How to keep the grass green on your side of the fence

Green Grass Property CanadaGO GREEN THIS SUMMER

 

A lawn full of beautiful green grass that is free of weeds is something that many people strive for, while others are just happy to see green, even if it is a combination of weeds and grass.

To the left is a backyard photo of a lawn that I’ve maintained with my business for the past 5 years.

As you can see in my photo above the grass is green and lush and well-maintained. Now that you’ve started your spring garden in containers it’s time to think about your lawn.

I follow all the tips I will be sharing with you today and throughout the next few months so make sure you are subscribed here so you don’t miss any of my upcoming landscaping and gardening posts.

Spring clean-up has begun and whether you are ready for it you should prepare for some hard work with beautiful results. I’ll be sure and try to help you save some of your hard-earned money this season rather than waste it on playing guessing games around your property.

To maintain a healthy green lawn maintenance needs to begin as soon as the snow has melted and the ground isn’t too soft that you can walk on it without leaving ruts in your lawn.

A healthy lawn with regular maintenance will end up saving you money in the long run. Proper installation of your grass and maintenance will help to avoid having to deal with the expenses of repairing neglected weed infested lawns or damage caused by pest and disease.

Having a nice lawn also boosts your curb appeal if selling your house is in your near future start taking care of your lawn now!  Many homebuyers get their first impression of the house from the outside, the first thing they see when they drive up to your house.

 

Types of grass

 

What grass should I plant?

If you are installing a new lawn, whether it is a new property or you have decided to remove the existing lawn choosing the proper seed for your location and climate is key.

If you live in a climate that experiences cold winters and mild summers, cool season grasses including Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescues or Perennial Ryegrass will be a better suit for you.

Warm season grasses such as Bermuda grass or St Augustine grass will do better in warmer climates with warm summers and mild winters. There are also varieties that do better in sun and others that do better in shade.

 

Seed or Sod

 

While laying down rolls of sod gives you an instant green lawn it is a lot more expensive than spreading grass seed over your yard.

A roll of sod 2’x5’ can cost $2.50 or more per roll while a bag of grass seed can be purchased for under $10.00 a bag or even cheaper if you watch flyer sales in the spring and summer.

When purchasing grass seed keep in mind where you will be seeding and how much sun the area gets. I would recommend taking a look at the various types of grass suitable for your property online and doing some research before heading out to the store to make your purchase.

A seed mixture is often your best option as you can reap the benefits of various varieties to give your lawn a good start.

 

Overseeding

 

In the spring it helps to spread some grass seed on an existing lawn not only in areas that appear to thin or have little to no grass at all but also a light seeding across the entire lawn. By doing this your grass will do some maintenance of its own as a thick lawn will crowd out more weeds than a thin, bare looking lawn.

Grass seed can be put down with fertilizer, preferably a starter fertilizer to encourage growth once the seeds have germinated. Avoid using a ‘weed and feed’ product for at least a month after seeding as the ‘weed’ will kill the grass seed.

What is thatch?

Thatch is a tightly woven layer of organic matter that builds up between the green vegetation and the soil surface of your lawn. It contains dead and living shoots, stems and roots that build up faster than they can be decomposed.

Grass clippings of a frequently mowed lawn usually don’t contribute to thatch as they are broken down quick enough to not cause a problem.

A thin layer of thatch, approximately ½ an inch can actually be beneficial helping to protect the grass from extreme fluctuations in temperature and soil moisture. Too much thatch though can hinder the growth of a strong, healthy root system.

 

De-thatching

 

Again once the ground has dried up, using a good fan rake can do the job of removing the thatch in the grass of an average sized property.

If you have a larger property there are also lawn mower attachments that may be used to help with the de-thatching process. If you are unable to get access to a de-thatcher and have more than an inch of thatch it may be worthwhile to have a landscape company come in once to do it then you can work towards minimizing the amount thatch that builds up.

 

Compaction

 

Compaction can be minimized by limiting the amount of foot traffic and/or machinery your lawn is exposed to while it is wet. When soil is compacted water and nutrients struggle to get to the roots as there are few or no air pockets in the soil in which they can freely move.

