Most of us start our gardening/landscaping journey when we rent or buy our first house. Somewhere along that same journey we have been presented with a challenge, some small but some big. Those big challenges could be regaining control of a yard that has been neglected for several growing seasons. A “jungle yard” is that neglected yard. The two big questions are “What has to be done first?” and “What, if anything, is worth salvaging?” If the property has been neglected for many seasons, it may be best to just start over, if you have the resources. A backhoe and chain saw can make very quick work in reclaiming an overgrown yard. Every situation is unique and, rest assured, there is no right or wrong way. Trees and shrubs are over pruned every day, by professionals too, some live and some die and life goes on. The difference is in the dollars because renovating, involving removing and replacing, costs money while rejuvenating, if done by the homeowner, can cost mostly time and effort and much less in real dollars. One caveat though, if you plan on removing trees, check to see if permits are required by the local HOA, city or county. Permits are less expensive than penalties.
The condition of the yard is usually an afterthought for most first timer buyers. Outside of cutting the grass, the condition of the trees and shrubs was not even on the radar. Landscaping matters to some and is irrelevant to others. I have seen houses with nary a tree, just lawn all of the way up to the foundation of the house and other houses displaying every shrub ever grown or cultivated. There are conventions and standards developed by the industry that professionals in the industry learn and apply. Homeowners can choose to follow these as well or take the road less traveled.
Landscaping can be an art form used to accent architectural features of a house or provide a soothing vista to those who habituate. Landscaping can really be what ever you want it to be. There is no one right or wrong way to approach your new patch of land. So, the only real way to answer the questions in paragraph 1, is to be honest with yourself about how much time you want to spend out of doors and how much effort you are willing to expend.
When I taught “Residential Landscaping” the most common question was, “What should I do to my yard first?” Surely hiring a professional to get a design or plan of action takes some of the guess work out of the equation. But rest assured that if you are one of those who love the May flowers, there can be rewards to learning on the job, for it is from your failures that you will learn and achieve success. Most local ordinances cover lawn mowing as a mandatory activity but there are, generally, no provisions for weeding and mulching flower beds. There are laws on property line clearing and rights of way stipulations on certain pieces of property but for the most part house owners can ignore the trees and shrubs around their property.
So, take time, break the tasks down into small jobs that will not break your spirit. Pruning, weeding, mulching will be covered too in this blog to offer helpful information. These are the beginning activities you will need to learn to get a yard under control. Most communities offer yard waste recycling and you will need to find out the specifics of the programs in your area. It is important to note how the waste needs to be contained or tied. You do not want to have to prepare the material more than once.
Concentrate on the area of the yard you use the most or that bothers you the most. Learn how much time certain tasks take and make sure time is left to finish the job with mulch and cleanup of debris. Cleaning up the whole yard is going to take some time so take heed of the adage, “Do not bite off more than you can chew.” Make sure one job is completed before moving on to the next one so you can see the progress being made and so you can see an end to it all. Nature is a tough taskmaster, it will dominate, it is constantly changing the environment right in front of your eyes. It will resist your control and fight back with an equal and opposite reaction to all yard maintenance activities. Physics uses the word “entropy” to describe a way to measure randomness and disorder. Entropy can be applied to the natural world because it is not a static system, this silent world is whirring and changing daily. It is only through human intervention that order can be restored to the kingdom.
In the process of restoring control, you may become curious about the trees, shrubs, perennials, weeds, and bugs around you. There are many sources waiting to give you information. The starting point can be the local garden center and home improvement stores. There is another layer of information suppliers, depending on the state you live in, called agricultural cooperative extension. They also sponsor classes and here in Maryland have a Master Gardner program for those who take the industry seriously. A visit to the local extension office can provide information on printed material they may offer as well as other information services they may provide. Many of their publications exist on-line and they provide top notch, accurate information, based on scientific research and is the most accurate. It is a source I use to double check other sources. As you see something you haven't seen before, take pictures, with your phone or with whatever technology you're savvy enough to handle, and forward it to them for identification. If you notice a bug, or strange leaf markings and suspect a pest, take a picture and/or bring a sample for an accurate diagnosis to determine if it is a garden friend or foe.
Keep in mind that gardening and landscaping has been around for a much longer time than you have and all of the answers exist somewhere. It is merely a matter of finding the right sources. You don't need to guess at anything or jury-rig that broken so-and-so. There is someone, or some piece of literature that can supply corrective action. Do the job once and do it right so you will never have to do it again during your tenure. Look at your house and yard as a work in progress, there will always be more to do so take your time and celebrate each victory.