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To maintain a nice, healthy yard, you could spend hundreds of dollars a year. However, there are a lot of things you can do to reduce this amount.
So let’s take a look at several ways you can avoid having to spend so much on your lawn. Many of the options we are going to examine make use of tools and substances you already have or can get for free.
We will also take a look at solutions that are inexpensive and will eventually pay for themselves several times over.
Here are the subjects discussed in this information-packed article:
- Watering Methods
- Compost Maintenance
- Manual Mowers
- Natural Weed and Pest Control
- Xeriscaping Alternatives
- Lawn Care Parties
All of these topics will be discussed thoroughly and will include practical suggestions, so you can apply them in a cost effective method. The first issue we will examine is watering your lawn.
1. Water Conservation
The most important thing to remember when watering your lawn is that you want to water an area for a long enough period of time so that the water can be absorbed eight or more inches into the soil.
This not only gets the water where it needs to be, but it also stimulates deeper root growth.
There are several other things you can do to save water and money:
- Water in the morning
- Water with a drip hose
- Get a barrel to collect rainwater
Let’s take a look at each one of these suggestions.
Water in the Morning
Watering your lawn in the morning will increase the effectiveness of the water you use. If you water during the day, the sun will burn off a lot of the water before it has a chance to get deep into the soil.
If you water at night, you increase the chances that your lawn might become infested with some sort of fungal disease.
Water With a Drip Hose
Watering with drip hoses (also referred to as soaker hoses) will let you to water your lawn without having to use as much water. Watering with sprinklers leads to greater water loss because of increased evaporation.
This is because a lot of the water lands on blades of grass where it evaporates. You also lose water with sprinklers because they spray mists that allow for more evaporation to occur.
Get a Barrels and Containers to Collect Rainwater
This is a no-brainer. Anywhere where there is rainwater runoff, you can place a container to collect this free source of water. Of course, you can buy these types of containers at the store; however, there are also lots of free options.
Here are three of them:
- Plastic one gallon milk jugs with the tops cut off
- Used plastic trash cans
- Used plastic mop pails
Make sure you use plastic containers because metal containers will rust.
2. Compost Solutions
Creating your own compost is a fantastic way to lower your lawn care expenses. By mixing compost into your lawn, you can reduce you watering needs by up to 50 percent or more.
You’ll also save an additional amount of money because you will not need to purchase fertilizer, and if you do decide to fertilize your lawn, you will not need as much in order to get the same results.
The main reason why using compost in your yard works is because it allows for your yard to retain more water for longer periods of time.
This is especially true for soil that contains a lot of clay and sand. Another reason why clay benefits is because aeration is improved when it is combined with compost.
Compost Piles, Containers, and Bins
You have several choices when it comes to managing your compost. First, you can collect it in an open pile that is located in a convenient area.
Next, you may want to use some sort of container to hold your compost, like a box, a trash can, or something similar. Finally, you can use a compost bin; however, this last option will require more effort and money.
4 Steps for Applying Compost to Your Lawn
When it’s time for you to place compost on your grass, there are four critical steps:
- Use only finely textured compost
- Spread with a shovel
- Rake it in
- Water it down and don’t mow for a week.
That’s it! It is a simple process that can be accomplished within a few hours. So let’s take a closer look at each step in a little more detail.
1. Use Only Finely Textured Compost
Make sure that the compost you are using is as finely textured as soil. This will allow for it to settle nicely below the blades of grass where it is needed. If the compost has thick clumps or large pieces, it will remain on top of the grass and not get to where it needs to go.
2. Spread Evenly With a Shovel
Use a wheelbarrow (or another similar device–like a wagon) and a shovel to apply the compost directly on top of your lawn’s surface. The most important thing to remember is that you do not want to use too much in one location or else it will not settle properly below your grass.
3. Rake it in
Use either a garden rake or leaf rake to smooth out the shoveled piles of fine compost. If you use a garden rake, you need to be careful that you do not to tear up your lawn while you are raking. You should get the compost to low enough levels so that you can initiate the final step.
4. Water it Down
Use a hose with a sprayer attachment (or your thumb) and spray blasts of water over the raked compost so that it falls down below the blades of grass to where the soil is.
After you do this, do not mow for a week or more, so that the compost will have enough time to combine with the soil.
Don’t Use Food or Table Scraps
While there are numerous articles that tell you to recycle your table scraps in your compost pile, this is not a good idea. Think about it, do you really want a smelly pile of compost that stinks like rotten food?