Water runoff from a big rainfall can also be minimized if you have a well maintained non-compacted lawn as the water will be able to drain into the ground faster.  A compacted lawn will only have the excess water sitting on the surface as it will be unable to absorb it and the chances of that water flooding your basement will be greater.

 

Aeration

 

If you are trying to repair a lawn that has become compacted, aerating will be an important step. Aerating your lawn is the process of using a machine to make several holes in your lawn by digging out soil from the ground. Aerating will improve drainage as well as making air and nutrients more accessible to the roots.

If you are lucky you may have someone come door to door in the spring and summer who will aerate your lawn for cheap. Go ahead and pay for this service if it’s something you need to get done unless you plan to aerate on your own.

 

Fertilizing

 

Proper timing of fertilizer applications will ensure that your lawn is getting the proper nutrition it needs to maintain a healthy lawn. The length of your growing season will determine how many times you may be able to apply lawn fertilizer.

One application in the spring and one in the fall may be enough but you may even be able to put down 3-4 applications if needed but spaced out enough not to overfeed and burn your grass.

A fall application of fertilizer is essential for newly installed lawns to promote strong growth of the roots giving your grass a better chance of surviving its first winter.

Over-fertilizing may not only burn the grass but it will encourage too much growth too fast and can increase the amount of thatch that will settle in your grass.

Only apply fertilizer while grass is actively growing likewise with any plant. If you are applying fertilizer when the grass cannot use it you are essentially wasting fertilizer and your money.

Definitely do not fertilize if your grass has gone dormant because again it is just a waste of money. Fertilizing after a good rainfall is ideal but avoid fertilizing before it rains as it will just be washed away.

I have seen some good reviews regarding the use of granulated sugar as an organic fertilizer. I have yet to try this myself as the fear of attracting even more ants than the abundant amount of ants that already have set up camp on my property is a concern.

If you do not have an ant problem you may consider researching this option. Spreading sugar as fertilizer would eliminate some of the chemicals that are leached into the earth and groundwater but if you have ants knocking at your door don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Cutting grass

 

Don’t be the neighbour that everyone wants to rent a goat for because you never cut your grass. Take pride in your property and show it off so others on your street follow suit. Keeping the properties pristine in your neighbour is certainly good for home value.

Just like cutting our hair regularly frequent cutting of your grass will help to encourage your grass to grow. While the grass at the local golf club looks great it is often cut shorter than how short a typical lawn should be cut.

Cutting your grass too short will increase the amount of water required and if cut too short may even kill your grass. Even though I am tempted at times to give my lawn a nice short cut I resist the urge and 3 ½ inches in the absolute shortest I will cut my grass. Always using sharp mowing blades will also help to prevent any damage that may leave your lawn susceptible to pests and disease.

If you are cutting often then mulching the grass clippings rather than bagging them will add some nutrients to the soil. If the clippings are short enough you won’t see them in the lawn and they can break down quick enough to not cause you problems.

 

Irrigation

 

Watering your grass only when it needs water is the best way to avoid over-watering. If you have had a significant rainfall you may not have to water your grass at all.

If you have had little rain or have installed a new lawn the best time to water is before dawn or early in the morning. Avoid watering at night because the grass will stay wet longer with the addition of the morning dew and may cause fungus or mold to grow. If you water mid- day or in the afternoon you risk losing a lot of the water to evaporation.

About 1 inch of water is the recommended amount that your lawn should receive each time it is watered. Frequent watering of less than an inch will cause shallow roots and grass that isn’t as strong enough to fight off pests and disease.

If you are not sure if you are watering thoroughly enough place an empty tuna can in the area you are watering. When the can is full it is time to move the sprinkler to another area.

Be sure to look into your municipal laws regarding watering as many have a schedule based on your house number as to what days you are allowed to water your grass.

Odd house numbers being allowed to water on odd days of the calendar and even house numbers on even calendar days is a common schedule many have in place.

The time of day when you are allowed to water may be restricted as well. If you are caught watering on an off day for your house you may be slapped with a fine so it is best to follow the schedule to avoid unnecessary fines coming out of your budget.

