If you feel like a slave to your yard trying to keep up with all of its maintenance demands, it's time to set yourself free. Here are some easy ways to reduce or even eliminate basic yard chores so you can free up some time to actually enjoy being outside!

 

Build paths you can mow over

Paths that reduce grass trimming
Stone or paver paths that follow the topography of your yard let you mow without additional trimming.

Paths that conform to the landscape require less upkeep than more formal paths that include steps, walls and curbs. The key is to set the stones or pavers no higher than an inch above ground level. Then you can mow right over them and skip the extra trimming. Not only are these easy to maintain, they are also very affordable paths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mulch trees and skip trimming

A ring of mulch around a tree
Avoid trimming around trees by adding a 2- to 4-in.-deep ring of mulch.

Trimming around trees is time-consuming and you can easily nick the bark, which can fatally damage a young tree. Eliminate trimming by applying a ring of mulch around trees and shrubs. For well-drained sites, apply a 2- to 4-in.-deep layer. For soils that don't drain well, keep mulch to no more than 2 in. deep. Keep the mulch at least 3 in. away from the trunk itself to prevent disease, root suffocation and other problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Install mowing borders

A mowing border reduces grass trimming
Install a mowing border along garden beds, walls and fences to cut grass without extra trimming.

Keep grass from growing along flower beds, walls, fences and other obstacles where your mower can't easily reach. Mowing borders allow you to run your mower over them to clip the grass without trimming separately. A 4-in.-deep border prevents grass roots from creeping underneath. Set the top of the border an inch above the ground to keep grass from creeping over it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set your mower blade at the right height

Set your mower blade at the right height
Cut your grass to the right height to shade out weeds and reduce mowing.

Many people cut their grass too short, which weakens it and allows more weeds to grow. It also means you're mowing more than you have to. Each type of grass has an ideal mowing height. It's about 2-1/2 in. for most cold-climate grasses and 1-1/2 to 2 in. for most warm-climate grasses. Ask your local extension service, if you're not sure what type of grass you have. Watch this video and make sure you are mowing the lawn to the right height.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fertilize your lawn once—in the fall

Fertilize grass in the fall
Skip spring fertilizing and do it only in the fall. It will provide nutrients for fall root growth and a shot of energy the following spring.

Simplify your lawn care by fertilizing only in the fall. Ask a lawn care expert at your local garden center to recommend the best fertilizer for your type of grass and soil conditions. Apply the fertilizer about three weeks before the last mowing of the season. This provides energy and nutrients for the grass roots as they multiply in the cooler fall weather and gives them a head start the following spring.

 

— Elisa Bernick, Associate Editor