Spring Yard Ideas

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Now that’s it spring, it’s time to stop hibernating and get back out in your yard, reconnect with the neighbors, and finally, pick up those leaves you didn’t get to in the autumn.  As a landscape architect, people are often asking me questions about how to improve their landscaping. That, and if I design golf courses. While I don’t do the latter, I can help with the former. OK, now that my credentials are established (don’t ask about that time that I killed my lawn), let’s get to those spring yard ideas.

I don’t know about you, but I used to be a lot more efficient with my yard maintenance prior to kids. Heck, I used to be more efficient at everything prior to kids. Nonetheless, I grew up helping my parents in the yard and I think that it is a great way to get kids outside and learn. So here are a few ideas to get the kids involved:

  1. Plant a garden. This can be a vegetable garden, butterfly garden, flower garden, herb garden, or if you are feeling more whimsical, a fairy garden. Let your kids help pick out the plants and put them in the ground. Then make them responsible for watering, weeding, and so forth. Pick the right location and keep it simple. You will want to plant those veggies in a sunny spot while those shade-loving plants like hostas and ferns will thrive under trees or on the north side of the house. Start small with a 4’x4’ raised bed or even some large pots.
  2. Plant a tree or three. Locate shade trees on the southwest corner of the home to provide shade during the summer and assist in cooling your home. Evergreen trees make a good windbreak from those northwest winter winds while also screening those neighbors you never really got along with. Or plant a flowing tree in the front yard to enhance that curb appeal.
  3. If your kids aren’t the dirt digging type, have them paint rocks or signs to mark the types of plants in your garden; create garden decorations; or decorate a pot to liven up a porch or deck.
  4. Build a bird feeder. My kids get enormous enjoyment watching the birds and squirrels play in our yard, so create an attraction that will draw the wildlife.
  5. Connect a rain barrel. You’re going to need to water that garden, right. Pick a downspout near the garden to locate it and make sure to raise it high enough off the ground. Gravity is your friend in this situation. You can buy a rain barrel at the store or construct it yourself.
  6. Trick your kids into the mowing the lawn, picking up leaves, or cutting firewood. I remember my parents making lawnmowing look so fun that I begged to try it. And suddenly it became my responsibility. Wait, what just happened?!

Whatever you decide to do, before beginning a project that requires major digging, call Ohio Utilities Protection Services (OUPS) first so that they can mark any utilities. Some of those lines are not buried deep and it is easy to cut them. Trust me, I know this one from experience (I may have cut the cable line once…cough, cough…three times). So, make sure to call before you dig.  

The lawn. The bane of many a homeowner. Every year I battle to keep it alive and green while discouraging weeds from taking root. There is plenty of advice already out there about how to best care for your lawn, so I will not dwell on this topic. However, I do recommend contracting one of the organic lawn care companies (Good Nature Organic Lawn Care, Elfner Organic Lawncare | Central Ohio) in lieu of chemical lawn care to treat your yard. As a parent, I feel better about little feet running through grass that hasn’t been chemically treated. The key with these companies is to play the long game. Don’t expect a completely weed-free lawn the first year, but your lawn will improve each year without adding chemicals to the environment.

Now, I am going to make a plug for the perennial plant. In my opinion, this is the way to go. While annuals give you that immediate splash of color, I personally feel like they are a waste of money since as the name describes, they are only good for that year. Perennials are not only colorful and beautiful, but they come back year after year. And during the winter, many provide winter interest instead of leaving you with a bare mulch bed.

Lastly, while many a plant can be found at big box stores nowadays, I prefer to support the local nurseries. The staff is educated and can make sure that you are selecting the correct plants for your need. A few that I recommend are DeMonye’s, Oakland, and Strader’s.

I hope that these suggestions create some wonderful outdoor memories for you and your family. As I mentioned, I am a licensed landscape architect, so if you are looking for a more detailed consultation or design for your property, feel free to contact me at 612.802.7976 or [email protected].

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Michael Pistiolas is a father to three little princesses: a bossy 7 year-old with a voracious appetite for books, a comical 3 year-old with a stubborn streak, and an adorable 2 month old with a full head of hair. Along with his superhero wife of 10 years, and a philosophy of “love thy neighbor”, they walk through life, homeschooling, and parenthood in general. During the week, Michael works as a Landscape Architect with The Kleingers Group where he designs outdoor spaces for campuses, schools, parks, and local communities. He is a longtime runner with aspirations to one day qualify for the Boston Marathon; however, currently settles for treadmill time in the early mornings or late evenings when the household is asleep. Additionally, Michael has a passion for all things fantasy and sci-fi, and spends his free time reading and playing tabletop games. He has already successfully converted his eldest child to a Star Wars fan and eagerly teaches her any game she is willing to play with him. His favorite color is blue, his favorite food is spanikopita, and his favorite Disney princess is Belle.