If you have clay or compacted soil and are not restricted to how often you can water your grass you may find that your lawn may not be able to absorb an inch of water all at once.

If this is the case you may want to limit watering your grass to 1/3 inch a day but do it 3 consecutive days in a row otherwise you will have a lot water runoff which is literally watching your money go down the drain.

Having your lawn aerated as mentioned above will help to eliminate this problem for you.

Doing your research and making the proper choices for your climate and growing season will set you up for having better luck maintaining a healthy lawn.

Your luscious green grass may even have your neighbours asking what your secrets are. If you aren’t able to start your lawn maintenance right from the get-go of spring arriving I will share some ideas how to repair your lawn later in the summer and fall in some upcoming blog posts.

If you are interested in my services certainly send me an email to Mr.CBB if you live in Ontario and I’d be happy to come out to your property to share with you what landscaping needs I can offer you.

Is a green lawn important to you?

Do you have any lawn care tips you would like to share?

 

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Garden Growing Guide: How To Prepare Your Garden

Preparing Your Garden

If you are a newbie to gardening and hesitant about how to prepare your garden, then worry no more. I’m here to ease a bit of the worry you may have and build your gardening confidence through practice so you too can join the masses who get out and grow each season.

This garden growing guide comes from years of experience and my passion for the outdoors which should help guide you in the right direction. If you have an inherent green thumb or simply want to experiment the time is here to put your gardening plans in motion. Begin the process by figuring out how and where you will plant your vegetable garden this spring.

If you are planting a garden to grow your own food for the first time I’d recommend starting off small, get your feet wet before you jump right in. Building up gardening experience over time will lead to a more rewarding experience.

How To Start A Garden

The first step before even deciding what you are going to grow in the garden should be picking a good location. In an earlier post I talked about growing a garden in a small space if you didn’t have a large area in your yard to get started. Based on how much space you have and the amount of sunlight the area gets, you can plan your vegetables accordingly.

A garden planted with north-south facing rows will get more direct sunlight. Also consider other environmental factors in your area. I live in farm country and no matter what location I choose I will be surrounded by worked fields.

I have to keep in my mind that my garden could be exposed to pesticide drift. Pesticide drift simply means that pesticides used by the farmers for pest management in the farm fields may drift as vapours and particles in the air or through the soil.

So I will be keeping my garden as far away from the fields as possible, but I also plan to plant a small evergreen border between my garden and the field to keep the drift away.

Gardening Tip-Grow your garden a good distance from Walnut trees as they contain chemicals that can kill your vegetables.

Digging the Garden Soil

Preparing The Soil 

So now you’ve picked your location and you know what you’re going to plant. It’s time to get out there and start getting the area ready. Vegetables will benefit greatly from good soil conditions. The soil needs to be well-drained and nutrient rich.

Take a good look to see what’s in the soil in your garden. If you have sandy soil you will have to water more often, working in some peat moss or compost will still allow for proper drainage but will increase the water-holding capacity of the soil.

Soil with lots of clay will not drain properly, working in some compost even just 4-6 inches deep, will make the soil more porous and allow better drainage and increased oxygen for the roots. Compost is an excellent choice for amending any garden regardless of what soil type.

You can make your own compost at home in the backyard if you have a compost bin. If you have leaves that come down in the fall you can also add them to your compost heap to break down over the winter to give you a dark, nutrient rich soil.

Many cities offer free compost, check locally to see if yours does by contacting your city hall. You are usually required to do the work yourself, such as bagging it or putting in a container, but it’s free! Free compost means that’s one less thing you need to pay for and you can designate the money towards something else for your gardening project.

Manure can also be used to improve your soil. It can be purchased from garden centres or you could even ask a local farmer for some. If it is obtained from a farm it needs to be well-dried out before it can be used, otherwise it can have the opposite effect and be harmful to your garden. Using manure will give the best results if its applied a few weeks before planting, giving it some time to settle in.

If you heat your house by wood, you can turn in some of the ashes and it will add some potassium to the soil. Potassium encourages rapid growth, and can help to hold off disease.

