to a day or two later.

Question: Is it hard to install sod?
Answer: The preparation process is more challenging than the actual installation. Simply unroll it, arrange the pieces with the ends and edges nestled together and water thoroughly. From there, the sod takes over its own growing process with a bit of routine maintenance every day and then every week on your part.

Question: When is the best time to lay sod?
Answer: Sod can be installed nearly year-round, with spring and fall being optimal because the seasons’ temperatures and general weather patterns protect the sod from scorching summer heat. Summer installation, while possible, requires more frequent watering to help the sod become established. During winter, the ground may be too hard for the sod to establish a deep enough root structure.

Question: What are signs of quality, fresh sod?
Answer: When you receive your sod, start by looking at the soil on the bottom, which should be moist. The blades of grass should feel cool to the touch and have a dark green color. Look for uniform texture and height. Check for strength by holding a piece up by the narrow end and raise it up. It shouldn’t fall apart or tear.

Question: Where can I find sod?
Answer: Sod farms are the best places to check first, so start by looking in the yellow pages for any local growers. Alternatively, local garden centers or nurseries often carry sod or have connections with nearby growers.

Perfect Outdoor Kitchen

Whether you’re lounging around the pool or telling stories around the fire pit, you love entertaining outdoors. So why wait? Now is the time to design and build that outdoor room you’ve dreamed about. But where do you start to make sure you have the best entertaining space? These tips will help you with project planning to ensure everything works together to make you “the host with the most.”

Picking the Spot

Ask a business owner or a real estate agent, and they’ll tell you that the saying, “location is everything” became a cliché for a reason: it’s true! And it’s no less important when placing your outdoor kitchen. The wrong spot can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, and it might even be dangerous.

Start by locating any utility lines, underground and overhead. A professional designer and builder knows how important this is, but it’s never a bad idea to reinforce it. You don’t want to cut into buried lines during the building process, nor do you want to build directly under an overhead power line that poses a risk every time you raise an umbrella. Find those lines and design with them in mind.

Next, consider the weather. You’ll have more fun in your outdoor kitchen if you locate it away from windy or overly sunny areas. Plan to build your space within natural windscreens and shade from your landscaping. Then install overhead covering and room sides to protect the rest of your kitchen from the elements that pose a challenge for comfort and cooking.

Another consideration is the orientation of your home and the view from inside. If you enjoy your view, don’t lose it by plopping an outdoor kitchen in front of it. Site the entertainment space where you and your guests can see the vista.

Traffic flow and the proximity to your indoor kitchen are also worth considering when planning where to place your outdoor kitchen. You’ll probably be carrying heavy platters of food and need to make several trips to get all items outdoors. Plan a spot that places the two kitchens conveniently close. But be sure that the proximity and placement of the outdoor appliances are oriented to prevent smoke from drifting indoors.

Siting the kitchen away from play areas is also a good idea if you don’t want a ball landing in the middle of your table.

Choose Function Over Form

Grill, rotisserie, oven, stovetop, brick oven, blender, wine cooler – there are so many choices, but, if you aren’t using them regularly, they’re needlessly taking up counter and cabinet space. Before going overboard on the appliances, ask yourself what you’re going to be cooking and what you’ll actually use. Go with the basics and add the extras as you go, when you’re ready to use them.

Generally, you’ll need a refrigerator, a grill or other cooking source, a sink, and a stovetop, along with storage space. Use the “golden triangle” for laying out the appliances: the stove/grill, refrigerator, and sink make the points on the triangle. Aim for each leg to be between 4 feet and 9 feet long, with the space around the whole triangle between 13 feet and 26 feet; this makes it more efficient for food prep and clean-up.

Beautifully embellished wood cabinetry make a bold statement in an indoor kitchen, but exposure to the elements make them impractical for outdoors. Instead, opt for stone, concrete, or steel countertops and cabinets. Not only to they give your kitchen a modern appearance, but they are durable and easy to clean. Floors are also an important consideration. Marble and slate are attractive, but they are also slick when wet. Choose flooring that are neither too smooth nor too rough – think “bare feet” – as well as those that will resist staining and absorbing grease from spilled foods. Investing in practical kitchen elements from the start of the build will render savings in upkeep down the road.

