Maintain your yard without pulling out wallet

The green slowly returns to the grass and the spring flowers poke their heads above the ground, hoping the final freeze has passed.

Here in Indiana, we usually have a brief reprieve where the weather warms but the weeds don’t grow. It’s the perfect time to prepare for the season of lawn care ahead.

If your yard is anything like ours, there’s always something to be done — clean up, reshaping, planting, reviving. After three or four trips to Menard’s, we realize the delicate balance between what we need to do versus what must be done to keep our property from looking like it’s been abandoned or from the city from serving us notices on mowing the yard (note: this has never happened but remains one of my biggest unwarranted fears to date).

So while I may long for an HGTV backyard escape, in the end, it would be more practical to work toward a “good enough for the kids to play without getting injured” space. To keep myself in check when spring fever hits, I revisit these principles for a green space that keeps our budget in the black.

Care for your machines

Oh how I wish we had a Rosie the Robot who zipped around the yard mowing and trimming and weeding. Come on technology. The Jetsons promised me more than this by now.

When it comes to your lawn, you probably don’t have any robot caretakers, either. However, you do need to well maintain your mower, weed eater and any other tools you use to do the vital work of taking care of your property.

If you’re gifted enough to do tune ups and blade sharpenings yourself, now is the time to get after it. If you’re less mechanically inclined (like we are), place a call to a local business or hardware shop to see if they have time to fit you in. The sooner you make this call the better.

You’d also be wise to sort through your rakes, shovels and garden tools. Clear out the clutter, removing broken items and evaluating what you may need to replace this year. Reorganize your stash so you can easily access everything. A warm spring day presents the perfect opportunity to open up the garage or storage barn and begin the sort.

Clean-up costs nothing

It’s not so glamorous and in the end you really have nothing to show for it except a blank slate, but the best and most cost effective place to begin is always the clean up. Clearing sticks and branches that have fallen down during the long winter, raking up leftover leaves that have blown into the yard and tidying up flower beds that might be littered with trash or toys (I’m always amazed about what blows into ours) might not be fun but it’s necessary work. Best of all, these simple chores don’t cost you anything.

Draft a list of three to five must-do’s when it comes to your outdoor space. Don’t visit a single home improvement store until you have taken care of the necessities. You’ll have a much better starting spot and can “reward” yourself once the groundwork is completed.

In all things, budget

There’s nothing like a quick browse of the summer patio furniture and landscaping extras to make you realize all the things you don’t have. It’s so easy to begin adding items to your cart without forethought of what you actually need or how much you’re spending.

Before the season begins, it’s smart to think through all you’ll need to spend money on for your lawn. From gasoline to run the mower to spring flowers, from seeds and plants to grow a garden to furniture and my favorite garden gnomes, your desires and necessities cross wires with the potential to leave you flat out broke by mid June.

You have to have a target figure in mind and you need to keep good records to maintain that budget throughout the entire spring, summer and fall.

Spraypaint covers a multitude of rust

When it comes to your outdoor furniture and sometimes even outdoor toys, you can freshen them up for a new season for less than $5. A little bit of spray paint can go a long way in breathing new life into your existing chairs, tables, flowerpots and more. Whether you choose to touch up an existing color or take things in an entirely new direction, you’ll find that even the most basic black furniture can pop with this season’s latest color craze.

If you don’t have any furniture, be on the lookout for affordable pieces at yard sales or sitting on the side of the road. Someone else’s upgrade could be your jackpot with a little extra work.

Again, you can take on the task of touching up your decor while the weather is warm. Clean off rust with a wire brush, scouring pad or sandpaper to begin. Spray down items in a well-ventilated area. Trying to keep blowing debris or other potential contact from kids or animals away from the furniture until it completely dries (just speaking from experience here).

A new look for your yard isn’t unattainable. You just need to be smart about what projects you attack in which order. Creative thinking and hard work can yield a space both comfortable and lovely without a high dollar price tag. The best time to begin your work is today.