A well-maintained yard can boost your property value, put you in the good graces of your neighbours, and even prevent a break-in. Here's a breakdown of the basic outdoor equipment and skills needed to keep your yard looking sharp.
As always, use gloves, eye protection and ear protection when operating any of these outdoor tools, and consider protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and close-toed shoes.
Trim Your Hedges To Keep Things Neat
Motorised hedge trimmers are a great alternative to hedge shears as they quickly cut, level, and shape, shrubs and bushes. They can be powered by petrol, corded or cordless and come in various bar lengths similar to chainsaws. The longer bars can trim more in each pass but are heavier and more unwieldy to use.
Before you begin trimming, make sure your hedge trimmer is sharp and well lubricated before each use.
When trimming, start with the vertical sides of the hedge first and use an upward and downward sweeping motion and move forward along the hedge. When cutting the top of the hedge, angle the blades at around 10 degrees to the horizontal and sweep cut material off the hedge. Check out the video above to see how the pros do it.
Mow Your Lawn The Right Way
Mowing is pruning. Proper mowing increases the density of the lawn, which in turn decreases weeds. Each type of grass has a recommended mowing height. Find out which type of grass is in your lawn (you may have more than one) and use this chart to determine the proper height to set your mower to.
Follow the 1/3 rule: never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade length at any one time. A healthy lawn can survive an occasional close cut but repeated close mowing can produce a brown lawn.
Here are some things to remember:
- Mow when the grass is dry. The blades will be upright and less likely to clump when cut.
- Keep mower blades sharp and balanced. Ragged cuts made by dull blades increase the chance of disease and pests.
- Change the mowing pattern each time you mow. Grass develops a grain based on your cutting direction, tending to lean towards the direction you mow. Alternating the pattern causes more upright growth and helps avoid producing ruts in the lawn.
- If you're cutting grass that's particularly long, you can use the mower's bag and use the clippings as compost. Otherwise, though, ditch the bag and leave clippings on the lawn unless they form clumps or rows. This technique returns nutrients and nitrogen to the lawn.
- Mow grass higher in shaded areas under trees. In these areas grass has to compete with tree roots for water and nutrients.
With water restrictions becoming more commonplace, it's important to find ways to conserve water as much as possible. If you must have a lawn, then consider a grass type that needs less water, or landscape your yard to include more drought-resistant plants.
Blow Away The Leaf Mess
Leaf blowers are a great way to quickly clear leaves and debris from your yard and position them to be swept into a compost or refuse pile. Like hedge trimmers they are available in petrol, corded and cordless models.
Choose a blower that that fits the needs of your yard. A small yard can get by with a sweeper that is made for clearing debris from hard surfaces and can be used on patios and in garages. A stronger blower can make more of a mess in small spaces and should be used in larger areas and along kerbs. Backpack-mounted blowers provide the most power and less fatigue as the weight of the blower sits on your hips.
Before you start blowing, close all open windows and doors to your yard to minimise dirt and air contaminants that might enter your home. Remember your eye protection and ear protection.
The leaf blower is operated by a variable speed trigger on the handle. Most blowers have a "cruise control" switch that will help prevent fatigue and give you more control.
Use your blower in one direction and work the debris from the corners in. Lift the blower up and down in the air to quickly ease and feather the debris into place for cleanup.
The above video shows the proper technique for a backpack blower, but it can be applied to any type of blower.
Trim And Edge Your Lawn For A Clean Look
A string trimmer is a handheld device used to cut grass and trim areas around trees, gardens and walkways. Like the hedge trimmer and leaf blower, string trimmers are trending towards cordless power but are still available in petrol and corded models.
The above video shows you the proper way to load and setup your string trimmer as well as the proper technique for using it. To start trimming, keep the trimmer 5-7cm from the ground and avoid hitting trees, shrubs and roots. The string travels at up to 400mph and can do a lot of damage to plants and trees in a short period of time.
When trimming along a footpath, pitch the trimmer slightly up which will taper the cut of your lawn and show a gradual transition from the footpath to the lawn.
For a more angled cut, use the edger feature as shown below. Flip the trimmer vertical (like an aeroplane propeller) and work in a straight line. You'll kick up dirt and debris but will have a sharp edge when you're done.
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