Summer is short, and we all want to make the most of it by maximizing the time we spend outside – ideally in a beautiful outdoor space we’ve carefully cultivated to give us just the right mix of zest and Zen.
From the plants in your garden to backyard décor, here are a few pro tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your garden without breaking the bank.
Perennials are those plants and flowers that come back year after year all on their own. That means you only have to plant – and buy – once. Perennials can be just as bright and beautiful as their annual counterparts, and include stunners like roses, peonies, irises and poppies.
They do still require some care, however, so pick plants that will thrive in your climate, and make sure they get an appropriate balance of sun and shade. Deadheading is also a must for flowering perennials to ensure that you get more flowers, later into the season. This simply means lopping off dead blossoms so the plant can redirect its energy into producing new blooms.
When planning a perennial garden, bear in mind that not all plants flower all summer long. Many will produce colourful blossoms in early spring or late summer, but are otherwise just leafy green. It’s generally a good idea to fill a garden with plants that will bloom in sequence, so that you always have a splash of colour regardless of the season. Alternatively, you can choose from the few species that do flower constantly, like daisies, lavender and coneflowers. Your selection will be smaller, but the payoff is a lovely, flowering garden all summer long.
Native species are all the rage, and for good reason. Indigenous plants are naturally suited to local weather and soil conditions, and so tend to be hardier and live longer than more exotic plants. Not to mention that native plants are perfectly adapted homes for all sorts of wildlife, so depending on what you plant, you might just end up with an abundance of birds and butterflies right in your backyard.
A few well-chosen vintage pieces can be just the thing to add warmth and character to an outdoor space. With a little imagination, all sorts of items can be transformed into planters, and at flea market prices, why not pick some up? An old wooden wheelbarrow, teapot or milkcrate looks positively charming with colourful blooms or vines spilling out, and an antique ladder or old pallet hung from the wall is a great way to add dimension to a garden by planting on different levels. Add string lighting and presto… Instant atmosphere.
If you’re starting to feel like the grass could be greener on your side of the fence, there are solutions and they don’t all involve laying new sod. One easy way is to fertilize your lawn, both in the spring and the fall. Many people don’t realize it, but cool-weather grasses like the varieties we usually find in Canada like to be fertilized at the end of the summer months, not just the beginning. Fall fertilizer gives your grass the oomph it needs to green-up fast come spring.
You can even make your own fertilizer. There are plenty of recipes to be found online, many containing surprising – but easy to find – ingredients like beer or dish soap. Even mowing the lawn can help – just don’t clean up the clippings, which are a natural fertilizer.
The best news is, fertilizer and weed control go hand in hand. Strong healthy grass has strong healthy roots, which leave little room for pesky weeds to squeeze in. A win-win.
Sometimes all it takes to turn drab into fab is a couple of plants with big presence. Think hydrangeas, a magnolia tree or a potted hibiscus. A bright, bushy plant or a flash of colour can transform a space in the blink of an eye, and even if you splurge a little on a plant or two, the bottom line is still far less than starting your garden from scratch.
With a little effort, the garden of your dreams is within reach, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get it. A little hard work and creative thinking are all it takes, and when you’re sipping that first glass of cucumber water in your new green oasis, you’ll be glad you did. The neighbors, on the other hand…
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