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Homework: Easy landscaping projects for the DIYer in you

Gwen Titley | Trib Total Media
Fresh mulch will liven up your flowerbeds and areas around trees.

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Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 8:57 p.m.
 

Having a midsummer's dream of better landscaping? Here are three easy projects to help realize your vision.

Mulch makeover: Fresh mulch will liven up your flower beds and areas around trees. Landscapers and garden centers sell mulch in bulk or by the bag. The most standard bag size is 2 cubic feet. Bulk mulch sells by the cubic yard, which is equal to 13 12 standard-size bags. Most landscapers say buying in bulk is cheaper in the long run, even with delivery fees of about $50. Many landscapers will also install it. If you're going to spread it yourself, have the load dumped onto a tarp for easier cleanup.

Cut corners (and curves): Edging a flower bed, tree or other landscaping element can boost its aesthetic appeal. Following the shape of the bed, cut into the surrounding lawn about six inches with a shovel or other sharp tool. The edge can stand alone, or you can fill it with brick, stone or other material, at a cost ranging from $4 to $15 per square foot. For a clean look, create some separation between the soil or mulch and the edging material. Or, keep a stand-alone edge sharp by going over it with a shovel or other tool every few months.

Green up your grass: For every inch of grass above the ground, say top-rated lawn pros, there's an inch of roots below. If you cut too close to the ground, roots may die. Set your mower height so your lawn is trimmed to a minimum of three inches. That will encourage thicker turf that resists crabgrass, among other benefits.

Recyling events

• A collection of household chemicals such as paints, motor oils and pesticides will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Boyce Park Ski Lodge parking area in Plum. Varnishes, cleaners and batteries also will be collected. There is a disposal fee of $2 per gallon, payable in cash only. For a complete list of items or more details, call 412-488-7452, or visit www.prc.org.

• Dispose of your unwanted electronics and household items from 8:30 a.m. to noon Aug. 9 at the Westmoreland Cleanways Recycling Center in Unity Township. Residents are invited to get rid of objects that cannot be put in the trash or cannot be collected by the municipal recycling program. Nominal fees apply for Freon appliances and tires. For details, call 724-879-4020, or visit www.westmorelandcleanways.org.

Add a tropical touch to your garden

When heat, humidity and dry days take a toll on your flowers in August, give your yard a fresh look with pots of tropical hibiscus and mandevilla.

Although they are not cold-hardy in much of the country, these plants add tropical touches to any summer decor.

Costa Farms, a major hibiscus and mandevilla grower, features these stunning, sun-loving bloomers at garden centers, including Home Depot, Lowe's and Walmart, from $19.99 to $35.99, depending on size and plant.

— Staff and wire reports

Send Homework items to Features in care of Sue Jones, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, D.L. Clark Building, 503 Martindale St., Pittsburgh, PA 15212; fax 412-320-7966; or email sjones@tribweb.com.

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