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11 Landscaping Hacks That Will Save You Time

Looking for ways to save time and get rid of nagging landscape problems this summer? This collection of landscaping and gardening hacks will give you effective new techniques to get the beautiful backyard you've always wanted.

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A large ranch style country home with a wrap around porch and dormer windows. The large yard features a mature landscape with trees, bushes and grass.aviahuisman/Shutterstock

Plant More Trees

Perfectly manicured lawns look great, but take lots of time and trouble to plant and maintain. Consider planting trees instead. They’ll create a shady, forest-like atmosphere while stopping lawn grass from growing as quickly, making your yard landscape unique and low maintenance. Need some tips on how to plant tree properly?

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jugArina P Habich/Shutterstock

Use Plastic Gallon Jugs to Protect Early Shoots

Cut the top quarter off plastic gallon jugs (like classic plastic milk jugs) to create a protective enclosure for seedlings. This keeps them safe from birds and rodents without bothering with time-consuming nets, meshes or traps. For a busy garden landscape, use a marker to write the name of the plant on each jug so you know what’s growing at a glance. Remember to take the jugs off once the shoots are fully developed to avoid mold.

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tarp for lawn clippingsFamily Handyman

Invest in a Heavy-Duty Tarp

Nothing is as useful in landscape projects as a durable tarp. It’s excellent for moving leaves, weeds, soil, small rocks and other materials quickly and safely when working in the yard. You can also use it to cover plants or landscaping materials on a truck bed when transporting them, or to temporarily protect projects from bad weather. Just don’t leave a tarp laying out on the lawn for too long, or it will kill your grass.

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Cardboard is the Perfect Lawn-to-Garden Material

Want to convert part of your lawn into a garden or flower bed? Instead of digging out all the grass by hand, try this method instead: Dig a channel around the grass and cover it with a layer of cardboard. Put several inches of mulch on top of the cardboard, then water it thoroughly. The grass (unable to get sunlight) will naturally die out and merge with the cardboard, preparing the area for any plants you have in mind.

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potsGraeme Dawes/Shutterstock

Clean Your Old Clay Pots with a Vinegar Soak

Do you use clay pots in your landscaping? Over time these beautiful pots can become stained with mineral deposits. Trying to clean them with a hose and soap takes forever, and may only be partially effective. Try vinegar instead. Mix up a bucket with roughly one part vinegar and three parts water, then let your pots soak in it for about an hour. Remove them and give them a quick scrub to make them good as new.

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drainEgorov Igor/Shutterstock

Automate a Rain Barrel to Save Time Watering

Do you like saving water? Do you have a spot in your yard that doesn’t get enough irrigation? You don’t have to water it by hand or dig up your garden to install more sprinklers. Instead, attach a rain barrel to your gutters and connect it with a gravity fed drip line that you can wind between your plants. They’ll get the water they need with no waste, and plants near your gutters won’t get swamped.

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Have a Tricky Slope? Switch to Ground Covers

Many of us struggle with backyard landscapes with steep slopes where plants struggle to grow. If you’re worried about dust and erosion from these slopes, try planting ground covers there. Ground cover plants thrive in tough, sloped conditions, prevent erosion and need little water. You can plant them and largely forget about them as their roots spread and the ground cover does its work. Compared to the maintenance of a regular grass lawn, ground cover plants will save you lots of time.

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egg shellsA3pfamily/Shutterstock

Make Starting Plants Speedy with Eggshells

Save a few eggshell halves when you’re planning on starting plants from seeds. Fill the eggshells with potting soil, then add a seed and water. This is an easy way to start your plants and watch the shoots to see which are healthy enough for transplanting. When the time comes to move them outside, simply plant the eggshells right in the ground! Eggshells contain valuable soil nutrients like calcium. While you’re at it, check out more fun ways you can use eggshells in your garden.

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plantFamily Handyman

Plant Your Pots for Effortless Plant Control

Worried about plants and flowers overgrowing your garden landscape? Keep your new plants in their pots when you plant them in your garden for better control. Mix up a little potting soil and fertilizer inside the pot to help the plant transition, and take care of it as you normally would. You’ll save plenty of time on planting and maintenance – all you have to do is dig a hole! Of course, this doesn’t work well for perennial plants that may well outgrow their pots, but it’s effective for controlling smaller annual flowers and herbs.

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baking sodaEKramar/Shutterstock

Add a Little Baking Soda for a Quick Soil Fix

If you think your soil may be too acidic (low pH) for a sensitive plant like geraniums, mix in a sprinkle of baking soda with the soil before planting, then water the area thoroughly so it mixes in well. Baking soda is a natural alkaline substance that will raise the pH level at a fraction of the cost of soil amendments such as lime. It only takes a few seconds, and it’s right there in your kitchen.

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trunkKristen Prahl/Shutterstock

Don’t Waste Time Removing that Tree Stump

If you’ve ever had to remove a tree stump from your yard, you know it’s an exhausting process that involves a lot of work, a lot more roots than you’d expect, and a giant hole you have to fill in afterward. If you’re confronted with a new tree stump, why not make it part of your landscape instead? Stumps make excellent, all-natural stands for flower pots and can quickly become a conversation point without all the work.

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5 gallon bucket No more rusty garden toolsFamily Handyman

Use Mineral Oil and a Pot of Sand for Your Tools

This hack ensures your tools are always ready and clean. Find a pot or small bucket and fill it with clean sand. Take several of your most-used landscaping tools and stick them into the sand — they will stay upright and easy to grab this way. When finished for the day, spray your tools with a quick coat of mineral oil and put them back in the sand. Over time, the combination of mineral oil and sand will help clean your tools and keep them from getting dull or rusty.

T. Lacoma
I have owned a freelance writing business for the past three years, writing a variety of articles on finance, technology, environmental issues, home repair and other topics.