If you've ever unsuccessfully tried to get grass to grow in the small bare spots in your lawn, you probably made the mistake of not properly preparing the soil. Grass seed needs a lodging spot in order to hold itself in place and protect it against washing rain, drying sun and wind. Use your garden trowel or hoe to work up the upper layer of soil before laying down the seed. A power cultivator will enable you to prepare larger areas.
Shrubs and hedges can be trimmed monthly during the growing season. By trimming them back they'll grow more slowly. The slower a shrub grows the thicker and better it will look.
Cyclone or rotary spreaders work best with fertilizers. Drop spreaders work best with lime.
If the area you are building in has a steep slope, build terraces or steps made of logs or old railroad ties across the slope to divert water away from slopes and prevent soil erosion. Between the steps, spread a thick layer of wood chips to protect the soil. If the slope is gentle, seeding grass may be enough. Use splash guards on gutter outlets to help reduce erosion at the foundation of your home.
It is best to apply fertilizer when the soil is moist and then water lightly. This will help the fertilizer move into the root zone where it is available to the plants, rather than stay on top of the soil where it can be blown or washed away. Watch the weather. Avoid applying it immediately before a heavy rain system is predicted to arrive. Too much rain (or sprinkler water) will take the nutrients away from the lawn's root zone. Use the minimal amount of fertilizer necessary and apply it in small, frequent applications. An application of 2 pounds of fertilizer five times per year is better than 5 pounds of fertilizer twice a year. Calibrate your fertilizer spreader to be sure you know exactly how much material is being discharged in a given space. Follow instructions accompanying your spreader. When spreading fertilizer, cover ends of the lawn first, ten go back and forth across the rest of the lawn, using half of the recommended amount. Shut the spreader off before reaching the ends to avoik over-application. Apply the other half of the fertilizer going back and forth perpendicular to the first pattern. Dispose of fertilizer bags or containers in a safe and state-approved manner.
Annuals are shallow rooted so don't allow the soil to dry out too deeply. Begin watering in the morning and water through the heat of the day. Stop in mid-afternoon to allow the plants to dry off before nightfall. Night waterings can create ideal conditions for disease development. During periods of very hot weather, water earlier in the morning.
The roots of plants need a constant supply of oxygen at all times. Overmulching kills the roots of shallow-rooted plants by suffocation. Symptoms of too much mulch include chlorotic foliage (symptoms often resemble iron deficiency), abnormally small leaves, poor growth and dieback of older branches. Disease organisms that are active under conditions of low oxygen and excessive moisture can become active and attack the roots. Sometimes the old root system will be rotted as the plant tries to send out new roots into the mulch layer. Excessive amounts of mulch applied around tree trunks can lead to cankers on susceptible species
For fast results, try hydroseeding your lawn. Hydroseed is prepared in a mixing tank. As the tank is filling with water, a cellulose fiber is added, as well as the seed mixture. Once the tank is full, a growth stimulant and fertilizer are added and then mixed for about ten minutes. Once it's ready, the mixture is sprayed evenly across the soil.
You can use a level on top an 8 ft.-long 2x4 to determine the slope for yard and garden projects. If you need a slope of 1/4 in. per foot, tack a 2-in. block under the 2x4 on the down- slope end. When the bubble is level, you will have 1/4 in. per foot (2 in. divided by 8 ft.). You can vary the block height for other slopes. If you want a slope of 1/2 in. per foot, make the block 4 in. high.
Want to check for surface feeding insects? Cut out both ends of a coffee can, screw it into the suspected area of infestation, fill it with water and a tablespoon of dish washing soap. As the water soaks into the soil the insects will float to the top.