Tue, 5 Feb, 2019
7 common backyard problems solved
When it comes to garden solutions, there’s no substitute for hands-on experience. So we asked the experts to share their solutions to Handyman readers’ outdoor problems.
1. Bare patches in the lawn
PROBLEM: “I spilled fertiliser and killed a patch of grass. So I reseeded, but nothing happened. When I laid turf over it, the turf died. What can I do?”
SOLUTION: It’s contaminated soil you’re up against, and this is a problem that’s easy to remedy. Turn the soil over, then dig deep and flip over clumps of soil. This buries the most contaminated top layer far down where the contaminants will dissipate before new roots grow. Flood the area with water for at least 15 minutes to drive the contaminants deeper, then you’re ready for seed or turf.
2. Heavy potted plants
PROBLEM: “I move pots about so I always have flowers in bloom on my deck, but some are too heavy. Can I lighten them?”
SOLUTION: Use foam packing peanuts instead. They are around $7 for 100g, from stores like Officeworks. Fill the pot one-third to one-half full with packing peanuts and cover with landscape fabric, then top up the pot with a good-quality potting mix. While this planting method lessens the weight of the pot, it will need more frequent watering due to the reduced amount of soil. Cover the mix with bark mulch to help retain moisture.
3. Rotten post in the fence
PROBLEM: “One of my fence posts is rotting away and needs replacing, but I’m really not sure how to get the concrete footing out of the ground.”
SOLUTION: It’s not complicated, but you’ll definitely work up a sweat. Dig a semicircular hole the same depth as the concrete around one side of the footing. Make the hole large enough so you can get a good swing at the concrete with a sledgehammer. When you’ve knocked off half the concrete, you and a helper should be able to lift the post out of the hole.
TIP: The post may break off while it’s being lifted. If it does, tie a rope around the footing to lift it out.
4. Spots of dead grass
PROBLEM: “There are 100mm wide areas on the lawn with dead grass in the middle. I wonder if my dog could be causing them?”
SOLUTION: You are right. They’re called dog spots and occur when a dog wees in the same area and the urine burns the grass roots. Give your pet lots of water and soak its favourite areas to flush out the salts. Also train it to wee in a special spot and mulch the area. Dig out the dead spots and replant the affected area. Soak the spot to dilute the acids and salts from the urine and wash them deeper into the soil. Scrape up the dead grass with a hand rake, then loosen the soil to 20mm deep. Add a thin layer of topsoil, then grass seed, covering with another thin layer of soil. Keep the area moist until the new grass is about 50mm high.
5. Straying weedmat
PROBLEM: “Every spring, I have to fix the open seams between sections of landscape fabric in my garden beds. Is there a way I can make the fabric stay put?”
SOLUTION: Using pins is the answer to this problem. You’ll find them in hardware stores for about $9 for a pack of 20, but most people don’t use them. Make sure the edges of the fabric overlap by at least 75mm. Push in the pins through the fabric at the seams and perimeter, spacing them about 400mm apart.
6. Stubborn shrubs
PROBLEM: “A few shrubs need removing from the yard, but the roots won’t budge. How can I get them out?”
SOLUTION: Use leverage. Dig around the base of the shrub and cut the roots you can get at, then lay pieces of plywood on either side of the roots. Position a jack stand or concrete blocks on one side and the jack on the other. Lay a timber beam on top and tie the root to the beam with a chain. You’ll be applying hundreds of kilograms of pulling force, so the beam and chain must be strong. Use an 1800mm length of 140 x 75mm timber for the beam and a chain designed for towing cars. Wearing eye protection, raise the jack, then cut the roots as they are exposed, reducing the tension on the chain beforehand. TIP: If you max out the jack’s height before all the roots are free, use blocks to increase the beam height.
7. Invasive plants
PROBLEM: “I love my black-eyed Susans and lilies, but they’re taking over the garden and choking other plants. How can I stop the invasion?”
SOLUTION: Many plants multiply by dropping seeds and sending out roots to establish new plants. A layer of mulch will prevent the seeds from taking root. But a solid barrier is needed to stop those aggressive roots. The spreading plants can be replanted inside underground enclosures. Use a plastic plant pot or bucket, making sure it is big enough to extend at least 250mm below ground so the roots can’t sneak underneath. Simply cut off the base of the container and position it in the ground, then add the plant.
TIP: This technique won’t work with plants that spread above ground such as mint or strawberries.
Republished with permission of Handyman Australia.