Need low budget tips for quick garden/grass

newgeorgiagardnerJune 15, 2005

I live in Atlanta, GA. My H and I just bought our first home (ever). I have not got a clue about gardening or landscaping. Our small backyard looks horrible. We can't afford a landscaper at this point. Our "yard" was pure mulch (no grass). Red clay. Heavily shaded by Pine trees that are not on our property but hang over our property. The pine trees drop stuff all over our yard - constantly. I think this yard must have been a problem for all of the previous owners. We tried to plant Leyland Cypress (13) but they look pretty lame - are only a foot tall and not doing well. We have guests coming in three weeks. What can we do - quick - to help our pathetic yard look better on a low budget. Thanks!

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The first idea that comes to mind is be sure it is tidy; rake up, fill in any holes, even out high spots, weed. That's cheap enough--just elbow grease, right?

You can fill in any planters with bags of bark which makes it look better. Or walking paths can be edged with rocks or purchased edging, then fill in with bark, gravel, stepping stones or whatever.

To try to plant much without a real plan now might be a waste of money unless maybe you want to invest in a few blooming annuals near to the front or back doors. To do it properly you need a plan, soil amendments, etc. I'm sure others, maybe even people in your zone, will have some plant suggestions though.

Congratulations on your new home. Your guests must be thrilled for you and looking forward to seeing the place. Remember, they don't expect it to look like Huntington Gardens. They know you are just starting out and more than likely you have tons to do inside and outside. So tidy it up, and tell your guests you would appreciate their suggestions as to how to landscape the yard. They will be flattered that you value their opinions.

PS you could put some plants in pots, and then when you do landscape, plant them in the ground.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 6:20PM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Another possible - depending on your sense of humour - is to forget the plants and pop in some 'garden sculptures'. Home-made, offbeat, downright hilarious, amazingly coloured. A fantasy spot that's easy to clear when you've got the time.

With guests coming, and summer, probably the outdoor table, barbie, and the sun sail are more important than the planting.

When the guests are gone and autumn's coming in then you can think about your style and planting schemes.

About the pines - if they give you useful shade, and it's convenient, you could locate your garden shed under them (the 'barn' with some root-proof planters and a handsome paint job), or a shade house, or even a 'sit-outery'.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 7:19PM
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Thanks Socks and Vetivert8. I did try to beautify my patio with containers - that helped. Thanks for the advice. I guess gardening is not something you can do "quick." I might try the sculptures! I will definitely ask my guests for their gardening advice.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 7:43PM
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newgeorgiagardner...good thinking on your last post. Time is just not on your side, and if you try to rush into something you could be just throwing your money away. Maybe you could focus on other things to make your guests stay comfortable.

Again congratulations. I remember when we first bought our home. Red and black flocked wallpaper, dirty white carpet, yard needing attention. While your home may not need that much help, I remember how it was...lots to do, and so exciting!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 8:37PM
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Congratulations on your new home! Plants in pots sound perfect for your present situation.

I am wondering about the 13 Leyland Cypress, though, since you state your yard is small. You might want to look up more about them when you have the chance. They get quite large really fast.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 11:36PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Great advice from these good people! My husband and I recently moved into a previously owned home, too. The back yard wasn't a mess, but it was a totally blank canvas! Since both of us are professional horticulturists, and often do quite a bit of design work, we knew what to do: we waited....and thought about it.....and talked about it.....and waited some more. When it comes to landscaping, planning is 'almost' everything!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 10:17AM
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:) shade is not a bad thing in the summer time- especially not in georgia! and honestly- many of my favorite plants like the shade.

the cypresses are beautiful trees- but they might be safer in containers themselves- they do get big, and 13 of them is a grove suitable for a 5 acre plot, not a normal folks' house :)

I like to joke that my back yard is about the size of my dad's living room- I'm exaggerating. it's maybe half that size... a 6 person table would take up the entire lawn, and the daylilies would be tickling our shoulders from the borders.

so container plants for the party are can learn to garden afterwards.

the best way to learn? make friends with ever person on your street with a nice garden. offer to trade sweat for wisdom... most of us will jump at the chance for company...and send you home with cuttings suited to the area, taboot :)

then, you can spend all winter reading, and drafting what you want to do with that plans will take five years to really come together, but I planned for that. and if my raised beds are edged with concrete broken in chunks from where they knocked down a building...

the 6 ft section I have finished is so buried under sedums, rock cress, and lamium that you'd never know it ;)

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 12:51PM
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mamimo(Sunset 16)

Congratulations on your new home! We were in a similar situation a few months ago, when we hosted a party at our place just shortly after we moved into our new home. The yard was a muddy mess--there was no grass, etc, so we concentrated our efforts on making the home cozy and presentable. Every guest was understanding about the yard (they've all been in those shoes before!) and we had a good time. So relax, enjoy yourself :-)

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 1:33PM
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Thanks everybody! It sounds like everyone has been in my shoes. Actually, I think our backyard is bigger than I originally portrayed. It certainly isn't big, but it is a backyard suitable for a dog. The Leyland Cypresses might be too big, though. They were my husband's idea to block out the townhouses that are directly behind us. No need to worry, they do not seem to be flourishing at all. I think our yard would best be described as a "clean slate" but we are not horticulturists like Rhizo. I think my biggest problem has been this feeliing of urgency because the planting season will soon end. I guess I should let this go and plan all winter for what I will plant in the spring. Thanks for all the warm responses!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 3:00PM
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cypresses need a TON of water to get established- and in your neck of the woods, that means daily watering (at least an inch a day.

and yeah- that sense of urgency to make the house perfect RIGHT NOW is a killer for me...and my house was a bit of a dump when we bought it (stongly built, but piled with stuff) and I ran around like a spazz for the first 6 months...and then spent the next three trying to clean up the mess I made!

with the clay soil (I grew up with clay, and shale) if you have areas clear of tree roots, rototilling all that mulch into the soil one bed at a time is an option. the other option is to start a compost heap now, and spend the summer scavanging 'clean fill' (ie unwanted dirt) grass clippings, coffee grounds, and the like for the building of 'lasanga' beds (a raised bed made of composted materials and dirt layered to encourage earthworms) which I like better than walled off beds.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2005 at 10:29AM
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HI, I'm in Dallas GA myself, not far from you. You just planted your leyland cypress this year, right? Well I've always heard this about LC: The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap! So have no worries about them not doing much now, give it time and they will soon be 30 or 40 Ft tall!!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 9:15PM
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