On The Early Show Thursday, Eric Liskey, a deputy editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine, shared several cost-efficient ways to go about it.
Now that spring is here, make sure your lawnmower is ready for a whole season of use. Take the blade off to clean and sharpen it, clean the air filter, and change the oil. This is something most do-it-yourselfers can handle with no problem. It requires only basic tools, and it's much less expensive than taking it to a servicer.
Get a mulching blade for your existing mower or consider a mulching mower if you need a new mower. The mulch you produce can add nutrients to your lawn and eliminate the need for fertilizer, and can be used in your garden. And, by recycling your clippings, you don't have to pay to have them hauled off to the composter.
Get your grass off to a strong start this spring by using a crab grass preventer. This is one from the ounce-of prevention-is-worth-a-pound-of-cure department. One application keeps most weeds out and may prevent more expensive repairs (such as reseeding) later in the year. A must-have tool is a good weed tool. You don't need to spray the lawn all the time, just tackle weeds as they come up. And if you do choose to spray, just spot-spray weeds instead of doing "wall-to-wall" spraying. It saves a lot of money, and is better for the environment, as well.
Let your grass grow a little longer this spring. It's good for the environment and your pocketbook. Keep grass about three-inches high. These longer blades absorb more sunlight than short ones, enabling thicker turf and stronger roots to grow. Taller lawns will also shade out weeds, keep the soil moist longer, and prevent certain pests from setting up shop. This saves money, because a taller lawn is a more drought-tolerant lawn, so you don't have to water as much.
Plants need good soil to thrive. Before planting, loosen and enrich your flowerbeds. You'll be rewarded with a lush garden that will last through the fall.
Compost (loose soil enriched with organic matter), or aged manure, is key to healthy plant growth. Spread three-to-four inches of material over soil and till/mix-in using a good spading fork. You may even consider starting your own compost at home. Drop in your kitchen food scraps and you'll have your own soil enrichers in no time!
Mulch: All gardens should be mulched after planting. This means spreading a thick layer of wood mulch or compost (also used for tilling in) over the top of a planted garden. This helps keep moisture in the ground where plants need it, so you can save a bit on watering bills. And if you have a mulching mower, you can use your homemade mulch.
pH Test: Test your soil's pH. A lot of people put down lime or gypsum just out of habit, or because they see others doing it. But you often don't need it. Test your soil's pH with a very inexpensive pH tester from a garden center. If the pH is close to neutral, you can save some money by eliminating an application of lime or gypsum.
Since temperatures can still be a little cool, you need to be smart by choosing frost-tolerant plants, so they'll last in case you get a late cold snap. Examples include Pansies, Prim Roses, Kale, Snap Dragons, Sweet Alyssum, and Calendula. Right now is the perfect time to plant seeds, which is another great way to save money.
A big part of the green movement today is growing your own vegetables. For those who just have a balcony or porch to plant on, use containers. Right now, for early spring, it's best to start with spinach, chard and or broccoli seedlings. Of course, this is a perfect way to save money: free food!
Must-have planting tools include spading fork, stainless steel trowel (it will never rust, and will stay nice for years and years), and a good set of hand shears.