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Old 08-25-2014, 10:34 PM
2,540 posts, read 3,303,800 times
Reputation: 5542


Okay, first off, please don't laugh and no ridicule please I really really need help.

We just bought our very first house. Ever. With a beautiful yard. We're apartment/condo/city people. Neither of us grew up in houses with a yard, my parents have a townhouse where the yard was taken care of by the maintenance. Neither of us has touched a garden tool in our lives, I think.
With that in mind, we're now completely lost and petrified when it comes to taking care of this yard and lawn. We have zero experience and knowledge on this, and I mean zero, zilch, nada. I'm not a gardener and I've never had the slightest interest in anything garden-related; to make matters worse I have a total black thumb to where I've killed every single houseplant I've ever had within days - no matter how much I'd try to take care of it, it would dry out or get overwatered or something would go wrong. It's like they just commit suicide the minute they see me The last few years I happily kept no plants except a couple of bamboo stalks.

So given that it's not surprising that I'm now completely terrified that I'm going to kill off this whole yard. I haven't got the slightest clue as to how to even start: when or how much to water, when to mow, what to do with any of the flowers, never mind weeding, fertilizing and all the rest I'm going to get a gardener to come in to show me the ropes and take care of things like hedging the bushes...but I still need to learn all the basics. I started looking online and it only confused me more - there's so much information and it all seems to assume a lot more of a base knowledge than I have; even "Lawn care for beginners" resources went way over my head.
We're reaaallly starting from scratch here. Think like teaching someone to cook basic meals who doesn't know how to turn on the stove

Can anyone point me to good resources that are really down to the very basics, or even better give me some basic pointers and tips on how to get started? I'm not looking to have a fancy garden or anything, just trying to keep the grass green and the flower beds and bushes they have already alive. And not have it overgrown with weeds or anything. I'm really clueless - how often and when do I water? How long to have the sprinklers on? What to do with the weeds (some sites say weed killers are evil and toxic, and I have a young child)? Hell, I'm not even sure if I would recognize a weed Is it possible to overwater grass? We're in the Pacific Northwest and it rains a lot, so how does that play in? What do I do with the leaves and various debris that falls down? (walk around and pick it up by hand, get a device of some kind, let it be?) What to do with the flower beds? I think they're gardenias and hydrangeas of some kind...
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Old 08-26-2014, 06:45 AM
Location: 3.5 sq mile island ant nest next to Canada
3,015 posts, read 4,873,000 times
Reputation: 2127
I usually go to the U of M (Maine) Cooperative Extension for basic knowledge and some expert advice on plants and gardening. Not sure what part of the Northwest you are at but here's one link: *WSU Extension