Potassium can also improve the flavour the vegetables as well. Only a small amount of ashes needs to be used, and should be avoided where plants such as blueberries that require slightly acidic soil are being grown. It does not need to be applied regularly as potassium is a slow diminishing nutrient.

Young Seedlings In Pots

Transplanting Seedlings 

By this point you should have already started your seeds and they should be well on their way to making a transition out into the world. If you’ve grown your own seedlings indoors, the next step is preparing them for outdoors.

Plants that were started indoors can experience some transplant shock if they are taking directly from indoors and planted outside. This shock could be enough to kill the plant. Slowly exposing the plants to the temperature fluctuation is referred to as hardening off. 

Expose the plants gradually to the environment, the bigger the temperature difference, the slower the process should be. You can start by placing them outside for a few hours during the day, then maybe into the evening.

Then if the nights are getting warmer leave them out overnight, but not in the garden yet. If there is a threat of frost move them inside for the night. You want to disturb the roots as little as possible at this point. This process can also help with not planting too early which could cause some serious repercussions and heartbreak if you were to lose your seedlings.

I can remember multiple customers who came into the greenhouse looking to buy or re-buy their plants because they simply planted too soon! I can’t wait to get planting my and I look out my window every morning hoping to see green grass, but right now is definitely too early and even using the traditional May 2-4 weekend (in our climate)as a guideline may be too soon.

We often seem to get just one more frost when we all think the cold weather is gone. It’s better to be safe then sorry and hold off a little bit. They say the early bird gets the worm, well not in this case. Having to replace your plants is not exactly cost-effective for anyone’ budget.

watering the garden

Watering Your Garden

Don’t forget too that your garden needs to be watered, carrying  a watering can back and forth can be a daunting task. Planting closer to your home makes it easier to get access to with a garden hose, or using a watering can by not having to walk back and forth as far.

If you have a rain barrel set up on your property not only will it save you money on your water bill this summer but you will be giving your plants rain water and not tap water.

If using municipal water, filling up jugs of tap water and letting them sit open for 24 hours will allow for the added chlorine to evaporate. Chlorine can negatively affect the microorganisms in the soil, harming beneficial organisms that can help to fight off pests and disease.

Vegetable gardening is very rewarding when food from your garden ends up on your dinner plate but can also be time-consuming. Learning how to grow a garden in your backyard takes time and with proper research and trial and error over time you can have an abundance of vegetables and herbs to make tasty meals in your kitchen.

Planning ahead and taking the time to properly prepare your garden will get you off to a good start, and remember to start small if this is new to you. Don’t get discouraged right away if your first garden doesn’t work out,trial and error is the name of the game. A well prepared garden can be a great money-saving tool for your budget if you have some time and patience.

Questions:

What are some other ways you prepare your garden?

Do you have any tricks or tips you want to share?

If you have any gardening questions for Katrina feel free to leave her a comment.

Post Contribution By: Katrina is a horticulture graduate with over 10 years experience with landscaping and greenhouse production. Her goal is to share her knowledge and experiences through blogging in hopes of helping others realize their gardening abilities.While being a single mom of two and working in a sales and marketing position, Katrina runs her own Landscaping Services in Southwestern Ontario.

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Photos Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net/ Watering the garden Feelart, Garden Sign by Simon Howden, Gardening By Dan, Seedlings in Pots by Sira Anamwong

Turning Leaves Into Compost- Where There’s Muck There’s Brass


Leaves for compost

It’s that time of year again….the leaves have already turned colour and a there’s a good splattering over most people’s lawns that have already fallen. So is now the time to save some money? Sure it is and here’s what I do to save me some money come spring.

WHAT DO I DO TO SAVE ME MONEY?

Every year I collect up the leaves from the trees in plastic bags, wet them and tie them up with a couple of holes punched in the sides. I personally store them to over winter down the side of the house (mainly because my compost heap is already full), you could start compost heap number 2 if you like depending on the size of your garden. In the spring I’ll empty out roughly two-thirds of the compost bin for use around the garden/pots/baskets and then re-fill with the leaves from the bags interspersed with other roughage. The half rotten mixture will take no time at all to rot down once the weather warms up.

