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Create Curb Appeal

It’s a common new homebuyer story: The yard looked clean-cut when you bought it in December, but by May bushes were blooming, weeds had sprouted, and the grass was up to your knees. Can you manage it all with a used weed whacker? Doubtful. But learning to curb nature doesn’t have to be complicated. Even seasoned gardeners may have to re-learn how to handle a new yard, which may contain different plant varieties, a new type of soil, or a different exposure to moisture and sun that demand a different kind of care. When troubleshooting a new yard, think long-term: You’ve got to get it healthy before you can get it pretty.

Get instruction.
Major home-and-garden stores as well as local nurseries often teach classes on gardening basics for a nominal fee. These courses can be especially helpful if you’ve moved to another part of the country and want to learn about how your new climate may impact your yard. The American Horticultural Society offers links to local “master gardeners” organizations throughout the US at its website. These organizations offer classes and make experts available for those with questions. For more info, go to http://www.ahs.org/master_gardeners/index.htm.

Get the right tools.
If you’re just starting out, you’ll need some tools. First off, you’ll need a lawn mower. A gas-powered or electric mower may be practical for large yards, while a push mower may be fine for small, flat ones. Next, you’ll need a sprinkler and hose, preferably with a spray nozzle attachment. A large shovel for moving rocks or digging up small trees is useful, while a small shovel will help with digging up smaller plants or preparing soil for plantings. Pruning shears or a small saw will help you cut branches or prune. A rake is a must, as is a wagon or wheelbarrow to collect debris will help. Creating a separate trash can or compost pile for yard waste will make clean-up easier.

Tackle the grass.
After giving the grass a trim, take a look at it: Is it green and healthy, or brown in spots? Does it have weeds and moss? If your grass lacks weeds and moss but the soil seems hard and the grass is thinning, your lawn could need aerating – a process which punches small holes in the soil, breaks up the dirt, and lets both dirt and grass soak up more nutrients. You might also need to seed the lawn, but if weeds are an issue you may want to use a “weed and feed” formula which simultaneously plants grass while killing weeds.

Meet the plants, then prune them.
Don’t know what a particular plant is? Ask a neighbor who has the same one – or snip off part of the plant and take it to a nursery. Before you prune (or trim) plants, learn their variety and take into consideration their exposure to sun and water. The way you prune a plant can influence the way it grows (or suffers).

Diagnose ailing plants.
If a plant or tree is dying, has an infestation, or is not thriving, research whether or not it can be saved. Depending on the type of illness a plant suffers, it could be revived—possibly if placed in another part of the yard. But some plants and trees that are affected may be doomed. If you simply dislike a plant, or don’t want to manage its complicated care requirements, many online bulletin boards will let you post your offering of a free plant for other gardeners to come collect.