So many people dream of having a yard one day. If you’ve been a city dweller for a long time, then having that outdoor space, all to yourself, and available to you whenever you want it, feels like hitting the jackpot. One of the reasons city dwellers finally feel ready to move to the suburbs is that they want that lush green grass. They want trees. They want to hear birds and crickets instead of sirens and garbage trucks. Being in contact with nature is important to our wellbeing, and it’s hard to get enough of it in the city. So maybe you’ve made the switch, and have finally purchased your first home with a yard. The novelty is part of the excitement, but it also means that…you don’t really know what you’re doing. Taking care of a yard is no small task. When you see yards that look well-maintained and welcoming, know that they don’t just pop up that way. Somebody dedicates a lot of time and resources to making them that way. Here are things first-time yard owners need to know.
You have to know your soil
You practically need to be a soil scientist if you don’t want to mess up your yard. Not all soil takes to all plants equally. You can’t just toss a handful of seeds and expect them to sprout. The exact type of soil – of which there are many – will determine what you can plant. It’s a good idea to get a soil expert out to give you a quick lesson on your yard. It’ll be easier than becoming an expert yourself.
You’ll have to mow often
If you have a lawn, you’re going to have to mow that thing more often than you think. Maybe you’ve wondered why, when you stayed in suburban areas, it felt like there was always a lawnmower going off somewhere. That’s because you really aren’t supposed to remove more than a third of your lawn’s length – cutting more than that can cause it to burn in the sun. So you’re forced to mow frequently.
Edges keep things tidy
If you want a simple way to look like you have your act together and have a yard that’s the envy of all of the neighbors, simply add edges. You can create these with stones or bricks. They create a nice, clean line over which your grass won’t grow. You’ll notice that lawns that look unkempt usually don’t have edges.
Maintenance is cheaper than damage control
Like with most things in your life – your physical health, your finances, your car, your weight, your oral health – it’s always more affordable to keep up with preventative care than to wait for things to fall apart. It’s more affordable to maintain your yard, than it is to wait until you have weed and bug infestations in a mangled mess.
Don’t forget about hydration
Your yard will need to stay hydrated aka watered. Watering the little potted herbs in your apartment window may have been manageable for you, but now you’re keeping an entire yard watered. You’ll probably need to install a sprinkler system, and these can run you a couple thousand dollars. Just be prepared for that. Speak to an expert about the most environmentally- and financially-friendly options.
It’s a time commitment
Having a yard is a time commitment. What you give it, it will give back to you, because you’ll love having a nice, well-maintained yard to relax in. But when you slack off just a little, you’ll go out there, hoping to kick back, and just find problems that interfere with your relaxation. Know that this will likely take a couple of hours out of your week moving forward.
Or it’s a financial commitment
If you want a nice yard but you don’t want to put in the time, then it’s going to be a financial commitment. You’ll just have to put in the money for someone else to do it for you. General tasks like mowing, weed removal, and raking need to be done once a month and may cost you between $80 and $130 per visit. But if you have a more intricate yard, then you may need your gardener to visit more often.
It’s worth it to consult an expert
It can be worth it to consult a landscaper just once about your property. Tell him about your lifestyle, like how much time you’re willing to dedicate to maintaining the place, and what you can afford to spend on it. He can help you determine what types of plants are best for you, and give you a few tips to minimize maintenance.
Beware of critters
If you have kids or dogs that want to play in the grass, remember that, though it’s your private property, critters don’t recognize private property. Spider, bees, ants, ticks, and the like – they don’t care that you have a “no trespassing sign.” This is another thing to speak to a landscaper about. Discuss eco-friendly ways to treat your yard to repel insects.
Keep heavy furniture off of it
Remember that heavy furniture, like stone fire pits and large couches, will kill any grass they sit on. If you move them, you’ll find yellow, dead patches of grass. It’s best to keep outdoor furniture on the patio or deck. If you want furniture directly on the grass, go for lightweight furniture like wicker or plastic options.
Don’t let dead leaves sit
During times of the year when leaves fall from the trees, it’s important to not just rake these, but also to remove the piles right away. Insects and sometimes snakes like to hide in these piles, so you don’t want to leave them sitting around, especially if you have pets or children.
You can’t just garden how you want
If you want a garden so you can eat fresh produce, you can’t just toss your zucchini and tomato seeds into the grass. Plant your produce in raised plant beds, because once you use a raised bed, you get to fill it with the optimal soil for your planting needs. You aren’t limited to only planting what the native soil can support.
Mulch and rocks reduce your work
Grass is what will take up the most of your time, so if you don’t have much time to dedicate to it, then just minimize the areas of lawn around your property. You can do this by creating attractive spaces filled with alternative materials like stones or mulch. You can place fountains or other decorative items there. This cuts back on how much of your yard actually consists of grass.
Your home will be the new hang spot
Know that, once you have an outdoor spot, your home will be the new place to hang out. All of your friends who don’t have a yard will invite themselves over. You remember that you used to be one of them. So, be careful who you tell that you have a yard.
Protect bird feeders from squirrels
If you want to put out bird feeders, you may quickly face this problem: squirrels get to them more than birds do. One simple solution is to put only safflower seeds in there, as squirrels find these to be quite bitter. Or, you can hang bird feeders at least 15 feet away from trees or other structures squirrels can use to climb onto them.