Keep It Social

It’s been said that the kitchen is the heart of the home; when you’re entertaining, guests often congregate in or near the kitchen to visit with the cook and with each other. Arrange your outdoor kitchen to allow for that, as well. Site your dining and lounging areas near enough that you can chat with guests while preparing the meal. That also makes it easier to get food to the table, as an extra benefit. Think about adding some stand-and-talk counters, about 42 inches tall, with a few bar stools, on one side of the cooking area.

Set the ambiance with good lighting. Add brighter lights to pathways, cooking areas, and activity areas, then go for adjustable lighting in the dining or lounging areas. Colored bulbs as accent lights also help to set the mood, but save them for areas where you don’t need more illumination to keep everyone safe and sound.

A large television designed for outdoor use is a great addition for some gatherings; turn your kitchen and lounge into an outdoor movie theater or mini sports arena. Add a sound system for background music or for amplifying the television’s sound. Add a large table that you can use for dining or for setting out a buffet, a fireplace or fire pit, an overhead fan or two, and some comfortable seating, and you’re ready to entertain.

Geological Exploration in Your Backyard

The world is a big place, and while many of us hope to explore it far and wide someday, most of us don’t have the luxury of traveling whenever and wherever we like. But what if you could study the planet we call home with a hands-on, close-up, fascinating hobby — and all from the comfort of your very own backyard?

Geological exploration can start right at home, no expertise required! This guide has everything you need to begin your backyard geology endeavor, from tools to resources for researching what’s native to your area. Whether you choose to take on this hobby yourself, with a partner, or with your child, it’s a unique, interesting opportunity to learn more about your surroundings and a terrific way to bond with another person. Best of all, you don’t even have to leave home to do it!

Why Geology “Rocks”

Knowing about local earth conditions can help you better plan improvements to your property.

  • If you want to add a pond to your backyard, knowing the kind of dirt you’ll be digging and building into is key.
  • Maybe you’ve always wanted to plant a large tree in your front yard, but aren’t sure which spots would be ideal or whether fertilization would be necessary.
  • Perhaps you’re interested in using rocks or boulders for natural landscaping, and want to use something native to your region.
  • Even making considerations for your children can call upon some geological knowledge.

Understanding the land you live on can also help you identify better ways to live. Learning about local geology will teach you the kinds of crops your area grows and when they’re in season, helping you shop smarter and fresher year-round. If you plan to start your own garden someday, you’ll know exactly the kinds of foods and flowers you can grow, and have valuable insight on helping them thrive. It could even help you shop smarter for clothes and footwear if you understand the kinds of terrain you’re up against!

Finally, picking up “rockhounding” is a great way to get your kids excited about science. It helps them understand basic concepts (like observation, examination, and cause and effect) in a more tangible way. They get to become scientists anytime they step into the backyard, and will likely become more observant of their surroundings in general. It encourages children to be more curious, ask questions, and seek out their own answers. Backyard geology also gives children an actual excuse to dig around in the dirt while still learning, which can encourage even the most skeptical of kids to at least give it a try.

 

Finding the Tools You’ll Need and Exploring (Without Destroying the Yard)

Yet another perk of becoming a rockhound is that most of the tools you need can be found right in your shed. To cover the basics, you’ll need:

  • Magnifying glass
  • Iron nail or paper clip
  • S. penny
  • Kitchen magnet
  • Vinegar
  • Small glass bottle or old drinking glass you won’t mind damaging
  • Small piece of unglazed ceramic or porcelain tile, or a coffee mug you won’t mind damaging
  • Sifting pan
  • Gardening shovel
  • Small notepad and pen
  • Table lighting or desk lamp
  • Microscope
  • Desk or worktable

If anyone has limited mobility in their hands, you can attach a wrist strap to magnifying glasses to make them easier to hold onto, and the penny can be swapped out for an old copper mug. For those with physical disabilities, make sure you to grab some old blankets, towels, or other cushioning to sit on while working. A beach or outdoor umbrella can also be a major aid in blocking out intense sun rays and keeping your work area cool during the hot summer months.