I try to stay away from chemical weed killers like Roundup. I use a gallon of vinegar with a 1/4 cup of dish soap (to make it stick) and it kills off the weeds and grass in my walkways. It usually takes more than one application to keep them down. Some folks use Epsom salts too I should try that and see if it works better. I suspect will be more helpful hints a-comin'. Don't worry too much and just try to enjoy learning and experimenting.
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Old 08-26-2014, 07:01 AM
Location: NC
6,081 posts, read 7,035,284 times
Reputation: 12054
Ask a neighbor if you can help take care of their yard along side of them. Offer to bring the iced tea. Gardening is definitely a 'learn by doing' enterprise.
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Old 08-26-2014, 08:01 AM
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Generally, the lawn rules I live by are:
Mow high at about 3", never scalp your yard by cutting low. You may need to mow more often when you keep it high, but the grass will be healthier and in a drought situation, your yard will still be green when your neighbors' yards are turning brown.
Use commercial fertilizers and lawn products sparingly if at all- a healthy yard shouldn't need chemicals.
Do a soil analysis- generally grass prefers a sweeter soil; depending on where you live, most soil is on the acidic side- I use granulated lime every year in the fall. It takes time to work, but liming regularly will help keep your grass healthy and keep weeds out.
For weed control, I use corn gluten as a pre-emergent to keep weeds down, and it is also an awesome natural fertilizer. Be aware though that if you are seeding your lawn, using corn gluten will prevent seeds from taking hold, so don't use it if you need to patch your grass.
Watering: mother nature should take care of this, but if you need to water, the worst thing you can do is to water for an hour or two. If you absolutely must water, do so for at least 5-7 hours in each area of the yard; this will allow the water to soak in down below the sod, so the grass will develop a strong root system that grows DOWN, making the grass drought resistant and healthier. On the other hand, lightly sprinkling your yard creates roots that will grow UP in order to catch the water that never makes it below the sod which is the worst thing for your grass.
If you must use an herbicide, please use it only on the weeds rather than mass spraying everything in sight....
These are general rules only- depending on your particular climate and soil make up your mileage may vary.
Good luck- it is a learning experience, and your local agricultural extension is a great resource for gardening/lawn help.
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Old 08-26-2014, 08:05 AM
1,706 posts, read 1,062,762 times
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Originally Posted by luv4horses View Post
Ask a neighbor if you can help take care of their yard along side of them. Offer to bring the iced tea. Gardening is definitely a 'learn by doing' enterprise.
Yes,ok, but bear in mind that your neighbor might not have a clue how to maintain his lawn correctly. I would take any local advice with a grain of salt.
That said, it may be a great way to meet your neighbors and build your sense of community.
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Old 08-26-2014, 08:45 AM
Location: N of citrus, S of decent corn
34,580 posts, read 42,741,316 times
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You could hire a company to handle the 3 lawn fertilizing applications a year. Otherwise, you will want to use a spreader and follow the Scott's fertilizer program. We almost never water shrubs. I assume that they have been in place for years, so were probably chosen to live happily in their environment. Cut the grass high. No shorter than 2". Cut it often with a mulching lawn mower, so the clippings will disperse into the grass and you won't need to bag them.
Your lawn can probably use as much water as you want to put on it, but a good guideline is one deep watering a week, if it hasn't rained.
A big jug of weed killer spray, kept handy, and used frequently, will keep the weeds at bay in the beds. If you are too crunchy granola to use chemicals, then it will be harder, but not impossible. Its better to let good bugs do their work, and hand pull big weeds, but a few carefully used chemicals really help.
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Old 08-26-2014, 09:21 AM
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I'm excited for you! I love to garden and remember the first home we bought and having to learn how to take care of the yard. You WILL make some mistake, but if you have a mature yard it can handle a few mistakes. You are fortunately entering a time of year where watering is probably being cut back a bit. I'd visit a few nurseries and see if any of the local universities have adult classes re gardening -- I'd bet that several of them do. You need to learn what needs to be done to winterize your yard. Then you will have all winter to learn what you need to do come spring time. There are best times of the year to prune - and that will depend upon what you are pruning. There are key times in the year to fert.ilize your lawn, etc. Have fun with this! And if you see a neighbor with a great looking yard it doesn't hurt to introduce yourself and get to know them. If the neighbor is taking care of their own yard they will probably be happy to help you. You definitely need to get the leaves off the lawn -- if you leave them on the lawn all winter you will end up with leaf mold at the beginning of spring. Ask around to see how they get rid of their leaves. In some areas you pile them on the street and the city picks them up for their composting.
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Old 08-26-2014, 09:21 AM
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
36,434 posts, read 41,645,868 times
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The very first things you need to do are

1) identify what kind of grass you have. Each kind of grass has different requirements and fertilizing schedule.
2) identify what the shrubs are and flowers. is the former homeowner around where you could get them to help you? Even offer to pay a token price for their time. Walk around with a permanent marker and white labels and stick them in the ground right at the time of id. If homeowner isn't available.
3) ask a master Gardener to come by to help you. Call your local Department of Agriculture Extension Agent office and a master gardener will most likely answer the phone. they have to give 50 hours of volunteer time in exchange for the 3 month course so are happy to go to people's homes
4) learn what zone you are in
5) invest in some basic gardening tools and learn how to maintain them
lawnmower, hedge trimmers- if you have a lot electric is best unless you have strong arms and can hold onto and start gas, trowel or two, shovels and rakes
6) get some basic gardening books written by people in your area
7) look into your local community college or university for basic growing course

I started off exactly like you. Never paid much attention although I did follow an old neighbor around as a child. Nobody in my family grew a darn thing. I did love house plants and did well with them which led me to gardening. Before I knew it i got a degree in landscape Design and Horticulture, started my own firm, became a Master Gardener, was in Southern Living and several HGTV shows, was on garden tours.
We all have to start somewhere. You might find you love it.

BTW You will never find a more generous group of people than gardeners. We love to impress others with how much we know, give lots of advice, and most of all bring others over to Our Side of Life. We share divisions, cuttings, seeds and everything. A good group of gardening friends is so valuable.
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Old 08-26-2014, 12:55 PM
Location: CO
2,456 posts, read 2,440,121 times
Reputation: 5155
Honestly, you'll get a lot of good advice on here but you really need a book that addresses all the topics you are asking about. Kind of a how-to for outdoors. When I first began gardening many years ago, I can't tell you how much information I got from reading garden books. Here's a good beginner's guide and I'm sure there are many more out there. Have fun learning!

Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening: Techniques to Help You Get Started: Katie Elzer-Peters: 9781591865339: Amazon.com: Books
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Old 08-26-2014, 04:44 PM
Location: oregon
893 posts, read 2,460,180 times
Reputation: 649
Welcome to the world of playing in the dirt..
One of the most helpful things I did and still do when we moved to Oregon from northern California was to keep
a note book with notes on everything you do..Like weather conditions, what you planted, what worked ,didn't work
where you bought plants and even some tools..My binder is now 2 binders and I look back at it just to remember
what I did..Its sure helpful..
Best tool to add to your collection a Hori-Hori knife I think Gardeners supply in Vermont has them in their catalogue
it is one neat use full tool to have..
Have fun..
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