Landscaping Ideas

Easy projects you can do yourself

Each spring, you kick yourself - you look at your property only to realize you still you haven't started on your dream garden, while your neighbors' yards have been abundantly blooming with Glory-of-the-Snow, Crocus and Daffodils for weeks. Their gardens are beautiful but yours just isn't quite what you had in mind.

If the project already seems too far beyond you, the easiest thing you can do is hire a garden designer or a gardener. This way, if you're a novice, you can get some basic guidelines of what is possible for your particular space and your budget. You may want to get a couple of different garden designs to see the various possibilities.

You'll also get a big picture of what your yard will ultimately look like. Often a garden plan can be broken down into a number of phases, which may be more seasonally conducive to your plant selection and more economically convenient to your pocket-book. It can also be broken down into projects that you do and projects that your gardener does.

Many gardeners and designers are willing to work closely with you to help you get the garden that you really want, but you will have to decide how involved you're willing to be. Ask yourself if you're willing to be a hands-on gardener or if you prefer a low-maintenance landscape that requires little effort.

Aside from hiring professional help, here's a laundry list of easy things you can do to get started on your front- or backyard landscaping:

  • First, take care of what's already there - water, weed and mulch.
  • Protect your trees and shrubs from invasive vines that may strangle them. Check for dead limbs and prune them.
  • If you grow perennials or flowering shrubs you may want to investigate whether they are the sort that likes dead-heading or de-budding. Doing so may reward you with far more blooms than you expected.
  • If you happen to have large clumps of irises, day lilies, hosts, red-hot poker, perennial grass or yucca, you may think about dividing them and starting new garden areas, or offering them in a plant swap with the neighbors - you never know what you might get!
  • Plant seeds. Plant something with big impact like sunflowers or morning glories. They're easygoing, delightful and will seldom let you down.
  • Build up your soil with leaves, grass clippings and other yard debris. Doing this will turn your average soil into black gold, where virtually anything will thrive with little need to water.
  • Propagate this year's annuals for next year. For example, coleus roots easily in water or lightweight soil. Begonia tubers can be saved after foliage and stems die back. Removing remaining soil from roots and storing them (tubers) in a paper bag filled with peat-moss or saw dust and storing in a cool, dry place is a handy trick. Geraniums can also be forced into dormancy by removing them from soil, shaking roots clean and storing in paper, also in a cool dry place.

And last but not least, if the spring and summer seasons somehow roll past you, there's always bulb planting in autumn and perusing garden catalogs throughout the winter, making plans and dreaming up landscape designs while you wait for the ground to thaw - next year, you can get a head start and be the envy of all your neighbors.

By Kaiti O'Donnell