Before heading out, it’s helpful to do a little research to find out what kinds of rocks and minerals are commonly found in your area, as well as wildlife you may encounter. Your local park and recreational center may offer literature on the subject, but perhaps the easiest route is to do an internet search specific to your city or state. Be sure to also investigate any city laws about digging — especially regarding any native minerals — and remind yourself of the exact location of your home’s pipeline system. You likely won’t ever dig that deeply; nevertheless, it’s important to know exactly where everything is.

Once you have a good idea of what you’ll likely encounter, it’s time to head to the backyard!

  • Keep the weather in mind and prepare accordingly: hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essential for sunny days, and rain boots or hiking shoes will help you navigate rainy or wet days.
  • Keep your tools in a light, durable bag somewhere near the back door so it’s easy to access and ready to go. Include any rock and mineral identification guides specific to your area you’ve found
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of having a paper copy — you don’t want your electronic tablet spending too much time in the heat, and the possibility of dropping it on a hard surface is especially high when rockhounding.

 

  • Make sure your partner is aware of where you’ll begin your geological digging and exploration, especially if there is a garden or other accents to consider.
  • You might want to choose somewhere somewhat out of sight to begin; with time, you’ll learn exactly how the ground reacts to being disturbed and how to fix it, but it’s probably best to pick subtle spots in the meantime.
  • Your gardening shovel can help you break up the ground if you want to take soil samples to test, or to dig around specimens stuck in the dirt.
  • You can start by simply gathering loose stones that you see to examine more closely later, or you can use your tools to identify characteristics as you go. First, note the specimen’s color and general appearance. Be specific about the hue when assessing the color, as this can make an important difference. Pay attention to the weight of the stone and how it feels in your hand: is it sandy or smooth to the touch?

A single rock can be made up of any combination of all kinds of minerals, so outward appearance alone can’t definitively identify a stone or mineral. The next step is a streak test, in which case you’ll need your small tile or coffee mug. Swipe the stone across the tile and note the color. If the mineral you’ve discovered is harder than the tile, it will leave a scratch.

Assessing just how tough the stone is comes next. This is done using the Mohs Hardness Scale. First try scratching the stone with your fingernail — if you leave a mark, the rock is approximately 2.5 Mohs. The scale continues in the same manner for each of the following tools:

  • Penny = 3 Mohs
  • Glass = 5.5 Mohs
  • Porcelain (if the stone left a scratch instead of a streak) = 6.5 Mohs

The higher the Mohs, the harder the substance. And the harder a substance is, the more likely it is to be valuable. For your reference, diamonds are the hardest known substance scaling in at about 10 Mohs — just keep in mind you aren’t likely to come across diamonds in your backyard!

 

Photo via Pixabay

Checking for effervescence is another simple way to assess a specimen, and while the quality sounds complicated, all you really need in order to test is vinegar. You can pour a little bit of vinegar directly on the stone, ideally over where you’ve scratched it so lower layers may react. If you think the stone could be valuable and don’t want to risk damaging it with too much vinegar, you can instead scratch some powder off onto your glass surface to test instead.

Using a magnet to test the rock can help identify whether there may be iron mineral present, like magnetite or hematite. It can even help you identify a meteorite, though they’re typically very rare.

If you’re able to find much of a mineral all at once, or even clusters of crystals, the shapes, habits, and features will all be important. You might find it helpful to take photos or detailed notes of what you discover so you can investigate at length later, and some may even find it both helpful and cathartic to sketch their findings.

Keep a journal, sketchbook, or photo album to document your geological endeavors. Take note of weather and recent seasonal changes. You might even record the ways animals take refuge in various mineral formations around your backyard during certain parts of the year, whether as protection from heat, rain, cold, or predators.

Enjoy your hobby as often as you can, and take a travel kit so you can continue your geological exploration even away from home. Don’t hesitate to engage others in joining you. It can be a fun, educational way to spend a Saturday with the family or a unique way to spend time with a friend. You never know when you might stumble across something valuable, and the time spent together will always be priceless!

Garden Maintenance & Improvement

Keeping your garden healthy is not only a way to beautify your yard, it can actually add significant value to your home.

