#1 Add Some (Tough) Edging
Tell your grass who’s boss with edging that can stand up to even the crabbiest of all crabgrasses.
But don’t make the mistake that many homeowners make of buying the flexible plastic stuff, thinking it will be easier to install. It’ll look cheap and amateurish from day one.
Worse, it won’t last. And before you know it, you won’t be able to tell where your garden bed ends and your “lawn” begins.
Instead buy the more rigid, tough stuff in either fiberglass, aluminum, or steel.
Tips on installing edging:
- Lay out a hose in the pattern you want.
- Sprinkle flour or powdered chalk to mark the hose pattern.
- Use a lawn edger (or spade) to make an incision for the edging.
- Tap the edging into the incision with a rubber mallet.
The cost? Mostly your time, and up to $2.50 a square foot for the edging.
#2 Create a Focal Point with a Berm
A berm is a mound of gently sloping earth, often created to help with drainage. You can also build them to create “island beds,” a focal point of textures and colors that are so much more interesting than plain ol’ green grass.
Plus, they’ll give you privacy — and diffuse street noises. What’s not to like about that? Especially if you live in more urban areas.
For most yards, berms should max out at 2-feet high because of the space needed to properly build one.
They need a ratio of 4-6 feet of width for every foot of height. That’s at least 8 feet for a typical 2-foot high berm. So be sure you have the room, or decrease the height of your berm.
Popular berm plantings include:
- Flowering bushes, such as azaleas
- Evergreens, such as blue spruce
- Perennials such as periwinkle
- Tall, swaying prairie grasses
- Lots of mulch to keep weeds away
Soil costs a whole lot less in bulk — $20 / cubic yard vs. almost $70 for the same amount in bags from a big-box store. Even with a delivery fee, you’ll come out ahead. The cost? Usually less than $300, depending on how big you make it, how much soil you need to buy to get to your desired height, and what plants you choose.
#3 Make a Flagstone Wall
Aim to build a wall no more than 12 inches tall, and it becomes a super simple DIY project — no mortar needed at all!
- Dig a trench a couple of inches deep and wide enough to accommodate the flagstones.
- Fill with pea gravel and/or sand and tamp to make level.
- Lay out the flagstones to see their shapes and sizes.
- Stack the smaller stones first.
- Save the largest, prettiest flagstones for the top layer.
- Backfill with gravel.
Choose a stone of consistent thickness. Flagstone might be limestone, sandstone, shale — any rock that splits into slabs.
The cost? About $300 for stones and sand (a ton of 2-inch-thick stone is enough for a wall 10 feet long and 12 inches high).
#4 Install a Path with Flagstone or Gravel
There’s something romantic, charming, and simply welcoming about a meandering pathway to your front door or back garden — which means it has super-huge impact when it comes to your home’s curb appeal.
You can use flagstone, pea gravel, decomposed or crushed granite, even poured concrete (although that’s not easy to DIY).
A few tips for building a pathway:
- Allow 3 feet of width for clearance.
- Create curves rather than straight lines for a pleasing effect.
- Remove sod at least 3 to 4 inches deep to keep grass from coming back.
- If you live in an area with heavy rains, opt for large, heavy stones.
The cost? Anywhere from a couple of hundred bucks to upwards of $500 depending on the material you use, with decomposed granite being the least expensive, and flagstone (also the easiest of the bunch to install) the costliest.
#5 Build a Tree Surround
Installing a masonry surround for a tree is a two-fer project: It looks great, and it means you’ve got less to mow. Come to think of it, it’s a three-fer. It can work as extra seating when you have your lawn party, too!
All it takes is digging a circular trench, adding some sand, and installing brick, cement blocks, or stone. Just go for whatever look you like best.
The trickiest part is getting an even circle around the tree. Here’s how:
- Tie a rope around the tree, making a loop big enough so that when you pull it taut against the tree, the outer edge of the loop is right where you want the surround to be.
- Set your spade inside the loop with the handle plumb — straight up and down. Now, as you move around the tree, the loop of rope keeps the spade exactly the same distance from the base of the tree, creating a nice circle.
Then build the tree surround:
- Dig out a circular trench about 8 inches deep and 6 inches wide.
- Add a layer of sand.
- Set bricks at an angle for a saw-tooth effect or lay them end-to-end.
- Fill the surround with 2 to 3 inches of mulch.