Hanging Basket with Flowers 2012

WHY I BAG MY LEAVES?

The main reason I don’t throw the leaves away in brown yard waste bags is the amount of nutrients they’ll add back into the garden for next year. If your able to grow your own vegetables or just like gardening then you’ll appreciate the benefits of recycling waste products from not only your garden but also your house. We try to throw as many fruit and veg odds and ends in the compost bin rather than the “green bin” as it will add “Free” goodness to the garden. If you’ve got a wood burning stove or fireplace you can add the cold ashes to the heap too. Just remember that ashes will be high in calcium carbonate so they will reduce the acidic level of soil. If you’re unsure what type of soil you’ve got then get a test kit. I already know that my soil is on the acidic side due to the fact that the Rhododendron is growing like a weed and the Hydrangea has a blue hue in the flowers. Just finished taking this years hanging baskets apart? Throw the compost and annuals back into the bin/heap.

Compost bin with organic waste in the top

I can remember when I was a lot younger that my gran used to be able to grow an enormous amount of fruit and vegetables in her garden without fail. The soil was dark and fertile, probably because her house was a Victorian semi and over the 90 year life span everything bio-degradable was thrown onto the garden.

When the local authority comes to collect your leaves or even your green bin on weekly basis what do you think they do with it? They might not use it themselves but they do sell it, why? Someone’s making money from it, how? The let it rot down and sell it back to you in a bag, how’s that for a money maker.

Rotted down to good compost at the bottom

In fact if you add a good mixture of ingredients into your compost heap and let it rot down properly you’ll have something just as good if not better than what you can buy in the store. Sure, you can buy soil for $0.99 a bag but it’s terrible, trust me I’ve bought it and regretted it. What I get from the compost heap is top quality well-rotted compost that would cost you $4.00-$5.00 a bag but I get it for free.

I got inspired by a man called Alan Titchmarsh who’s a horticulturist and ran a TV program on the BBC (The Beeb) called “Gardeners World” but he also went back to basics to teach/inspire a new younger generation with another TV show.

His ingredients for a good garden compost are:

  • Annual weeds
  • Tops of Perennial Weeds
  • Spent bedding plants (annual flowers that have finished)
  • Uncooked vegetable peelings, crushed eggshells and teabags
  • Grass clippings (they’ll add nitrogen)
  • Soft hedge trimmings, soft prunings and spent flowers (from dead heading)
  • Dead Leaves
  • Shredded woody stems
  • Shredded paper, cotton and wool fabrics

I probably wouldn’t throw in meat, fish and other cooked foods for fear of being invaded by the ubiquitous racoon. Don’t get me wrong the furry guy will love you to death, but your neighbours are going to be more than mildly annoyed.

Inside the compost bin

For a new compost heap/bin you can also add a couple of shovelfuls of fresh manure (horse or sheep) to get it started. Once you’ve got it going, just keep adding waste and water to keep it wet, if it dries out (especially in the summer) it will stop. I usually add water from the rain barrel as rainwater is a natural source of nitrates (form of nitrogen) required by plants to grow. An alternative to adding nitrogen to your compost is adding nettles. In fact a good homemade plant fertilizer can be made from the common stinging nettle Urtica dioica due to the large amount of nitrogen it contains. Nettles are native to North America as well as Europe and Asia.

If you use a rake, because rakes are cheaper than leaf blowers and they cost zero to operate, you’ll get some exercise out of the deal too. A bit of hard work is always more beneficial than convenience.

“There is no substitute for hard work” Thomas Alva Edison………..yes, the inventor.

There’s an old saying from northern England that’s quite appropriate at this point, “Where’s there’s muck there’s brass“….put quite simply, where’s there’s crap there’s money!

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Fall Gardening..Go Grow Something And Save!

Fall Gardening or just gardening in general is something I am very passionate about. It not only saves us money in our grocery budget but it is healthy for us and keeps us moving. When Mr. CBB approached me about doing a post for his site I jumped at the chance. I decided though since we all have different strengths with gardening that I should just share how we garden here at our Lil’ Suburban Homestead.