Whether you’re a green-thumbed newbie or have been gardening for years, it’s important to know how to maintain your plants in the most efficient and cost-effective ways. From regular upkeep to making additions, we’re here to guide you through the best garden maintenance and improvements.

General Garden Upkeep

Watering

It’s important to note that some areas have watering restrictions, as well as strict laws when it comes to watering during droughts. Enter your zip code here to see if your area is experiencing a drought  and check local watering guidelines for your city.

Although watering your garden probably seems like the most straightforward part of upkeep, there are actually a few things to keep in mind:

  • Stick to a watering schedule and try to water early in the morning when the ground is cool and the sun isn’t as bright.
  • You should water deeply at the base of the plant so the roots can easily access the water. Focusing on the leaves and upper foliage not only deprives the roots of nutrients, it can lead to fungus.
  • Trees and shrubs should receive direct watering about every 7-10 days.
  • Potted and other contained plants in general should be watered once a day. (Not sure if you’re overwatering? Try placing your finger into the soil up to your second knuckle. If it’s dry all the way through, it needs water.)

If you use a sprinkler system, use one with fixtures close to the ground instead of those that waste water by shooting it into the air where it mostly evaporates.

There are also a few watering tools you should use for the most effective hydration depending on what kind of garden you’re raising:

  • For vegetable gardens, use a soaker hose.
  • For annuals and perennials, use a watering wand.
  • For potted plants, use a watering can or wand.

Soil Testing

It’s important to ensure that you use the best possible soil for your garden and the best way to figure out where yours measures up is to perform a soil test. This will allow you to discover its pH level, how acidic (sometimes called “sour”) or alkaline (“sweet”) it is, and thus how easily your plants are able to pull nutrients from it. pH is measured on a scale from 1 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline), with 7 acting as the general neutral point around which most plants prefer.

You can find a soil testing kit at most gardening or home improvement stores. Within minutes of testing, you’ll learn both your soil’s pH and nutrient levels. Some will also tell you specifically what your soil is lacking, as well as how to fix the issue. Generally, overly-acidic soil can be remedied with lime and overly-alkaline soil calls for a sulfur-based conditioner.

Read and follow the kit instructions carefully. Most will have you take a soil sample, then add a designated chemical along with distilled water. After a designated amount of time (usually just a few minutes), you’ll use a color chart to evaluate your results. Newer gardeners may benefit from asking for a gardening buddy’s expertise for the first test to help assess both the results of the test and how to best fix any problems.

Fertilizing

There are a few choices to make when it comes to fertilizing. You can buy manmade plant food and fertilizer from your local gardening, home improvement, or even some grocery stores. Or if you prefer the all-natural route, you can opt to compost or buy organic fertilizer.

Fertilizer comes in a few different forms such as dry, liquid, slow-releasing and manure:

Dry fertilizer is used mainly as a way to improve the fertility of soil ready for planting, or for increasing the nutrients in well-established plants. It can be dispersed around developed shrubs and trees, or even to perennial beds.

Liquid fertilizer is often used with fruit and vegetable gardens, or for other plants simply in need of a nutrient boost. You can dilute it and add it to soil or compost, or add it to a spraying system to use as foliage feed.

Slow-release fertilizer is great for the gardener on the go: it feeds plants over an extended period of time and typically only requires a single application. You can mix it into compost or add it right to the soil to be absorbed.

Manure is one of the most basic, albeit probably the smelliest, forms of fertilizer and has some amazing benefits. Not only is it rich with nutrients, it also has the ability to improve the soil’s ability to retain water. Use it as a kind of mulching for developed gardens or add it to dug areas you’re preparing to plant.

No matter the form, don’t forget to always wear gloves when working with fertilizer!

Let your soil test help guide your decision as far as what nutrients you look for in a fertilizer. Pay close attention to the product’s instructions for how much and often to fertilize. Too little can lead to weak plant growth, while too much can cause soft, sappy shoot systems attractive to bugs and weak against colder conditions. If a plant seems to be struggling but you can’t figure out its deficiency on your own, talk to a local gardening specialist, even bringing in the plant if possible.

