The Best Advice You’ll Find For Improving And Maintaining Your Yard

Nikki WallerDirector of Financial & Relational Development

My first home was a basic 1950s home with small closets and just enough space to live in. It had a small yard – because it was in a 1950’s cookie-cutter neighborhood on the Eastside. My yard didn’t need more than a push mower and maybe a weed eater when I bought the house. But I had to make it more difficult because when I moved in I was so excited to plant flowers and to have the best yard on the block.

Boy, was I a dreamer back then…

I went to the local landscaping store and I purchased four Hydrangea bushes for $120 and I had my mom propagate the Hosta’s around her house. Within months I had killed two of the Hydrangea’s and all of my Hosta’s looked like I left them in the oven for too long.

Tip #1, If you’re planting anything, research proper sun needs. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, the sun will save you. Mother Nature will provide everything your plants need (this is not founded in science, this is my opinion). Give your plants the right amount of sun and they will thank you. My two Hydrangea bushes that survived thank me daily. 

Also, while looking up their sun needs you should also look up what season your plants bloom in. I recently went on a seed purchasing spree at the Dollar General. I planted all of them.  There were thousands of them. I planted at least 500 Zinnias and 500 of something else called a Garden Mix that’s supposed to attract butterflies (I have kids; I thought it’d be fun). One thousand seeds, and one obnoxiously tall flower grew from that. I think I planted them too late. 

Tip #2 Get rid of stuff that serves no purpose. The person who owned the house before me put a useless fence in the front yard. It was a wooden fence that wouldn’t hold a dog – it’s more the type of fence you’d use to keep a cow in the yard. The only purpose it served was a way for my friends to find my house.

Over the years it has deteriorated and started to look very old and ugly. My neighbor accidentally ran over part of it and I finally took it down.  I should’ve taken it down years ago. Once down, it made mowing much simpler and improved the look of the yard. So, if you’re looking to simplify your yard maintenance – get rid of the things that don’t make sense for you. Curb appeal is only curb appeal if you can maintain it.

Tip #3 Pull Weeds once then preen (I did not get paid for a product plug, it’s just amazing). I do not use mulch because I do not pay an exterminator to regularly treat my house for termites and I do not use gravel because I do not want one getting caught in my mower and flying into my window (I rehearse catastrophic situations in my head a lot.)  You may like these ideas, that’s up to you. 

Also, when it comes to pulling the weeds, I always wait until it rains and make my kid help. She’s five and loves an excuse to get muddy. We use shovels and hand rakes to get down to the root. And, honestly, by the time I get around to pulling the weeds from my flower beds each Spring it’s more like grass. So, there’s that. But one and done because I pour Preen out once a week.

Tip #4 Get rid of the weeds that grow through the cracks in your concrete and gravel. You don’t have to purchase a weed killer either. Truthfully, I prefer the homemade one. It has white vinegar, dish soap and salt in it. Here is one blog with pictures. Doing this vastly improves the look of your home with little-to-no effort.  This also will cut the amount of time you spend mowing and weed eating. 

Tip #5 If you don’t have a weed eater and you can’t afford one, don’t just let the grass grow where the mower won’t reach. Pick it, chop it, borrow the neighbors weed eater, use your vinegar based weed killer – just do something! Letting grass grow uncontrollably is the number one way to kill the curb appeal of the home you invest your hard earned money into. Now why would you want to do that? 

Tip #6 Lower your expectations. Not what you expected, right? Well, there’s a reason you’re visiting this blog and not one on Better Home and Garden (but here is a link if you need someone with better advice on textures and plant schematics). There is a reason your retired neighbor’s yard looks better than yours. Because it takes a lot of time. And the chances are, if you’re here, you’re like I am. You spend your time working, cooking, cleaning, raising babies, chasing toddlers, doing homework, paying bills, and doing all the things so that one day you too can retire. 

I live in a very blended neighborhood. My immediate neighbor is retired with a pristine yard and the houses across the street mow once every two weeks if it’s bad. I have decided that as long as my two living Hydrangea bushes are in full bloom, I’m in pretty good standing in the neighborhood. I’ve lowered my standards for how my yard should look, and I did so for my sanity. 

Accept what you’re capable of and learn to build on those skills. You’ll figure it out over time.