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Sprucing up your yard

By Melanie Mathieson
Gardening Guru

People notice your yard if it is well kept but they will also notice if it is not well kept. The easiest way to increase the appearance of your home is with a nice neat yard and garden. You’ll be amazed at how a little general maintenance will spruce up the overall look of your home. I am not talking about putting in expansive flowerbeds or adding landscape structures to increase the visual appeal of your property, I am just suggesting simple ways to make an impact and then you can take it further if you desire.
Is your lawn full of weeds, does it need to be mowed or do you have brown or bald patches in your lawn? The first step is to mow your lawn in order to get it trimmed to an even height. Fill in the brown spots by raking away the dead grass and placing some fresh topsoil on the spot and then seeding with some all-purpose grass seed.
Remember to water often. If your lawn is thin, give the soil a good raking and then over seed with the grass seed and it will sprout and fill in the thin spots.
If your lawn is overrun with weeds you may want to add a weed-n-feed type fertilizer. Make sure you read the label of this product to make sure you are applying the right formula for the weeds present in your lawn and the right mixture for the time of year as there are products specific to spring, summer and fall application. If your lawn is on the light green or brownish side you will want to add a lawn fertilizer rich in nitrogen to bring the greenness back. Try cutting a clean edge between your lawn and your driveway and sidewalks. This is a fairly easy project that doesn’t take too much time but you’ll
be amazed at how quickly it gives your yard a neater appearance.
Now that the lawn is looking tip-top, let’s take a look at the trees and shrubs in your yard. Trim off all of the dead branches first. After all of the dead branches are gone, trim all of the stump suckers growing around of the base of the tree. Many trees and shrubs have these stump suckers growing around their base, not only are they unsightly but they rob food and energy from the main stem of the tree causing it to weaken over time. Trim the spouts right tight to the base of the tree at ground level. Once you tackle this for the first time it will be easier to maintain throughout the rest of the season.
Shrubs such as lilacs and snowballs often have many of these stump suckers. If you have these in your yard, begin trimming the smallest suckers first. Stand back and assess the shrub for the weakest suckers next until you are down to one main stem or a few healthy large stems. Removing the suckers will give you more flowers next season and make the shrub healthier and stronger overall. Remember that mosquitoes love to hide in the shade of these masses of leafy vegetation close to the ground, so by removing them you will reduce your mosquito populations.
You may also decide to remove the lawn around the trunks of your trees and shrubs to make mowing easier. Remove the sod in a circle around the base of the tree and then fill in the void with some bark or stone mulch. I recommend bark mulch and then you can mow right up to the circle and reduce your grass trimming time.
Take a look at the trees in your yard and determine if they need to have the lower branches pruned off. You can really open up the look of your yard by trimming the branches off of your large trees up to ten feet off the ground. Make sure when you are pruning branches that you make a good clean cut flush to the trunk or main branch.
Many people believe trees can come back to life if you leave them long enough, therefore hesitate to remove them from their property. As trees do not have the ability to come back to life after they are dead, remove them and replace it with something new. Dead trees are unsightly and potentially dangerous as they could blow over and injure someone or damage your property.
In viewing many hedges around the District, I notice three things: the weeds and garbage at the base of the hedge; often the hedge needs to be trimmed properly; and the other species of trees and shrubs growing within the hedge. Begin by removing the litter caught in the base of your hedge then remove the weeds. A weedy hedge is also a good hiding area for mosquitoes. Next take a look to see if you have any unwanted species such as lilacs or Manitoba maples growing in your hedge. Remove these. There may be hole in the hedge once you remove the unwanted species, but it will fill in with healthy hedge soon enough. Now trim the hedge so it is neat and tidy. You can trim your hedge to any desired height but make sure your hedge isn’t causing blindspots for traffic. Do not trim any more than one third of the hedge away at one time. More than one third can cause stress to the hedge while it recovers causing it to weaken or even die. Trim the sides of the hedge into a “V” shape so that the top receives maximum light.
Just a bit of maintenance will keep your yard looking great and your neighbours envying you.