Whether you’re trying to get your home ready for a party, a family visit, or just to take advantage of what you have, there are some simple projects you can take on that will make a huge difference in your yard’s appearance.
1- “Bring out your dead”- This is an easy, yet often overlooked bit of maintenance. Deadhead any spent blooms, remove any plants that didn’t make it, and prune the dead branches out of your woody ornamentals. Nothing says ugly like a yard full of dead plants.
2- Weed, edge & mulch your beds- Nothing makes your beds pop like a clean, tight line of demarcation. I’m not typically a fan of edging products in cool-season grass lawns, as the steel edging is costly and the poly edging is ugly, hard to work with, flimsy, and generally a complete waste of time and money. If you live somewhere with a warm-season, creeping grass lawn, you probably need an edging to keep the grass from overtaking your beds; but, since I do landscape design for northern Virginia, that’s not really an issue. Anyhow, my preferred edge is a simple spaded edge, sometimes called a Victorian trench (no clue why). You take a sharp, flat-bladed spade, and push it into the grass edge a good 3-4 inches. If your soil is on the sandy side, you can kick the back of the spade, and it’ll dislodge the chunk of sod and create a smooth profile on the bed bottom. Every northern Virginia gardener just thought to themselves, “you can do that?”, because in heavy clay soils, your best bet is to do a section of vertical cuts, then come back with the spade at an angle on the inside of the bed, cut out the sod, and smooth the bottom. When done, a good edge will look like this:
3- Conduct a thorough inspection of hardscape elements- How many times are you going to walk by that missing picket, or step on that wobbly stone? If you’re like me, you have a number of places around your yard that need attention, but you only really notice them when you’re jumping in the car to head off to a 12 hour day at the office. Grab a pad of paper, a cup of coffee, and take a stroll. If it’s something simple that you can fix immediately, go for it. Otherwise, it goes on the list. The funny thing about punchlists like these is that no matter how daunting they may appear, you can usually knock them out in a fairly short time.
4- Set out some container plantings- Especially if you’re dressing your home up for sale or for a party, containers can be a fun, inexpensive way of expanding your landscape beyond the bounds of the plant beds. Unsure of what to plant? Well, you definitely want to make sure everything will still fit in the pot when it fills in, so if you’re at all unsure, go to a good-quality local nursery for your plants. (Note that I didn’t say for advice only. If you spend 20 minutes pumping a small nursery staffer for info, and then go to a big box store to buy the plants for a buck less, you’re not a very good person. Just sayin’ is all)
5- Do some long-term planning- There are only so many quick fixes that you can do, before the plants either assert themselves or give up. Take a hard look at what you have, and if it’s not what you want, start dreaming! There are not only a ton of resources at bookstores and online, but there are also qualified pros who can help you plan the next step.