In Hampton, Va., the Clean City Commission and master gardeners share these tips on how to create and maintain a yard that looks good every day of the year—no matter where you live.
Evaluate your “curb appeal.” Stand across the street from your house and look at your home landscape like you are a stranger in the neighborhood. Does it look nice? Is it colorful and well-balanced? Are plantings graduated by size and scaled to their location? What would make it look better?
Plan your landscape for easy and effective maintenance. Reduce the size of your lawn with flower beds and islands to reduce lawn maintenance efforts! Use ground cover and mulches to control weeds. When you shop for trees, choose varieties that will not compete with power lines. Look for native plants that resist pests, disease and drought.
Allow your landscape to reflect you and your family. Use yard art, picnic and play areas, gazebos, or other features to show that your yard is part of your home. Add wildlife habitat features like ponds, rock gardens, or feeders, or make your yard an outdoor living space.
Trees and shrubs can enhance and protect. Use trees to shade your house and air-conditioning equipment to reduce summer energy demands. Use wind-breaking trees or shrubs on the north side of your house to block winter winds. Use trees to add color and texture to your landscape.
Select flowering trees, trees that have beautiful fall colors, or trees with interesting bark as focal points for your landscape. Take the full-grown size of the tree into account before planting it!
Plant with care. Follow expert advice in placing and planting your plants. Allow plants plenty of space to grow! Put them where they would look best fully grown. Place plants with similar sun, water, and fertilizer needs together.
Water your landscape conservatively. If you select drought-resistant plants and plant them properly, you can start counting your savings in time and lower water bills. When you water, do so deeply. Light sprinkling wastes water and produce shallow roots. Set up rain barrels to capture water for the dry season.
Use lawn chemicals sparingly. Remember that your yard is often just one storm drain away from an important waterway. Use lawn chemicals as sparingly as if you were pouring them directly into your drinking water.
Only use pesticides after you identify the specific problem and then select the proper chemical registered for use with your problem. Be kind to the environment —try to use nontoxic alternatives before turning to chemicals.
Lastly, but importantly, keep your organic materials to yourself. Mulch your grass clippings and leave them on the ground to keep your lawn healthy. Start a compost pile to maintain a good supply of inexpensive soil conditioner on hand for your landscape. Composting is a good way to put your fruit and vegetable peelings to work for you as well, instead of sending them off for disposal.
(c) 2011, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.).