It’s almost spring! That means time for warm weather and sunshine—and getting your yard back in shape. Check out these tips for keeping birds away from a newly seeded lawn, easily cleaning your patio furniture, starting a garden, and more.
Don’t Spend Money on Landscaping
The biggest expense in keeping your lawn gorgeous is hiring professionals. So keep your landscaping simple enough that you can DIY as much as possible. Consider artificial grass—while the upfront cost might be a little higher than sod (or a lot in some places) artificial grass eliminates the need for a mower and irrigation and maintenance is only the occasional raking and a bottle of cleaner for stains.
If you’re buying flowers, choose perennials instead of annuals. These hardier plants require less replacing and are perfect for those whose thumbs are more brown than green. (Find more ways to save money on yard-care costs over at the Penny Hoarder!)
For Easy-to-Raise Plants
At PlantNative.org, you can find lists of flowers, shrubs, trees, vines, and grasses that are native to your area. This means they’ll not only be less expensive to buy, they’ll also hold up well in your garden.
Easy DIY Lawn Fertilizer
Did you know Epsom salts are one of the best natural lawn fertilizers around? They’re composed of magnesium and sulfur, both of which are highly beneficial to grass. Magnesium kick-starts seed germination and is also a player in manufacturing chlorophyll, the substance that plants create from sunlight in order to feed themselves. Sulfur, meanwhile, also helps with chlorophyll, while simultaneously enhancing the effects of other fertilizer ingredients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It also deters certain pests such as ground worms. With all these benefits, it’s no wonder that savvy lawn care specialists have been using Epsom salts for years. You can either sprinkle them on your lawn using a spreader or make a liquid solution out of them by adding some water and putting the mixture in a spray bottle.
Keep Birds Away from a Newly Seeded Lawn
If a scarecrow doesn’t work to keep birds from feasting on your grass seeds, try this modern-day equivalent before you resort to netting. Place stakes at the four corners of the area you want to protect. Now cut two pieces of string, long enough to reach diagonally in an X across the lawn. Every foot or two along the strings you’ll want to tie one-inch strips of aluminum foil. The breeze will keep the aluminum pieces flapping about and scaring off would-be invaders. Or, use old CDs or DVDs as reflective surfaces. Early morning is the best time to water your lawn or garden because you’ll minimize evaporation. The absolute worst time to do it is during the bright sun of the afternoon.
Get Your Wicker Ready for Spring
Make sure your wicker furniture is front-porch ready for the spring and summer months. Blow-dry off the loose dirt, then clean with white vinegar and warm salt water. (If your wicker keeps squeaking every time you sit in it, first spray it down with a hose and let it soak for an hour or two). Then, apply a thin coat of lemon oil.
How to Clean Plastic Furniture
Believe it or not, if you have plastic resin furniture you can clean it in the pool simply by throwing it in the pool and letting the filter do its work. Or, use shaving cream! Apply a layer with a damp rag or sponge to your furniture, let sit for 10 minutes, then spray down with the hose. (For super-dirty furniture, rinse before and after applying the shaving cream.) It will look almost as good as new!
What to Do If Your Deck Umbrella Smells Moldy
Your patio umbrella was looking good when you packed it away last fall…but now it’s a mildewy mess. Here’s the easiest way to clean it: Fill a bucket with warm water, then add 2 cups of white vinegar and a couple of generous squirts of dishwashing liquid. Let soak for a half an hour, then scrub with a cleaning brush. Rinse with water and let it dry in the sun. The warmth will kill whatever the vinegar and soap didn’t.
Starting Seeds from Scratch
Don’t buy cardboard “seed starters” from your garden store. Instead, use a cardboard egg carton, or toilet paper and paper towel tubes. The tubes will need to be cut in halves or fourths, then placed on a tray, while the egg carton can be used as is. Put a little soil in each, place in a warm, moist area (it doesn’t even need to get any light), and wait for your seeds to sprout with some regular watering. Or, start seeds in a sponge, which is especially fun for kids to watch.
Save Seeds for Next Year
If you have more seeds than you can use this spring, store them in a sealed container in your freezer. The cold will keep them fresh until next year.
Preparing a Garden
If you’ve never had a vegetable garden, now is the time to start! Here’s how: decide where you’d like your garden to be and mow away the grass. Then cover the area with several layers of newspaper. Add as much mulch and leaves as you can to the top (aim for five inches), then get the entire area wet with a hose. In a month, the area will be grass-free and primed for planting.
These tips are even better on our podcast, which you can listen to on the top right of this page or on iTunes, Stitcher, or Spotify. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook!