Ideas for Outdoor Living continually developing ideas for outdoor living Wed, 23 Nov 2011 01:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pondless Fountains Add Beauty, Sound and Atmosphere To Your Yard Sat, 04 Jun 2011 00:48:18 +0000 Are you thinking about sprucing up your yard with a beautiful water fountain but wanting something different? Fountains certainly add an aesthetic touch to any yard as well as helping to provide a peaceful atmosphere. Pondless fountains are a great new idea.

The great thing is with a pondless fountain you don’t have to be concerned about the safety of young children that would be a concern if you were installing a pond. For others the time and energy to care for a pond is what concerns them. Yet like a lots of folks they still want to have a water element in their backyards.

Some of the things people love about water features are:
– The soothing sounds they produce. In fact studies have shown that these sounds lower peoples stress levels.
– Not only that but fountains captivate people’s attention. They become a great focal point for any garden, backyard, patio or courtyard.
– While ponds tend to attract mosquitoes and can collect leaves, and twigs, etc., which requires filters and frequent cleaning, which can be a aggravating; pondless systems don’t have any of those problems.
– In fact most pondless systems need little to no maintenance at all. This is a big advantage for folk who like to travel as they don’t have to worry about problems with their water feature while they’re away.

So what is a pondless water feature?

 pondless fountainsWell they are things like fountains and bubblers, even waterfalls that give you the splashing sound of moving water, but the water instead of flowing into a pond disappears into a reservoir hidden under a bed of gravel. There is no standing water therefore they are referred to as “pondless” as the water is hidden underground.

Pondless fountains, just like any other fountain, add beauty and value to any yard. The question is what is the best place to locate?

You should approach this from two different perspectives, one from you yard and the other from within your home. Today the reality is we typically spend more time inside than out. That is why you should look out your windows or patio doors and find a spot that works well from both inside and outside of your home. This way you can create a paradise that works best for you.

Close to the patio or deck or just outside of a bedroom window are perfect locations. You want them where you can easily enjoy them or enjoy its peaceful sounds. Outside a bedroom window means you can fall asleep to the soothing sounds of running water. You will also want to choose a spot that has easy access to electricity to run the pump.

One of the exciting features of a water feature is that it can be as unique as the person creating it. With the materials that are available today the shape, style and function of your water feature is limited only by your imagination.

There is absolutely nothing nicer than the sound of a water feature in your garden. For a few people it implies creating a stream or a pond. For others, on the other hand, these are not feasible alternatives.

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Which Of The Fish Ponds Designs Is The Right one for your Yard? Sun, 15 May 2011 14:50:54 +0000 Water is really a significant part of everyone’s life. When it is used to make a water garden in your backyard, it takes on a whole new role. Most ponds are built for the relaxing beauty they create. They have a calming influence on your spirit and provide true contentment. Many people though wonder about fish ponds designs and which one would be best for their yard.

The problem is there seems to be just about as many pond designs as there are books about the subject. Yet you know if you want real true contentment from your own fish pond then you know you need to construct the best possible pond, in the best location. It also needs to have a great environment for your fish and plants where they can truly thrive.

But you need to understand that the right pond design for you is dependent on so many different things that relate to your particular situation.

 fish Ponds Designs Maybe the first and most important consideration is the pond’s location. This again is strongly influenced by personal preference. Some people want their pond near the house so they can see it from indoors. On the other hand, others want it to be on its own so when the mood strikes they can visit it. Getting this one right is important as it is very hard to move once it’s all installed.

The ponds design is also extremely important. The four main things you need to consider about your pond design are: the fish you’ll use, the plants you want to use, what it will look like and its size. If you figure out these four things you can have a fabulous, unique and functional pond design. But get it wrong and you will have wasted both time and money. Not only that but you may have a pond that is not suitable for fish at all.

Garden ponds have two predominant styles, natural and formal. Let’s look at each.

A natural pond will follow the curves of the yard to resemble nature and most often includes the use of natural stones and sometimes a marsh. This often allows it to fit into the rest of the garden in a way that you get the impression, the pond was there before anything else including even the house.

Formal Ponds usually have a geometric design and only work well when the rest of the garden is formal as well. They also work best when they are in relationship with the materials used on the house and buildings close by. They are usually symmetrical in design either round, rectangular or square in shape. The plants that are used need to be carefully chosen and placed rather than having the wilder more random plantings of the natural pond.

Other aspects of your ponds design you need to consider are its depth, pumps and filters and more but we will have to look at some of those in future articles.

Be assured that nothing in your yard compares to the tranquil setting of a wonderful fish pond. They are peaceful and a wonderful experience for the senses.

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Caring for Plants Makes Us Happier Sun, 31 Oct 2010 15:11:18 +0000 It is a scientifically proven fact that if we spend time taking care of plants it will reduce our stress. By caring for plants our green friends we will discover our true self and learn how to love and care for other people better as well.

 caring for plants By accepting the responsibility to care for a plant, we are in essence adopting something that is living and breathing. This will help us learn just what it means to pay attention to those around us.

We have to think about needs that are outside ourselves not just our own needs. We become aware of the needs of the plant. We become aware of how much water the plant needs and how much light it needs to get. We also learn how often it needs to receive water again. As we slowly transfer these cares and abilities in our social relations, we become more and more aware of others. Visual contact with a beautiful plant makes us realize our own beauty.

Studies have shown that caring for plants can be one of the most efficient methods to improve our physical and emotional well being. They have a calming effect on us. They can reduce stress and relax muscles and ultimately improve the mood of the people taking care of them.

 caring for plants Plants do more than just brighten a space; they add color and living energy. They are not only pleasing to the eye, but they have real health benefits for your body as well. They can decrease headaches, stress, and circulation problems and can decrease colds. Also decorating a room with plants can help to keep the air clean. Ferns are one of the best at purifying the air.

Adding a plant is a great way to bring a touch of nature to your home. A healthy plant will breathe life and energy into the room. There is just something about having plants around that seems to make people happier and more energetic. And as has been said already an added benefit is plants will help to filter the air by removing carbon dioxide and other toxins. The oxygen released by plants can give people a feeling of mental agility.

 caring for plants Depression is one of the biggest things that can affect your health in a negative way and lower your immune system. When we are stressed out by work all you need to do is take care of a plant for a couple of minutes and you will start to feel more relaxed. There have been different studies that have concluded that the existence of plants in our environment reduces mental exhaustion.

Another benefit of plants is when they are placed in the right spot they can help insulate us from surrounding noises. The thick leaves will absorb some of the noises, including the phone, printer, coffee maker etc.; making annoying sounds a little friendlier.

Plants fascinate and attract people, they suppress boredom and sometimes the monotony of life.

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Why Perennials Survive The Winter Sun, 17 Oct 2010 03:20:09 +0000 Perennial plants are loved by gardeners because of their remarkable ability to live through most winter conditions. Therefore they do not have to be planted every year. Perennials only flower for a few weeks each year, however, with careful planning you can have some perennials in bloom most of the season.

Why Perennials SurvivePerennials are perfect for the year round gardener. When planting perennials though you should give some consideration for how a plant looks when it is not in bloom. Perennials with colorful or interesting foliage can provide interest even when they are not in bloom. Annuals can be combined with perennials to produce a continuous colorful show.

But what is it about perennials that enable them to survive winter?
Other plants shrivel up and die as soon as the going gets tough.

The longevity of the perennial plant is definitely an exciting curiosity for many people.

Interestingly, perennial plants are able to survive year after year because of a few survival tricks they have. Many herbaceous perennials lie dormant over winter with their buds at or just below soil level. They survive the winter as a rootstock bearing a stem with leaf buds, or as underground stems and roots.

Why Perennials SurviveThe perennial plant gears up for the winter by draining its own food supply from its leaves down inside its stem, branches, and root. As the weather gets cold the tissues of a perennial plant will slowly change and become cold resistant in a process called “hardening.” During these changes, the chlorophyll of a perennial plant will decompose and lose its propensity to project a green hue. We also see this in trees as they develop their trademark red, yellow, orange, and brown autumn leaves.

Here are some examples of perennials and how they survive the winter as dormant storage organs that grow as modified roots, stems or leaves. The roots of Paeonia for example swell up to form root tubers from which the plant normally produces strong re-growth in spring. Lupins have deep growing tap roots. Anemone survives as a rhizome, an underground stem and storage organ. Rhizome growth is horizontal, their buds sprout in spring. Gladiola and Cyclamen survive as corms – wide vertically growing underground stems and storage organs.

Why Perennials SurviveAnother one of these survival tricks is that even though winter is definitely cold, the air temperature is far colder than in the ground beneath. The soil is an excellent retainer of heat, and as long as it has adequate insulation between it and the air, it will retain some of this heat thru the winter. It may surprise you, but with enough insulation from fallen leaves and deep snow, the ground may never actually freeze at all during the winter. This may be true despite the fact that you may have days of 30 degrees below temperatures. You can see where this is going. So one of the keys here is clearly the insulation, which is anything that stands between the warm ground and the cold air above.

Perennials also protect their next year’s growth with waxy scales. Examine the bud of a perennial plant and you’ll see that it’s covered with a sticky looking waterproof wax. When the bud begins to bloom, it scars as its scales fall off and the new growth begins.

Many herbaceous perennials grow and flower for several years. There are some perennials though that survive for only three or four years.
Every gardener looks forward to the spring when their perennial friends come to life again. The plants start to grow new leaves from their crown or root and a new season of life and growth and beauty has begun.

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The Bulb Flower Garden, part2 Sat, 09 Oct 2010 17:58:00 +0000 Planting and growing tips

Planting Bulbs
 Bulb Flower GardeningOnce you have good bulbs you need to plant them properly. Most bulbs are best planted in the fall. The goal is to get the bulbs into the ground six weeks before the ground begins to freeze, so obviously the best time to plant will vary from location to location. Most commonly this means in Sept. or early October.

Bulbs should be planted in a well prepared soil. The depth you plant bulbs varies depending on the type of bulb. As a general rule, plant bulbs two to three times their own depth and around two bulb widths apart. For example, crocus bulbs are typically planted four inches deep. Daffodil and hyacinth bulbs are usually planted about six inches deep, while tulip bulbs are most often planted around eight inches deep.

 Bulb Flower GardeningBulbs are some of the easiest garden plants to grow, needing only a well-drained soil and some sunshine. It’s important to plant bulbs with its top facing upwards. If unsure, plant the bulb on its side. Replace the soil after planting, breaking down any large clumps and firm in gently, making sure there are no air spaces around the bulbs. Then water after planting.

There is a special bulb planting tool, appropriately called a bulb planter that is very useful in getting your bulbs in the ground. This Bulb planter tool can be used to plant your bulbs in perfect looking rows of flowers. On the other hand for gardeners who prefer a more natural look, you can dig a single hole and plant several bulbs in it. This approach can lead to spectacular displays of flowers once the bulbs begin to bloom.

It is important to use a small amount of fertilizer at the bottom of each hole you dig when planting bulbs. The fertilizer should then be topped with a thin layer of soil, and the bulb carefully placed on top of the soil. It is important not to place the bulb directly on top of the fertilizer, as doing so could damage the bulb. Bulbs are always planted with the pointed end stick up and the flat, rooted side lying on top of the layer of soil. After the bulbs are in place, the rest of the hole should be filled with soil and the garden should be given a thorough watering.

Growing bulbs
Even though bulbs are among the hardiest of garden plants, there are a few important things to remember. One important technique to become familiar with is deadheading. The term deadheading should already be familiar to those gardeners who work with perennials.  Bulb Flower GardeningDeadheading is simply removing spent blooms in order to encourage more blossoms to develop. This process is important with bulb plants as well. When working with bulbs, however, it is important not to remove the leaves from the plants until the leaves have begun to turn brown.

Taking care of the bulbs over the winter is important as well. In warmer climates, many bulbs can remain in the ground over winter. It is important, however, to remove tender bulbs such as dahlias, even in warmer climates. These bulbs should be stored over the winter in a cool, dry location.

Bulbs are wonderful plants for any gardener, from the newest to the most experienced. Their combination of hardiness, color and beauty make them hard to beat for any flower enthusiast. Many will bloom and multiply for years with minimal care, while others are best planted for one season’s show of color.

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The Bulb Flower Garden Sat, 02 Oct 2010 13:34:36 +0000 If you really want to know more about Bulb Flowers, you need to consider thinking beyond the basics. So here we are going to take a closer look at things you need to know about Bulb Flowers.

There’s more to Bulb Flowers than you may first think once you begin to look at them beyond basic background information.

 Bulb Flower GardeningAlmost every flower gardener will use bulb plants in their garden at one time or another.
-They are loved by gardeners because of the ease with which they grow.
-They are also very hardy.
-They will bloom for many consecutive seasons without the need to replant.
With all of these advantages, it is no wonder that bulb plants are so popular among both new and experienced gardeners.

Many beginning gardeners though have trouble choosing the right bulbs. But when you develop an eye and feel for finding the best bulbs, you will be able to spot them from across the garden center.

What you need to look for when choosing bulbs for your garden:
It is important to choose the firmest and largest bulbs. The size of the bulb is important because large bulbs usually provide more blooms. The firmness of a bulb tells you its health. Firm bulbs are healthy, while soft ones are unlikely to bloom. As important as it is to not choose a bulb that is too soft, it is also important that they are not too dry and have cracks or scars as they probably won’t bloom. You should also avoid any bulbs that have begun to spout roots, as they are unlikely to bloom properly once planted.

Spring bulbs flower from late winter to early summer, depending on species. Flowering bulbs like daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocus are some of the earliest flowers to appear in gardens each year, some starting to bloom as early as late March where I live. Snowdrops (Galanthus) are definitely one of the earliest to bloom in the season even before all the snow is off the ground.

 Bulb Flower GardeningDaffodils (Narcissus species and hybrids) are one of the most successful of the popular spring bulbs. Daffodils typically have yellow trumpet flowers held in clusters of two or more fragrant blooms per stem with slender rush-like leaves. There are cultivars with large to small flowers that bloom from very early to late-blooming daffodils. There are also many varieties with white blooms.

Tulips are another favorite of many gardeners. Although many gardeners find that their bulbs are relatively short-lived and begin to decline over two or three years. Each year producing smaller flowers and eventually dying out altogether. The ideal climate for growing tulips is (hot, dry summers, cold winters, and well-drained soil). There are types though that when given a little special care will flower repeatedly and actually increase in size and beauty.

 Bulb Flower GardeningHyacinths bulbs produce a thick flower stem, which carries about 40 small, waxy flowers. The hyacinth flower is highly fragrant and comes in stunning shades of blue, violet-blue, red, orange, pink, yellow or white. Surrounding the flower stems are narrow, upright leaves. Hyacinths are natural spring-flowering, flower bulbs and are very easy to grow.

Crocuses are popular with gardeners because they are one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring signaling the end of winter. The flowers are delicate, cup-shaped blooms in shades of yellow, white, purple, and lavender. Many selections have bi-colored blooms. They have grassy leaves that usually have a white stripe along the center.

Bulbs are the ultimate of nature’s talent for packaging. They contain within themselves all of the essentials they need to grow and flower. Some can be grown indoors but it is outdoors that the bulbs really shine.
Next time we’ll look at planting and growing tips.

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Fall Vegetable Gardening Sat, 18 Sep 2010 20:08:49 +0000 Many gardeners don’t consider gardening in the fall because they are afraid of an early frost. But did you know a fall garden can result in excellent vegetables and will produce crops that extend your yield significantly? Another thing is the vegetables produced from fall gardening are often sweeter and milder than those grown in the summer which will offer you a brand new taste from the same old veggies.

 butterfly gardeningWhat you like to eat and your available space will determine what you choose to grow in your fall garden. It is best though if you pick vegetables with the shortest growing season so they can fully mature and be harvested before the frost arrives. You can usually find the seed packages labeled “early season”, or find the seeds boasting the fewest days to maturity. Another thing, you should get your seeds for your fall garden in the spring or early summer. There usually is not much stock kept towards the end of summer. If they are stored in a cool and dry location they will keep just fine until you are ready to use them.

In order to know when you should plant your fall garden you must know about when the first hard frost will hit your area. You will also need to know exactly how long it is going to take your plants to mature. From your frost date back up the time they take to mature and you will know when you need to plant. A good way to tell your frost date is by checking a Farmer’s Almanac. They are really pretty good and will give you exact dates and are rarely wrong.

 butterfly gardeningPrepare your soil for planting by first removing any leftover spring/summer crops and weeds. Old crop material can end up spreading bacteria and disease if not cleaned up. Spread a couple of inches of compost or mulch over the garden area to increase the nutrients. However, if spring plants were fertilized heavily it may not need much. Till the soil well, and then let it set for about 12-24 hours. Now you’re ready to plant.

So what vegetables should you choose?
I think you should consider even crops that enjoy a lot of heat, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, and peppers. They all will produce until frosts hit. This can be well into Oct or Nov. in some areas. Even some plants that usually quit producing towards the end of summer like snap-beans, summer squash, and cucumbers can be grown effectively. If these vegetables are planted around the middle of the summer they can be harvested until the first frosts as well.

 butterfly gardeningHardy, tough vegetables can be grown until the temperature is maybe as low as 20 degrees F. But those that aren’t as strong you will only be able to grow until the first light frost. Remember that root and tuber plants where the tops are killed by a freeze are still edible. They can even be kept in the ground a bit longer if you mulch them well.

Many gardeners don’t even consider fall gardening so they don’t have to deal with frosts. But fall gardening can give you some wonderful tasting produce. Fall gardening also gives you the chance to enjoy your vegetable garden for at least a little bit more time.

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Butterfly Gardening Sat, 11 Sep 2010 18:49:12 +0000 Butterfly gardening is simply a way of growing flowers and plants that will attract these beautiful, colorful and delicate creatures to your garden. Your family and friends will be delighted and thoroughly enjoy these beautiful creatures. But you need to be sure to create a safe habitat for them. It certainly would be a shame to attract these lovely insects to their death.

 butterfly gardeningOne of the biggest things in creating your butterfly garden is to find out which species of butterflies live in your area and which plants and flowers will attract them.

Your butterfly garden design is a matter of your personal preferences. Typical points to consider are the size of your garden and the types of flowers and plants you want to grow. Pick a style of garden that appeals to you, but ensure it also contains the plants and flowers that appeal to the butterflies you wish to attract.

Butterflies are attracted to flowers that have nectar rather than pollen, like honeysuckle, milkweed, summer lilac, Valerian, daisies, Purple Coneflower, Yellow Sage, day lilies and lavender.

 butterfly gardeningPlanting a successful butterfly garden is one that promotes the entire life cycle of a butterfly. This requires two types of plants. The first plants you need are ones that the larva can feed on. These are referred to as host plants and my personal favorite is Sweet Fennel. Butterflies lay their eggs on the host plant, which will then serve as a food source for the larva until it becomes a full sized caterpillar. During this phase the caterpillar will molt several times. The caterpillar’s body at this point begins to change.

They usually leave the host plant and find a more sheltered place to continue their metamorphosis. The caterpillar will attach to a twig or branch, something sturdy. The body then begins to enter into the chrysalis or cocoon stage. About two weeks later a beautiful butterfly will emerge! Then, the search is on for the second type of plant.

 butterfly gardeningThey will be on the search for flowers that have nectar. Perennials such as Sedum, Thyme and Sage are plants butterflies love. You want to plant these flowers in the sun because they attract the butterflies more than when they are planted in the shade. Verbena is also a good choice. Other big hits are Nectar-rich plants, herbs and wildflowers such as nasturtium, Thyme, Cornflower, French Marigold, Honeysuckle, Asters and Daisies. Anything with a large yellow daisy like flower is really good.

You will also need water of some kind to create the kind of environment that they find attractive. A birdbath can look really attractive and keep the butterflies up off the ground, away from cats or mischievous puppies. You could also use a shallow dish on a post or hung in a tree.

When planting your butterfly garden, think about the colors you choose for your flowerbeds. You not only want a garden that attracts butterflies but one that looks great as well. Keep in mind that warm colors like red and orange have a greater impact against a strong green background. While cool colors such as blue and purple are soothing and work better with a white contrast to create the look of freshness and brightness.

Planting a butterfly garden can create a paradise of still beauty AND animation. By growing a few special plants in your garden, you can help to preserve these delicate creatures.

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How to Deal with Garden Pests Sun, 05 Sep 2010 13:01:52 +0000 One of the most frustrating things for me about gardening is to walk outside to enjoy your garden and find holes in your plants that looked fine only hours before. The most common explanations for some of these unsightly holes are garden pests. There are a lot of garden pests like slugs, caterpillars, birds, snails, and the occasional ground hog or gopher.

So after all your hard work in the garden you have to do something, don’t you? Of course you realize you will never wipe out these pests entirely. So let’s look at what you can do about some of them.

 Garden Pests Insects:
Insects can be a big problem to have in your garden. They can live under the soil, in piles of old weeds or leaves and in many other places. One of the best ways to help keep insects away is to try and eliminate places they could be living in or near your garden. So make sure you remove old leaves, weeds, or any other decaying matter from your yard. It’s also a good idea to regularly turn over your garden soil and break apart any clumps of dirt that they might be hiding under. This will eliminate the living spaces for many of the insects.

You can also get rid of garden pests by using dormant spray. Dormant spray is often used to keep destructive insects and diseases under control. You definitely want to use dormant spray though when your plants are dormant. Usually this means using it around February or early March. It really can work wonders at keeping insects out. But be aware, dormant spray is only effective if you follow the instructions well. You also need to be careful as it can be harmful to plants in your garden if you don’t use it as described. You also need to be aware that some insects can be beneficial to your garden and you don’t want to harm them.

 Garden Pests Birds:
Birds sure can be a problem if you have fruit or berries in your garden. The problem is they don’t scare easily. A solution I’ve used to keep the birds out of my fruit and berries is to put a bird feeder in my yard. Instead of destroying my hard work by eating my garden, the birds eat at the bird feeder. It will save you money In the long run. Birds can be a lot of fun to watch and a feeder will help you do that and help keep them away from your garden. Although it may not completely eliminate your bird problem, it will sure make it smaller. Having a cat can also help.

 Garden Pests Critters:
If you start seeing mounds of dirt in your yard and your plants unexplainably keep dying, you may have a gopher or ground hog problem. Ground hogs are rodents about five to fourteen inches long with black or light brown fur. One of the best methods of getting rid of these root-eating pests is to set a live trap and then transferring them to the country after you capture them.

If you suspect that your gardens are being pillaged by any of the pests I mentioned, I encourage you to try your hardest to eliminate the problem as soon as possible. The longer you let the species stay, the more established it will become.

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Easy Ideas for Low Maintenance Front Yard Landscaping Sat, 28 Aug 2010 13:09:25 +0000 Your front yard landscape design gives people an impression about your home, your property and a bit about you. It is what people see as they walk and drive by so you want it to be good. It is the one you see each and every day so you want it to be enjoyable.

 Front Yard Landscaping The problem is you don’t have a lot of time to spend on your yard. So what do you do? Of course you can hire someone else to manage your front yard landscaping but then that can get really expensive so that’s out of the question.

Having a low maintenance front yard is the goal of many people.

You can get one installed by any of the professional landscapers in your area or you can do it yourself. Either way you can have front yard landscaping done that will take minimal work to keep it looking fantastic all year round. But if you get a professional in to do your front yard landscaping you need to be sure he knows that you are looking for a low maintenance front yard.

So here are three great ideas.

 Front Yard Landscaping 1. Having less grass in your front yard landscaping will cut out a lot of maintenance time. Mowing the lawn can take up a lot of time and energy so keeping the grass to a minimum is a great way to save on work.

2. Use an alternative to grass that will keep your yard looking good and yet be low maintenance. Some people choose to use clover instead of grass. Having a clover lawn in your front yard landscaping not only saves you money but a lot of time as well. You will not have to mow it very often if at all. A clover lawn is even good in areas that are prone to droughts. They do well virtually everywhere. And maybe best of all bugs hate clover so it’s great for those who want to get outside and enjoy their front yard.

 Front Yard Landscaping 3. Watering your yard can also be a big hassle. As a result many people are incorporating irrigation systems into their front yard landscaping. This is another thing that can save you both time and money. It is also one of the easiest ways to keep your yard looking great and healthy during the hot summer months. If it is set up to operate automatically you will no longer have to hook up the sprinkler and keep moving it and dragging the hose around. One of these systems can be installed by a professional to take care of your front yard landscaping quickly and easily. Or you can get a kit and do it yourself. I personally recommend getting in a professional unless you have experience with this type of work. If you don’t get it done right you could have a leak causing water damage that isn’t going to do anything for your front yard landscaping.

These days, busy people appreciate having a low maintenance front yard. That way you have time to enjoy it with some great friends. You have also added value to your home.

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