yard pic 1I love being outside in my beautiful yard in the summertime…while drinking a glass of wine and reading a book, that is.  And sure, I love growing a few tomatoes and enjoying their deliciousness as much as the next person.  What I DON’T love so much is all the work that it takes to attain a beautiful yard.  And yet, for those of us who can’t or choose not to afford professional yard care, a lot of work is exactly what is needed.  And unless you either A. have a lot of time on your hands or B. actually enjoy spending every sunny weekend working in your yard, you might be interested in a few tips for making it go smoother and quicker, so that you too can be relaxing in the yard in a hammock or deck chair with a glass in your hand, taking in the natural beauty of the world around you.

So, last year I was very busy, more so than usual, and did very little work in my yard.  The consequences of that were overgrown everything this spring…ivy, trees, weeds and so forth.  I have a very large yard with no lawn and tons of planting beds.  So, needless to say, I have been playing major “catch-up” this season.  And because of that, I have picked up a few tricks that I’m going to pass on to you, dear reader.

1.  Before you plant anything, move or change anything, you must clean, pull, trim, weed, rake, mow and cut.  Be ruthless. Know that this is the hardest part of yard work, and that it’s only going to get better from here.  Assess what you have, and keep the stuff you like, or even some of the stuff you may not like. Try to work with what you have as much as you possibly can. This will save you effort and time in the long run.  A good example of this is that quite a large part of my yard does not get much sun, and the previous owners had planted tons of ferns in the shady parts.  Originally I didn’t care for the ferns.  I wanted hostas.  I dreamed of digging up all the ferns and replacing them with hostas.  I particularly didn’t like the ferns because the old fronds turned brown and shriveled each season and they look terrible for most of the spring.  But with everything else I had to do in the yard, I didn’t know when I would get the time to remove the ferns (there are at least 20 of them) and to plant the hostas.  Then I learned that if I just trimmed those brown, dead fronds, and was careful to not touch the new growth, they would be green and beautiful and just lovely after the first couple of good spring rains.  The trimming took way less effort than digging up and replanting, and I was able to move on to other things.  Now, I love those ferns because they look great, and didn’t take much effort.  You see, this is not a how-to guide on how to re-design your yard, it is a guide on how to get to that lawn chair and enjoy your surroundings as soon as you possibly can!

2.  Break it off into manageable chunks, and stick with your schedule.  I can’t stress this enough, folks, particularly during the “cleaning up” phase described above.  Decide how much time you have to devote to the yard each day or each week.  Move through one task at a time, and stick with your schedule.  Don’t overdo it one day, because you might be too tired the next day.  Try to mix up the physically hard jobs with the easier ones, or jobs that use different muscle groups.  Seriously!.  For instance, you might power-wash your deck one day (Click here for how-to video on how to use a pressure washer, it’s a lifesaver!) and trim a large overgrown bush the next day.  The day after that, you might rake out some beds.  You get the picture.  I’ll tell you a secret.  In the beginning, it’s going to feel like you are putting in a lot of work for very little reward, but as time goes on, things will be looking better and better!  Another secret is that you should work on the areas where you are going to be hanging out first!  For instance, my backyard deck is done, and the trees and shrubs around it look beautiful, but I’m still cleaning up last year’s brown leaves from the some of the beds in the front yard!  So at least when I take my breaks, I can sit outside and enjoy the results that I’ve already accomplished!

yard picture 2

3.  Reward yourself with pretty things.  No, I’m not talking jewelry here, though if you go that route, no judgment!  I’m talking about pretty things in the yard.  Once your yard (or a part of it) is mostly cleaned up and trimmed and looking respectable, it’s time for the icing on the cake…that birdbath you’ve always wanted, for instance.  Or pots of fresh herbs by the kitchen window for you serious cooks out there.  Or a bed of flashy annuals right by the front steps, announcing to everyone that YOU have a beautiful yard.  And you do. 

Remember, if I can do it, YOU can do it!

by Karen DeVenaro

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