There are few things that cause us more pleasure or more frustration than our yards–often at the same time. It’s a beautiful thing to see your lawn and flowerbeds burst into life with the change of the seasons, but when a plant withers on the vine, it can be a frustrating and depressing experience.
We’ve collected ten of the most frequently asked landscaping and gardening questions. Whether you’ve got overgrown trees, pesky animals, or an uncooperative irrigation system, you’ll find plenty of useful material in these expert Q&As.
1. How Can I Permanently Get Rid of Weeds?
Gardeners across the globe would love to get an easy answer to this one. In this excellent Q&A, Pro Referral Expert JC Davis explains the principles behind weed control.
“What is helpful to know is that a good deal of weed eradication can be taken care of by cutting off the main food source to this unwanted foliage. That means cutting off the sunlight to them and a big reason why a thick, lush lawn requires much less attention to this task than a bare plot of dirt.”
He also lays down some best practices for installing landscaping fabric, and other strategies for weed control that aren’t chemical-soaked.
2. What Happened to My Grass?
Over the winter yard grass turns brown, and of course it should turn green once again. But sometimes… well, let’s just say it doesn’t come back the vibrant green we’d like to see. JC Davis returns in this Q&A about browned grass to talk about everything from pH levels to excessive moisture and fertilizer selection.
“There is a science and art to growing grass and this is why a massive industry has sprouted up around that. Don’t be discouraged if you encounter problems. There are lots of options to help you.”
3. Are Dead Leaves on the Soil Good or Bad for my Plants?
This is a question we see every year when summer slides into fall, and homeowners are forced to either dispose of their leaf piles or find a way to get some use out of them.
While mulched leaves or other plant material can deposit useful nutrients, they can also carry any diseases that their source plant suffered from. Chris Deziel weighs in on this topic, drawing extra attention to the health of the leaves.
“In short, there’s no straightforward yes or no answer. If your plants are healthy, you probably don’t need to change anything….
“Much depends on the health of the plants–if you see any signs of diseases, it’s a good idea to inquire at a nursery for the best way to deal with the symptoms. If the plants are healthy, though, don’t fix what isn’t broken.”
4. How do I Eliminate Moles, Chipmunks, and Squirrels?
Rodents and other pest critters can be persistent annoyances, no matter the size of your yard. It’s something that I personally deal with quite a bit here in the Midwest, and I drew on that experience when answering this same question in a Q&A.
There’s a few methods to take when it comes to keeping varmints out of your yard. In this Q&A I reviewed Repellants, Predators, Distractions, and Disguise, each of which has their own set of pros and cons.
5. How do I Install and Repair Irrigation Systems?
Home irrigation questions pop up on a regular basis, usually involving updates or modifications—irrigation systems can take some tinkering, especially if you’re a DIY-inclined type of person.
This Q&A with JC covers some of these bases, and brings up an important point about check valves.
“This is actually a code requirement in most cases so ensuring you get the right ones installed is pretty important.
“Your local regulations may vary, but at least some municipalities require permits and annual inspections for irrigations systems to make sure they are functioning correctly. Do your homework or ask an expert to make sure you don’t end up having to redo your system.”
6. How do I Winterize my Sprinkler System?
The second most-frequently asked question about sprinklers is how to winterize them. Although the specifics may vary by manufacturer and model, Chris Deziel lays out a great step-by-step that will apply to most home irrigation/sprinkler systems.
“If your sprinkler system hasn’t been used yet and doesn’t have any water in it, you don’t have to do anything to winterize it. If it has been used, you have to drain the water from the pipes to prevent freezing.
“If the system includes a manual drain valve–which would be installed at the lowest point–you can use this to drain the system.”
Check out his full description for more detail.
7. How Can I Manage Tree Root Problems?
Few things lend a yard more character than beautiful, full-grown trees. But depending on the species, their root systems may be causing trouble beneath the serene surface of your lawn. From cracked sewer lines to fractured foundations, the expanding, ever-encroaching root system of a tree can be the, (ahem) root of a lot of problems.
Dealing with these issues involves some cost-benefit questions, as an overly aggressive approach may result in a damaged or dying tree. As Chris says in this post:
“If tree roots have cracked your foundation, you may need to have the trees removed, but you should probably verify the damage before you lose trees that may be providing shade and other benefits. I would excavate around the perimeter of your house in places where you suspect roots are growing and check for roots growing under the house.”
8. How Can I Stop a Yard From Flooding?
A consistently flooded yard is bad for grass and plants, and can indicate that you’ve got bigger issues on the way if the waters creep too close to your home.
There are a number of ways to tackle this issue, depending on the reasons that the water is backing up. The solution might depend on the local weather patterns, the makeup of your soil, and the grading in your yard.
However, the go-to classic solution is a French drain system. This feature is clearly and succinctly described in another one of Chris’ expert responses:
“It usually takes some kind of underground drainage system to divert water that tends to form pools in certain areas of the yard. This type of system is called a French drain, and it’s best to install it, obviously, when the ground is dry. You basically dig a trench wide enough to accommodate a 3-inch drain pipe and you slope the drain toward an area where the water can naturally drain away. The pipe you need for this is a 3-inch perforated drain pipe, which is available in the plumbing aisles at Home Depot.”
Later in his post, Chris talks about the proper slope for the drains and the possibility of creating a dry well.
9. What is a Good Price for Tree Removal?
Occasionally, a tree outgrows its welcome. Maybe it’s roots are getting too aggressive (see number 7 above) or maybe it’s a tree that grew up on its own, and isn’t in a good spot. A common question involves the pricing for tree removal.
This post from Chris lays out the variables nicely. Tree removal pricing depends on factors such as size, risk, and location.
When you talk to a pro to have the work scheduled, be sure to find out if haul-away and stump removal are included in the quote. Check out Chris’ answer for a more detailed examination of what you can expect to pay, both for the basic removal and these extras.
10. How can I Stop Birds From Nesting on my House?
Lou Franchino tackles the question of discouraging birds from using your home as an over-sized bird house.
In this expert Q&A Lou breaks down the options, including everything from distracting objects to trim alterations. If you’re having issues with feathered freeloaders, this is a good first stop in researching ways to convince them to move on to greener pastures.
“I think perhaps my favorite deterrent is the one that seems to work for me–cats. A couple of house cats roaming around your property are a pretty effective repellent to unwelcome guests.
“The carpentry and trim work option would obviously be the more expensive and involved, but perhaps some well-placed deterrents such as those discussed above would be a quick and easy fix.”