10 Things I learned about my yard this year

10 Things I learned about my yard this year

This is a sponsored post for Ryobi Outdoors but all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links. 

I am coming up on my first year living in my house. I am taking this time to reflect on how much I have learned and how many projects I have accomplished. With this reflection I realized that a large amount of what I have learned has been outside my house in the yard. Whether it was in the Winter with the snow, in the Spring where everything started to bloom, the Summer when my outdoor projects were in full swing or this Fall learning how to prep for Winter.

I thought it would be fun to look back on what I learned about my yard and to tell you some stories along the way. I am fortunate enough that this Fall after going through a lot with my yard Ryobi has sent me some outdoor products to help me prepare for winter adding to my collection a 40 volt Cordless lawn mower, the 40 volt hedge trimmer. I already have the 40 volt leaf blower and 40v cordless trimmer from the Spring. I am ready to take everything I learned this year and with the help of Ryobi become more of an outdoor expert.

1.  My lawn is bigger than it looks. 

One of the biggest appeals about buying this house was that it sits on a corner lot.  Now I don’t have a big back yard and the side of my yard towards my neighbors is tiny. The first time I mowed my lawn I thought this is going to be a breeze. I started on the corner side of my yard and by the time I was done I needed to take a breather. Don’t underestimate how deceiving a corner lot is! Also the more trees, sheds and driveways you have the more fancy maneuvering you have to do with your mower or you need to get out that cordless trimmer.  Overall it takes over an hour and a half to mow my small looking yard. 

So how do you choose the right lawn mower for your yard? For me I knew I wanted an cordless mower for multiple reasons. The main reason being my arm span. Having short arms made it difficult to start the mower that was left with the house.  So how did I pick the Ryobi 40V 20” Brushless Mower? With a 20” cutting swath you are able to cover a larger surface area. This mower comes with a 5ah 40V battery delivering more power and runtime on the job. The brushless motor allows this tool to sense the workload and can adjust the output of power accordingly. If your lawn has thicker grass this mower will recognize the workload and require more output from the battery delivering more power to get the job done faster. The benefits of choosing the Ryobi 40V 20” Brushless Mower are more power, more runtime, and a battery platform of over 15 tools. 

2. You don’t always have to bag your clippings. 

Lawn Clippings

Everyone assumes that you mow your lawn, bag up the clippings and put them to the curb with your trash. Well that’s not the way it happens in my town. They only pick up your yard waste twice a year. Once at the beginning of the Spring and once at the end of the Fall. Now we do have a town compost center, aka the dump, but I may have been a little lazy in the beginning to figure out how to get a pass and who wants to put clippings in their car anyway? I don’t own a pick up truck…. yet ;).  So what did I do? I bagged up my clippings and put them in the shed. Now you might be shaking your head. I really didn’t know any better. A few weeks later I go into the shed to find the clippings had molded through the bags and onto the floor. Let’s just say there was a lot of bleach and gloves involved. The next day I figured out how to get the dump sticker and I also learned about mulching your grass so you don’t have to bag it.  I have thought about starting a compost like my dad had done but I am not close to the woods and the area I could use is a little too close to my neighbors. I want them to like me. 

3. Trees

There are three things my house does not have a shortage of driveways (there are three… no idea why), sheds (there are two… still no clue why) and thirdly large trees! I learned quickly last winter that I should add weekly stick pick up to my list of chores. Whether it’s from the weight of the snow, the wind or a rain storm I spend about 10-15 minutes a week picking up sticks. This pile below was 15 minutes today before I mowed the lawn.  It’s a good thing I bought a small fire pit and LOVE s’mores. 

Now I do have two trees that I have deemed as problem trees. One is partially dead or rotting. About 100 birds have made it their condo and the other is leaning over the roof, which worries me.  I have a call out for some quotes to have them either removed or trimmed. Also here is a tip I have learned ask your neighbors or friends if they have an trees they want to have removed. The more trees the more likely they will give you a bundle deal. That is what I am currently working on with my dad’s trees two towns over

4. Planting what worked and what didn’t

Now I do have to say I have mostly had a successful first year with planting. It was a daunting task. The house came with 7 Window boxes, a garden bed and 3 planters. So what DID work? My window boxes were beautiful all Spring and Summer even into the early fall. I focused mostly on petunias, marigolds and creeping Jenny’s. Those combinations of flowers allowed to boxes to have height but also to grow full and the creeping Jenny’s to over hang the boxes.  I also added a few perennials to the yard including a tequila sunrise rose bush.  I grabbed the rose bush on sale during a holiday weekend at Home Depot and this was the rose push that just wouldn’t stop blooming I had over 30 smallish roses on it this Summer. Believe it or not I still have one late blossom on it that opened a few days ago.  

plants in window boxes
window boxes

Now here is what I am most disappointed about. I invested a bit more money to plant perennials in my barrel on my lamppost. My thought being I won’t have to replant this big pot every year. I have always wanted chicks and hens (succulents) and I also filled them in with another green succulent beauty.  Well very quickly I learned that this was the neighborhood squirrel’s hiding place. What should have been my first clue? The many peanuts I found buried when I was planting the succulents.  For months it was a battle of Michelle versus the squirrel. I swear my neighbors must think I am insane. I would yell out the window at it. I would run outside in my PJs to only miss spraying it with the hose. I am sad to say that I was defeated.  The right picture below is the barrel today. Sad thing is I’m not even sure what is planted in there. I do know that I didn’t plant it. 