Weeding

The key to preventing and eliminating weeds is to understand how they work. Though their seeds spread easily (and just about everywhere), not all of them are high enough in the soil to receive the sunlight needed to grow. However when you break into a piece of ground and move around the soil, you run the risk of bringing some of the deeper seedlings to surface and accidentally making them viable. A general rule to avoid this is to dig only when you must and once done, cover the area with mulch or other plants.

Ideally it’s best to weed while it’s wet outside and a fishtail weeder can help you pull invasive plants up from their roots. For weeding while it’s dry outside, use a sharp-edged hoe to cut a weed just below the soil line. Some more stubborn weeds may call for stronger or sharper tools like weed wackers, but always use them with caution and keep a close eye out for curious animals and children who may not realize the danger. If you’re unable to completely remove a weed, you can cut off their seed-spreading tops for a quick, but temporary, fix.

Garden Improvements

Perhaps you’re putting your house on the market and hope to add curb appeal with some nice accents to your garden, or maybe you’ve got a pest problem that needs resolved. It could even be that you’re simply bored with its current look. You can recruit the help of a landscape designer or come up with your own plan, but either way there are plenty of options for making improvements to your garden.

Tree and Stump Removal

It could be that you’ve decided to get rid of an overgrown eyesore, or maybe the old stump that once made a folksy addition to your garden display is now too rotted to stick around. Whatever the case, there are a few routes you can take to getting rid of unwanted trees and stumps. Keep in mind that if you’re not used to working with large power tools, it might be worth the investment to hire professional help to avoid personal injury or home damage.

Whenever possible, it’s best to remove the stump completely. Small trees should be cut with about four feet of height so they can be pulled out using a winch and a relatively powerful automobile. If the stump is too big to remove in one shot, you can use a mini excavator to break down the root system or with large but rotted stumps, use a grub hoe to clear it out. If you’re really experienced, you can opt for a stump grinder, though hiring a professional is always the safest route.

Stump killers are another helpful tool for this improvement endeavor. Often, this involves drilling holes or re-cutting the stump at the top since the chemicals used will be most effective on freshly-cut wood. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely and wear gloves while working.

Paths

A pathway through your garden or yard is a beautiful addition that can really bring the whole look together. Whether you’re looking for a more polished look or something a little more rustic, there are a few basic options to choose from:

  • Mulch
  • Gravel
  • Stepping stones
  • Planted paths

Mulch and gravel will be two of the least expensive options and are relatively simple to build. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll have to edge your pathways to avoid the material spreading. Gravel will be heavier and somewhat more stagnant, but mulch is softer and more kid-friendly, especially if you have little ones who haven’t quite mastered walking just yet!

Stepping stones require little digging and because they allow you to maximize so much space with just one stone, they can be a cost effective option. Generally, you’ll want stones about 18 inches across and 2 inches thick. You’ll have to see specifically which kinds of stone are available in your area, but your local home improvement store should give you great insight into your best options.

Planted paths are a great choice if you’re worried about the tedious task of lining up the stones just right. Any imperfections or uneven placements can be hidden with ground cover plants and give it a more rustic look.

Garden fencing

If critters are creating a problem in your garden, a fence is a terrific way to deter them. The kind of fence you choose may depend on the look you want to achieve, but when possible it’s ideal to make it solid. If the animal can’t see what he’s missing, he’s a lot less likely to try to break in! An alternative would be to install an electric fence that, while more expensive, will be effective at protecting your garden as well as less restrictive on the view.

If it’s a household pet that can’t contain its curiosity, a 3-foot wire mesh fence with strong posts is an easy fix. If your pet is prone to digging, reinforce the fence even further by bending the base into a 2-foot wide apron. Rabbits can be deterred with a similar structure, though it’s recommended you use chicken wire with 1-inch diameter holes. Don’t forget the apron — a hungry rabbit just might dig to get his dinner!

Burrowing pests are especially troublesome and just a few visits can destroy much of your hard work. You’ll have to construct cages around your garden bed buried about 3 feet into the ground, lining the sides and bottom. These animals tend to be persistent, so do your best to check the fence for breaches every couple weeks or contact an animal removal service.