6 Bags Every Yard Should Have

With help from Yard Crashers host Chris Lambton, HGTV Magazine narrowed down the mammoth selection at the garden center to just a few essential helpers.
By: Daryl Beyers
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Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer

Photo By: Emily Kate Roemer

1: Weed and Feed

Why You Need It: This combo product helps you fight weeds and feeds your lawn at the same time. Most varieties include herbicides that kill pesky weeds like dandelions mixed with fertilizers to help new grass grow. For an organic option, try a weed and feed made with corn gluten, which prevents weeds from germinating while also adding nitrogen to boost your lawn. Apply the product before weeds emerge in spring, following the bag’s instructions. Chris’ Pick: Scotts Turf Builder weed and feed, $53 for 43 pounds, acehardware.com

2: All-Purpose Fertilizer

Why You Need It: This is plant food in its most basic form. Mix it into the soil in flower beds to rejuvenate weak plants or get new ones off to a strong start. Look for special blends like a bloom booster that helps plants grow lots of flowers, a mix that promotes root growth, and a high-nitrogen formula for lush leaves. Organic fertilizers are safest, especially for veggie plots, but no matter what kind you get, follow the guidelines on the bag to make sure you use enough. Chris’ Pick: Espoma Organic Plant-tone, $38 for 36 pounds, espoma.com for stores

3: Topsoil

Why You Need It: This is the familiar dark stuff under our feet, and, while it’s common, it’s also the most important building block in landscaping. Typically sold in 40-pound bags, plain topsoil is key for filling holes or leveling out bumps in your lawn. Its combination of minerals and organic content make it the perfect base to get things growing. Chris’ Pick: Earthgro topsoil, $1.50 for 40 pounds, scottsbrands.com for buying info

4: Garden Soil

Why You Need It: A 50-50 mix of quality topsoil and compost, garden soil is a must if you’re setting up a new flower bed or a vegetable plot. Just spread a four-inch-thick layer over the existing soil before planting. You can also use garden soil to pep up established plants that look scraggly. Buy a bag with fertilizer already mixed in and you won’t need to worry about feeding your plants for the first few months. Chris’ Pick: Miracle-Gro Flower and Vegetable garden soil, $8 for 2 cubic feet, lowes.com 

5: Compost

Why You Need It: A bag of compost works like magic to improve your soil’s fertility and water-holding capacity. There are several types, but the most common are super-potent cow manure and mellower blends made from seaweed and mushrooms. All act as a good mid-season pick-me-up for flowers and veggies. Apply an inch or two of compost to the surface of existing beds or add some mixed with topsoil in a hole before adding a new plant. Chris’ Pick: Vermont Compost Company Container Booster Mix, $10 for 6 quarts, gardeners.com 

6: Mulch

Why You Need It: Usually composed of wood nuggets or shredded bark from pine, hemlock, spruce or cedar trees, mulch goes a long way toward limiting weeds, conserving soil moisture and adding a finishing touch to landscaped areas. Keep a bag on hand that matches the mulch already in your yard so you can use it anytime you plant something new. To apply it, spread a three-inch layer around a plant’s roots, making sure to keep the mulch a few inches away from the plant’s stem. Chris’ Pick: Gardenscape dark brown pine bark mulch, from $4.50 for 2 cubic feet, lowes.com