Rafed English

Front Yard Landscaping Ideas

It's easy to get caught up in decor projects, from new countertops to curtains — sometimes at the expense of your home's exterior. But landscaping and other outside updates don't have to be a hassle. Follow our targeted tips, and you'll be proud to invite guests over, have the neighbors stroll by, or even just pull into your own driveway.

Yard Smarts

Here are three solutions for covering more ground — with less effort:

1. Cure a Sick Lawn

The top five grass-related grumbles, solved.

• Brown sections. It's tempting to set the mower blades low so you won't have to cut the lawn again so soon. But slicing off more than an inch of grass at a time can cause what remains to turn brown. Ditto with using a dull blade. (Have the mower serviced yearly.)

• Trampled paths. If your family and guests are always trekking across the grass, take it as a cue that the route should be recognized: Install slate or concrete paving stones.

• Brittle grass. If blades look withered or snap easily, it may be that the ground's too dry. To test, push a screwdriver into the soil in a few spots. If it doesn't go in smoothly to a depth of six inches, haul out the hose.

• Overall yellowing. A jaundiced lawn can actually be caused by fertilizer — the nitrogen in it that encourages growth can "burn" the grass if it's overdosed. After a treatment, water well to dilute the fertilizer and help it soak down.

• Yellow patches. The probable (icky) culprit is pet urine. Like fertilizer, it contains nitrogen, but in a more concentrated amount. The only real solution: Curb your dog. If you catch him (or another pup) lifting his leg on your lawn, quickly douse the spot with the hose. Existing yellow patches may need reseeding.

2. Grass Begone

If keeping a lawn green has you seeing red, consider these alternatives:

• What's known as "no-mow" grass, which doesn't grow as tall — or clover, or a blend. These won't offer a golf course — like appear-ance, but both cover large areas with a swath of green, and need far less TLC.

• Edible ground cover. Replace small areas of grass with spreading varieties of herbs, such as wintergreen, thyme, or sage; leafy veggies in the lettuce family; or even low-growing berry plants. Note: These, and clover by itself, can't take as much foot traffic as regular grass.

• Hardscaping. For the least maintenance, consider gravel, slate tiles, or another rocklike ground cover — a particularly smart solution in drought-prone areas. Plan it out (with a pro, if needed) before you de-plant, to decide what greenery stays. Landscape fabric underneath should help prevent regrowth.

3. Mind Your Mulch

Put it down to deter weeds in flower beds

• Pick organic mulch (rather than inorganic types such as brick chips or shredded rubber) — it will keep the ground cool, hold in moisture, let plant roots breathe, and break down to enrich the soil.

• Skip free mulch, unless you know the source. If it contains weeds, mushrooms, or diseased wood or plants, it can spread those scourges to your yard.

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