That’s exactly what’s going to happen if you throw unused food into your compost pile. This is not only unsanitary, it is extremely unpleasant. Instead, you should only use lawn clippings, branches, twigs, and leaves.
Stay with the natural ingredients from your yard. These things will not cause a foul stench and will give you the high quality compost you need to make your lawn healthy and green.
Push reel mowers are better for your lawn’s overall health, and they will save you money in many ways. Other mowers chop and tear your grass while reel mowers snip the grass cleanly.
Torn grass makes your lawn more susceptible to insects and disease; grass that is cut with a reel mower heals quickly and is more healthy.
You should also know that push reel mowers make your yard look better. The superior cut of a reel mower is why golf courses and sports stadiums use reel mowers pulled by tractors.
Reel mowers are easy to use, and you don’t have to buy oil, gas, or spark plugs. They are also safer than gas mowers. A reel mower will not shoot a rock at you or chew up a limb if you run over it. Also, these kinds of mowers do not have hot engines that may burn you.
If you have a large lawn, you can still use a reel mower in order to save money and have a better looking lawn. Just break up the task into sections or recruit some help.
4. Natural Weed and Pest Control
Not only are store bought weed killers and pesticides more expensive, they are also dangerous for pets and children. This is why you need to use natural organic solutions to kill weeds and bugs in your lawn.
Natural Weed Killers
There are three substances that will kill weeds and are inexpensive and completely safe to use: salt, vinegar, and lemon juice. These three things will kill weeds without being a danger to your loved ones. Let’s take a closer look.
This natural substance is great for preventing the return of weeds in areas where you do not want any plants growing. However, salt will also prevent your grass from growing in areas where it is placed, so be careful where you use it.
Vinegar and Lemon Juice
Vinegar is a great weed killer. Just put it in an empty spray bottle and apply it to the weeds that need to be terminated. It is very inexpensive, and you can buy a gallon for less than two bucks.
For just a little over four dollars per gallon, lemon juice is also a highly effective weed killer. You use it the same way you use vinegar.
However, there are many who claim that one of the best options for natural organic weed control involves the combining of vinegar and lemon juice.
This recipe is used by countless numbers of concerned people who want a cost effective method to control weeds without causing danger to their kids. Just mix two parts vinegar with one part lemon juice and begin spraying.
Nicotine is a very simple and inexpensive solution to pest control. It kills bugs and is found naturally within the structure of various plants (especially tobacco), so why not use what nature freely gives to us.
Just put four to eight ounces of tobacco in about a gallon of water and add a teaspoon of dishwasher soap, so the mixture will stick better to your plants. You may then either boil the water or let it soak for a day or more.
When you are ready to spray, strain the tobacco from the brown liquid and pour the remaining liquid into an empty spray bottle. You may also use a gallon sprayer with a hose and a precision nozzle.
5. Xeriscaping Alternatives
Xeriscaping involves various landscaping strategies that either eliminate or reduce the need for additional water not provided by natural sources.
In order to do this, Xeriscaping techniques include the use of rocks and gravel to provide an aesthetic complement to the existing scenery. These decorative strategies also make use of certain kinds of plants that require little water in order to thrive heartily.
When everything is done correctly, it is possible to save 50 percent or more on your outdoor watering expenses using Xeriscaping solutions.
Be Absolutely Certain About Your Plan Before Starting
If you do decide to use Xeriscaping techniques to decorate your yard, then you need to decide where you want to put everything. Do you want to Xeriscape a certain portion of your property, or do you want to redesign your entire yard?
Whatever you do, sketch out a plan before you perform any major actions that can’t be reversed, like ripping up a perfectly good patch of lawn grass.
Give yourself plenty of time to make sure that you really want to do what you have planned to do.
Maybe there is a certain area of your backyard that has given you troubles for years, and you want to Xeriscape just that portion of your property. Maybe you want to Xeriscape an area in your front lawn near your driveway.
Whatever you do, make sure you really want to do it before you dive in headfirst and actually begin.
The first thing you need to do after you have decided where you will Xeriscape is create a blueprint for each major section you are going to build.
Here are some things to take into consideration when creating a plan:
- The slope of the land for rain water run-off
- The sun’s position so plants will have sunlight
- Activity areas and paths
Having a working strategy is crucial when creating a new project because it will cut down the amount of errors you make and save you money. So let’s examine the slope of your land.
There are several ways to use the slopes and contours of your property. One of the most common techniques is using layers and stairs. Each layer can be used as a bed for plants or arranged to form steps. The possibilities are endless.
