Having the real estate for a lawn is one thing – getting it to look like those beautiful gardens that characterize suburban America is a whole different ballgame. In fact, many of us tend to hire professional landscapers to get the job done rather than soil our own hands (pun intended).
However, you may be surprised to know that there is a lot you can do on your own, over the weekend, that a landscaping company would charge you a healthy sum for.
Here are a few improvement techniques to make your lawn look good that you can implement by yourself:
Keeping the soil well fed with nutrients is essential for a green and healthy lawn, but don’t be tempted to use chemical fertilizers and herbicides to achieve fast results. It is true that synthetic fertilizers are jacked with nutrients that give a quick short-term boost, but they do more harm than good in the grand scheme of things – for instance, they have been known to affect wildlife, and even pose a threat to humans and their pets!
Instead, opt for slow-release organic fertilizer and compost pellets. These will keep the soil fed in a more gradual, natural manner and allow the grass to make deep roots into the ground, while also encouraging healthy microbial activity so that it is more robust to damage from insects and diseases.
Gardens in the Northern parts of the United States usually have cool-climate grass that should be fertilized at the start of fall so it can preserve nutrients for the cold winter months. In the South, however, warm-climate grasses are found and these must have fertilizer spread over them multiple times between spring and summer.
One of the biggest banes of grass in your lawn is lots of foot traffic – I knew a friend that allowed neighborhood kids to play soccer in his backyard, and sure enough, the pressure that the soil received from all the feet stamping on it caused it to become so compacted that no grass would grow on it – even years afterwards.
From this experience, I advise every homeowner with a lawn to create static walkways through their lawn where people can move around at leisure, and strictly prohibit energetic movement in other regions (i.e. where the grass and flowers grow).
Not only will this make your lawn look neater and better organized, it will also keep the soil loose so that it allows for easy passage of essential nutrients, water, and air to help grasses and other plants take root.
If your lawn has suffered considerable damage from continuous heavy impacts, you could use a soil aerator to create tiny holes in the soil. There are even special spiked shoes that can be worn to achieve similar results (but not as good).
It doesn’t take much to make your lawn look well-kept and attractive: It can be as simple as giving the bushes a regular, even trim i.e. make sure there aren’t any small branches poking out – oftentimes, these are the tiny details that can ruin the landscape. If you’ve got trees in your lawn, you may want to invest in a small electric chainsaw to make quick work of trimming stray branches (you could consult this buying guide for more details).
Another simple styling tip is to edge around the sidewalk and flowerbeds. It is up to you to create clean, straight edges, or curve them up for a quirkier touch, but regardless of the choice you make, they will look a lot better than an uneven border.
You don’t even need to get an electric edger – a simple round-point spade pushed into the soil at right angles and moved along the border can get the job done just as well!
Yet another way to make your lawn stand out is to have a small corner decorated separately – this could be something as basic as garden furniture adorned with colorful fabrics and stone flower pots (where your guests can congregate at a barbecue or tea party), or something as intricate as a Japanese rock garden (if you can easily source the gravel and stones that is).
You will have seen that most of this stuff can be done over the weekend (or at most two weekends) and won’t cost you as much as a landscaper would. All you need is some creativity and the will to do some light exercise, and you’re set. Your beautified lawn will be enough of a reward to offset the effort and if it isn’t, just think of all the money you’ve saved and where you could spend it on next!