5. Trimming your hedges

Now this is something entirely new to me. I just recently received my hedge trimmer and there is a reason I went cordless on this one. A few months ago I asked my Dad to borrow his hedge trimmer and he told me I couldn’t because he accidently cut the cord while trimming the hedges. My initial thought was why on earth would your put a cord on a hedge trimmer.

My one pieces of advice when using a trimmer is to start either in your back yard or where your hedges are least visible. This allows you to get a hang of how you want to shape your hedges. I started out back by my shed and by the third hedge things were starting to look good. 

Ryobi hedge trimmer


6. Saying goodbye to the lawn you worked so hard for –The drought

Now there are just some things in life we have to accept and this is one of them. You can work so hard on your lawn. Fertilize it, seed it, mow it every two weeks but you can’t help Mother Nature.  This year she threw me a curveball with the drought and in August I had to accept defeat. Now the drought did not really affect the back yard but the front yard is another story. On the up side the grass did not grow much the month of August and September so the daunting task of mowing the lawn went from every two weeks to once a month.  And you know what there is always next year to perfect my front yard.

7. What the heck is that plant? It’s not a dead rose bush? 

Now I have to say the most fun part of not knowing your yard is a game I like to call guess that plant.  For instance I woke up one day and went outside and I had two full bushes of lilacs! Lilacs are my absolute favorite flower they usually will take years to flower. I was over the moon. I also posted a couple pictures on facebook and asked you guys for help to identify a shrub that just kept growing and changing colors on me. It turned out to be a Pieris Mountain Fire shrub.

The old owners left these two huge terracotta pots with what looked like half dead rose bushes planted in them. These pots must have weighed 100lbs each and they were sitting in the raised garden bed. With much effort I lifted them and moved them behind the potting shed so I could start my garden. I honestly forgot about them.

Now when my grandfather was alive he had the greenest of green thumbs. He lived in Boston but his back yard was filled with raspberry and blackberry bushes. When we were children he used to send us out back with empty cool whip containers to pick berries. About a year after my grandfather had passed away my mom was out in her back yard, she’s lived there for over 30 years, and in their backyard there was a raspberry bush that she had never planted. It was a sign that my Grandpa was thinking of her.

So a few months went by and the Spring turned into Summer and I went out behind my potting shed and I burst into tears. There in the terracotta pot, what I thought was a rose bush, there were raspberries and I just knew my grandpa was there with me in my new house and I had made the right decision buying it. 

raspberry bush

8. Watch your garden grow then die. Lessons I learned about spacing out your veggie plants.

I was so excited and so eager this past Spring to start a garden. Heck there was already a raised bed for me I just needed to clean it up. Now I have never had a garden before. I had been living in they city or apartments so the closest I had came was a basil plant. So I sprinted to the nursery to pick up some plants. Now looking back on this I have learned so much. In a small bed it is probably not wise to plant mostly vine plants. Such as cucumbers and watermelon. Also with 3 basil plants 3 zucchinis and a summer squash and yes that garden is a small as it seems. I was a little to over eager. I did at one point have 13 cucumbers but was only able to eat one that the critters didn’t get to. So the garden was pretty much a bust but I am not going to let that get me down. I learned and I am going to have a game plan for next year. I will grow a zucchini. I promise you! #2017goals.

Garden before and after

9. Gas and the dang safety cap

So why did I make the decision to go gas free with my lawn mower and hedge trimmer? I think this is what started it. My previous lawn mower came with the house but they didn’t leave the portable gas tank. Now I looked everywhere for one of these. I had found one at a local store but the thing was huge I knew it was too big to carry once filled. So I went down to the auto store down the street. When I went in it was a slow day I had about 5 guys waiting on me. They climbed the ladder got me the gallon tank. As I was walking out with it I was fidgeting with the nozzle. I could not figure out how it worked. I turned around to ask the sales guy and not one of the 5 could figure out the new safety feature. I returned the tank and went on my way.  Later I did find a tank with a safety nozzle I was able to open but I just found it funny that 6 people could not figure out how this dang thing worked.

For me the real reason I ended up going gasless was the push button start along with no more purchasing gas, not having to worry about spark plugs or maintenance of the mower.

10. Sometimes you just have to accept your arms aren’t long enough. 

I have always been short, I have always had short arms and sometimes it can be a problem. I am not going to lie I cried a few times with my old mower. I was just so frustrated. I could not get the dang thing started. It could take me 60 times pulling the ripcord back. The problem was that my arms were shorter than the rope. I tried tightening the rope, buying a new handle but nothing really seemed to work. I would mow the lawn and be afraid to ever shut off the mower. Or I would have the embarrassment of asking a neighbor for help and of course it would start up right away for someone with longer arms. I am very independent and pride myself on being able to build things, use tools and do things on my own. This ripcord was eating away at me. I would dread getting out the lawn mower. This frustration is about 95% of the reason I decided to go gasless.  I’ve accepted these short arms and I have adapted!

10 Things I learned about my yard this year