Money Tips: Green Up This Season with Less Green
Credit union members not only like to keep their finances in tip-top shape but also work hard to keep their homes and outdoor spaces healthy and looking great. As the warm weather of summer heat spreads across a majority of the country, many of us turn our thoughts to greening up the lawn, growing the perfect garden, and transforming our yards into the ultimate outdoor oasis. However, this can be a costly and time consuming effort that has the potential to eat up your resources quicker than Peter Rabbit eats freshly grown carrots!
According to Ted Steinberg’s American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, American consumers spend about $40 billion on lawn care, which includes water, fertilizer, lawn care services, seed, and gardening equipment. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that homeowners in the US annually spend nearly 73 hours mowing lawns, trimming, clipping, pruning, and fertilizing, among other duties, to maintain and improve their outdoor spaces.
However, with a little bit of planning and some thought you can bring your backyard to life for a season full of outdoor fun and frolicking, without digging too deep into your pocketbook or spending every free moment devoted to your greenery.
5 Lawn Care Tips to Save Money & Time from Credit Unions Online
- Plant Prudently
When planning your planting, you should not only consider what would be aesthetically pleasing but also what will be practical and energy saving. Leafy shade trees can help reduce energy bills significantly by keeping your home cooler during warm months. Fruit trees provide shade as well along with bushels of free fruit to enjoy, give as gifts, or even sell at a local farmers’ market. Native trees and plants, many of which can survive on naturally occurring rain and less watering on your part, will add interest to your garden while reducing your water bill. In fact, the more trees and plants you have on your property and the less lawn you have, the better. Lawns are more costly to water at an estimated $400 per year. Finally, plant perennials instead of annuals since perennials come back each year and can be divided to use in other areas or traded with friends and neighbors adding to your garden’s variety and color.
- Create Compost
You can create your own organic compost using food scraps, grass and shrubbery clippings, and other plant-based waste. This homemade compost can be turned into free fertilizer by adding it to garden soil for planting, using it as mulch, or for feeding the lawn. With just a small compost bin you can produce up to $200 worth of fertilizer when compared to purchasing the same amount from a home improvement store like Lowe’s or Home Depot. Plus, you are helping the environment by reusing waste rather than tossing it down the disposal or in a trash bag.
Another form of lawn compost can come from your mower. If you’re in the market for a new mower, be sure to buy one with a mulcher. This will send valuable grass clippings straight back into the ground where they will help to green up your lawn, rather than into a lawn & leaf bag to be pitched.
- Mower Know-How
Whether you are working with a shiny, new mower or old reliable, it’s very important to make sure it is running properly and with a sharpened blade, for optimum performance. Although many lawn masters may not realize this, experts suggest sharpening and balancing the mower blade three times per season. A dull blade not only leads to stressed grass and lawn destruction over time but does an inferior job. If you want a nice even, healthy-looking, professional-quality cut, a sharp blade is the way to go.
Also, be sure your mower is well-oiled and gassed up. Keep a supply of mower provisions in your shed or garage so you can keep your lawn looking and feeling great all season long.
- Seed, Feed and Water wisely
If your lawn requires seeding, be sure to buy the correct type depending on the temperature of the area in which you live and the amount of sun vs shade in your yard. It is important to focus on any sparse areas -- if they are not filled in with enough seed, weeds will take the place of grass and will then require weed killer.
Although it is important to feed your lawn, you want to resist the urge to over fertilize which can damage the grass and become expensive. Before buying fertilizer or signing up for a lawn service, you might consider testing your soil with a kit sold at most nurseries. This will help you determine the type and frequency of the fertilizer you’ll need.
Once you have seeded well or even established a lovely green lawn, there is a secret to continuing to grow and maintain healthy grass…watering! By following some simple rules you can master the art of watering. Water in the morning before the heat of the day sets in and avoid nighttime watering which can lead to mold. Do not overwater or water too frequently -- it is best to water for a long period of time just once a day so the moisture has a chance to reach the roots.
By Cyndi Cohen
- Be a Frugal Garden Guru
Refurbish old yard furniture, pots, and décor with just some sanding and new paint. You’ll save money on new pieces and create original ones to add personal style to your garden.
Shop small and local at family-owned farms and nurseries rather than at the larger home-improvement stores. Plants and gardening supplies will often be priced cheaper and you’ll be supporting the local community.
At the end of the season (mid-fall), shop clearance sales for supplies and even plants. Contrary to popular belief, fall is actually a great time for growing certain plants.
With a little creativity, ingenuity, a small budget, and some hard work, you’ll have the greenest yard on the block!
Published July 18, 2012