When we first moved to the coastal area six years ago we were frustrated with our gardening results initially. We learned quickly that we were going to have to amend our soil and do a lot of raised bed gardening and use a lot of pots to get that soil mixture just right.

We use a container mix from our local mulch yard (they blend it already and it includes topsoil, sand, and peat moss) but then we add our own compost, if it needs it we add more sand and peat moss and sometimes some vermiculite.  This takes years of figuring out I have to say my husband “The Viking” in my life has really fine tuned this and kind of knows what works for us. In this regard I really follow his instructions on the mixes for the most part. He is Mr. Scientific in our household and I’m the  researcher of  plants. I look for the best time to plant the seeds and what best to plant them with.

This Fall I decided that I wanted us to grow a lot of Asian greens, mustard greens, kale, Bok Choy and those types of vegetables. I recently heard a speaker who said they grown magnificently in our area. I have included some photos of some of the greens that are coming up right now.

Take the time to join a local gardening group and learn from others in your area that have been gardening longer. We joined a local group and have learned so much already. If that won’t work for you join some of the on-line gardening forums and try to connect with others in your area. Many of them have seed swaps etc. I have participated in several of these types of activities and it helps keep the costs down and you get to make new friends.

I do have some advice for those of you thinking about gardening…..

My no. 1 piece of advice is if you don’t plant it won’t grow! Gardening is an ACTION and you can think all day about how you would like some lovely radishes or lettuces but if you don’t go outside and get your hands dirty you won’t have either at least not from your own yard.

My no. 2 piece of advice is don’t just limit yourself to what you think you can grow try lots of different seeds. I was not sure how Jerusalem Artichokes would do in our area and they have done wonderfully! We also grew some purple okra this past summer that was just beautiful.

My no. 3 piece of advice is find a little space for a herb garden. There is something magical about growing herbs  as the scent from the garden will soothe your soul. It’s similar to having a  home apothecary and you can explore different home remedies using your herbs. My absolute favourite herb is Rosemary “ remembrance” and I treasure it. I love to serve it with roasts or on my homemade crash potatoes a recipe from Pioneer Woman’s Blog. I think the neat thing about herbs is you can find so many uses for them so it makes them a very fun gardening item!

Gardening does not have to be an expensive pursuit truthfully most of our seeds we swap with local gardening friends. Also if you take the time to collect seeds from your own plants of course not so much your hybrid plants (if you are unfamiliar with hybrids) it’s not that you can’t get a good plant to grow from them a second time it’s just there is no guarantee they are reliable for a second planting but please don’t stay away from hybrids for that reason. I have a pepper plant that is five years old that is a hybrid that still produces. For a long time we would just set aside $30.00 a month out of our budget for gardening supplies which helped us stick to our plans and accomplish our goals.

Our first goal was to build our greenhouse which we built for under $400.00 with mostly recycled materials if $30.00 a month is too much for you start with $10.00.  I have a friend that saves egg shells and milk cartons to start her seeds in. If you are primarily interested in growing your own food and becoming more self-sufficient I promise you vegetable plants are not picky or fussy and you can find free containers everywhere. Truthfully your most expensive gardening items in my opinion are your shears, your gloves, your soil mix and compost if you don’t have a free source of compost.

There are tricks to it all of course you definitely have to adjust your watering at times and if it’s raining too much you may have to move some plants to shelter.  You will learn the defeat of dealing with squash borers and tomato blight but we gardeners don’t give up. As a matter of fact my friend and I said the other day one of our favourite things about gardening is that you never know what kind of crop you are going to have, it’s always a surprise. On the flip side of that if your life were depending on the crop it would not be so much fun. I hope we have inspired some would be gardener out there and please know you can stop by our Lil’ Suburban Homestead any time always look forward to seeing you!

Thanks so much Mr. CBB for having me here at Canadian Budget Binder it was a pleasure to write this post reminded me of where we started and helped me to focus where we are heading with our garden this Fall so not to sound too cliché “Go Grow Something!”

Fondly,

Karen Lynn

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