For more than 60 years,
a publication centered on life in Mississippi.
Today is May 10, 2021

Smart lanscapes

Practical ways to make the most of your yard

By Keri Collins Lewis and Michaela Parker

Working with nature instead of against it can help make time spent in your yard more pleasurable. The team behind Smart Landscapes, a program from the Mississippi State University Extension Service and MSU Department of Landscape Architecture, offers practical information and instructions for enhancing the natural features around your home.

A Smart Landscape is one that makes the best use of existing features, water resources, and energy while also reducing the amount of maintenance required. By selecting trees and plants best suited for the soil type, sun and shade in your yard, you best leverage the forces of nature to create a beautiful landscape.

From ways to attract pollinators to information about the best plants for shady spots, Smart Landscapes has a variety of publications and projects available online at Tips on landscape design, how-to videos and presentations on subjects such as “Creating Biodiverse Landscapes for Mississippi Wildlife” can help you turn your property into a beautiful oasis for birds, bees, and other wild creatures. The Smart Landscapes team also shares inspiring examples of biodiverse habitats, successful plantings, and fun projects on their Facebook page at


How to install a shade sail

Shade sails are an inexpensive way to block harmful UV rays from your patio space, and they help cool off the area. You can purchase a sail online or at a home improvement store. Most sails come in a variety of colors, so it’s an easy way to brighten up your yard. Before purchasing, measure the space you want to shade to ensure you have a sail that properly fits.

• a drill

• turnbuckles

• 1/4 -inch chain

• posts

• hook screws

• concrete

Step 1: Determine your anchoring points. Shade sails are commonly in the shape of a triangle or rectangle. Keep in mind you will need an anchoring point for each corner of the sail. It’s smart to lay your sail where you want it to go and measure before installation. If you have a triangular sail, consider anchoring one end on the eaves of the house and the other two on posts in the ground. For a rectangle, add an additional hook on the eaves.

Step 2: Install wooden, steel, or metal posts in the ground. Make sure the poles are sturdy enough to hold the sail and endure wind. Secure the posts with concrete to ensure they are sturdy. Install hooks on each anchoring point and lace a chain with turnbuckles on the shade sail grommets. Install the turnbuckles to all hooks and tighten until there is no slack in the sail. Sit back and enjoy the shade!

Visit to watch a video demonstrating shade sail construction.


Keri Collins Lewis is media relations manager and Michaela Parker is a marketing and communications coordinator for the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Site designed by Marketing Alliance, Inc.