You can also use slopes to create drainage management systems that allow you to maximize rainwater flow. You can also build ramps from long, flat stones to enhance your design patterns.
It is common to see paths, stairways, and ramps with many landscaping designs. These sorts of planning techniques allow for your Xeriscaped areas to be far more practical by facilitating the movement of people in and around the landscaped sections of your property.
You may also want to consider a patio or a small seating area.
Once again, you need to carefully plan where each flat rock step will be placed in order to create a path, and you will need to make sure materials used in the creation of stairs and steps are the right dimensions for your plan. Once again, the options are limitless.
Once your plans are finalized, you will need to get materials to build your creations. The first type of material you need to consider is rocks.
You can always go and buy rocks, stones, and bricks from many different kinds of retailers. However there are two fantastic free options that could easily yield better results: farms and National Forests.
Farms and Ranches
Do you know any farmers or ranchers in your area? If you do, then call them up and ask them if you can look for rocks on their properties. Most farmers and ranchers will not care if you take a few rocks here and there in order to Xeriscape your property.
In fact, a few of them might even want to go rock hunting with you. Also remember that this sort of activity could be used as a sort of bonding time with family and friends.
You will also be happy to know that it is Forest Service policy that gathering rocks in National Forests is completely legal. So if you live close to a national forest, then you can go there without any authorization and get as many rock and mineral samples as you want.
Here is a list of U.S. National Forests.
In addition to the rocks and stones you will place in your xeriscape designs, you will also need drought resistant plants that will thrive with little water.
If you chose regular plants that need normal amounts of water, you may not save any money at all, and you might end up paying more to keep water-hungry plants alive. This is because you have essentially created a garden with lots of decorative stones and designs.
Plants for Water Conservation
Here is a list of some of the primary plants used for xeriscaping:
- Red yucca
- Mexican feather grass
- Orange hummingbird mint
- Hummingbird sage
- Mojave verbena
- Hardy ice plant
- Annual moss rose
- Corsican stonecrop
- Moss phlox
- Mossy saxifrage
- Russian sage
- Lavender cotton
- Lyme grass
- Lamb’s ears
- Woolly yarrow
- Blue wild indigo
- Compass plant
- Husker Red penstemon
- Joe-pye weed
- Little bluestem
- Prairie dropseed
- Purple love grass
- Blue grama
When acquiring plants for your xeriscaping projects, you have three choices: seeds, seedlings, or grown plants. Grown plants are obviously the most effective solution, but seedlings will save you a lot of money.
However, the most cost effective option is growing plants from seeds if you have the knowledge, patience, and time to wait for them to grow.
Growing Plants With Seeds
Growing plants with seeds can only be cost effective if done correctly. Here are several tips to help you perform these delicate operations.
- Keep Records – This is a step that is often overlooked but is critical to continued success. You should number each seed container and record the following items: date of planting, number of seeds planted, and the germination date. You can add more detail if you wish.
- Drainage – Make sure each container has proper drainage or else fungal growth may occur if there is excessive moisture.
- Sunlight – Make sure there is plenty of sunlight, so your seeds will have the exposure they need to germinate and grow into healthy seedlings.
- Gradual exposure to outdoors – Allow your seedings to acclimate to outdoor conditions by placing their containers outside for a few hours every day and increasing this time a little each day. After you have done this for several days, they should be ready to be planted outdoors.
- Expert opinions – Every species of plant is different and has specific needs. This is why it is vital that you get the best information about each individual type of plant you are growing so that you can have higher success rates.
6. Fun Days in the Yard
These are days when your family gets together and does yard work.
You can also team up with other families. For example, two families of four could meet once a month at each other’s house on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and have a “lawn party” and get a ton of work done.
Everyone could then celebrate by having a feast together in the evening.
You don’t really need a lot of time or effort to set up events like this. You could just hold one of these lawn parties with the family of a friend, relative, or neighbor and then return the favor by going to their home and helping them on a future weekend.
Why It Works
The reason why this is so effective is because it would not be considered to be hard work, but would instead be more like outdoor recreation.
Another reason why this works so well is because a large group of people properly organized can accomplish an exponentially larger amount of tasks in an afternoon than one or two individuals working by themselves.
So there you have it. A half a dozen practical ways to reduce the amount of money you spend on yard care. These alternatives are not only cost effective, but they are also safe for your children and environmentally friendly.
So good luck with your yard, and may your days be filled with the delight of being surrounded by a beautiful and healthy lawn.