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Time Saving Tips

Lets face it, while most of us enjoy the beauty of a well maintained lawn and yard, it is a time consuming endeavor. Some of us really do enjoy getting out there and working on the yard. However most of us are still subject to time constraints. The demands of family, work and countless other things often limit the time we can spend working on our yards. Over the years I have adopted several practices, techniques and tools that help me make the most of my time while still yielding very positive results. So here they are, in no particular order, my time saving tips for lawn care:

  1. Automate your watering: Now, I am not saying rush out and spend thousands of dollars for an in ground irrigation system (hey, but if you have the cash go for it.) What I am saying is that before I developed my own automated watering system, I would spend a great deal of time watering my lawn. I would be constantly rolling out hoses, moving sprinklers, making sure there was overlap in the watering patterns, ore even worse - watering by hand. If you are doing that I am sure you know what I am talking about. Here is how I automated my watering:
    • Determine how many sprinklers you need to cover all the areas that need to be watered. Depending on the size of your lawn it could take as few as 1 sprinkler in the back and 1 in the front of the house or for large lawns it will be considerably more. To avoid having to move the sprinklers every time you mow your lawn (thus saving even more time), try to place your sprinklers at the edge of planting beds, or on the perimeter of your yard.
    • Determine the locations of your water spigot(s). Hopefully you have one in the front of your house and one in the back.
    • Now you need to determine how to connect all of those sprinklers back to one of your water spigots. For this you will need a combination of valves, manifolds and hoses. If you need to traverse large sections of your yard to get some of your sprinklers, there are several "hoses" type products that can be buried and left in the ground. I have had very good success with the Lifetime (flexogen) hose by Gilmour. There is also a new product on the market called lawnbelt (see the links page) that looks very promising as well.
    • Once you have all of your connections back to your water outlets, the last thing to add is your timers. I have a page with some details of the timers I use. You can view it here. I have tried quite a few different models over the years, my current favorite is the Gilmore Model 9400 (see the links page).
    • All that's left to do is set the timers, I try to leave 5 minutes between the end of one timer and the start of the next to account for inconstancies with the time on the individual units.
    • A few general notes on this method:
      • You don't have to buy everything at once, build up your system over a period of a few years as time and money permit.
      • remember most sprinklers have both an input and an output so it is possible to daisy chain a few sprinklers together thereby reducing the number of timers required. Just keep in mind that the water pressure must be divided among every sprinklers in the chain so it is likely that the area covered by each sprinklers will significantly decrease.
      • If you have a privacy fence on the property, consider running underground hose past the fence line, then running additional hoses above ground where the fence will hide them from view. You just need to sneak the ends back under the fence to attach to your sprinklers.
  2. Get a ride on lawn mower or lawn tractor. Lets face it, with any lawn of significant size, it takes a while to mow it by hand with a push mower. If you have more then 1/2 an acre of lawn to mow, you should seriously consider a lawn tractor. Not only will it speed up your mowing, with the right attachments it will speed up your other lawn maintenance tasks as well.
  3. Mulch your clippings: Instead of bagging, or worse yet raking the clippings from a side discharge mower, mulch your clippings. Not only does mulching eliminate the constant stopping to empty the bag/bin, or the back breaking work of raking up your clippings, its good for your lawn as it returns nutrients to the soil and helps to retain moisture. Mulching kits are available for many lawn tractor, ride and push mowers. See the links page fore additional resources. See Tip 4 for an alternative to raking up the clippings with a lawn sweeper. Although it will not save as much time nor be as beneficial to your lawn as mulching, using a sweeper will still result in a time savings compared to raking.
  4. Use a lawn sweeper for lawn clean up. Lawn sweepers work by using gear driven brush bars to literally sweep clippings, leaves, sticks etc up in to an attached catch bin. They are available as push (walk behind) models as well as larger models that you pull behind your lawn tractor. My suggestion for ride mower/lawn tractor owners is to get a sweeper that is at least as wide as the cutting deck on your ride mower/lawn tractor. A more expensive alternative to a lawn sweeper is a lawn vacuum.
  5. De-thatching attachments for lawn tractors work much quicker then detaching rakes (and they cause less back aches too)! Of course you still need to collect all of the thatch that has been brought to the surface. See tip 4 for useful tools that will speed the collection of the thatch.
  6. Lawn Edging Cut down on the need to edge with a string trimmer or dedicated edger by installing decorative edging on the borders of your grassy areas. Then all you have to do is run your lawn mower wheels right along the installed edge boarder. A great example of this can be found here.