landscaping

Landscaping: 4 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Yard’s Curb Appeal

by Mindy Jensen

 

“Lush landscaping, that’s what sells [houses]. You spend money on trees, and you get it back triple.” –Charlie Munger

The name Charlie Munger may not ring any bells with you, but you’ve probably heard of his business partner, Warren Buffett. Together, they have been making billions of dollars since just about the dawn of time. A little known fact is that Munger made his first million in real estate.

When you buy a house to fix up, you are usually looking at the inside. I drool over the 1970’s and 1980’s kitchens. I don’t think there was an uglier time for interior decorating, and I am oh-so-happy to rip out the old and bring in the new.

My own house was an absolute disaster. The inside was ugly, but the outside was even worse! Horribly overgrown (and some even outright dead) trees and shrubs, patchy scrubby grass and–pièce de résistance–lava rocks. Not the cooler, black-colored lava rocks, the ugly red ones.

Here are a few tried-and-true, easy landscaping ideas that can dramatically alter your home’s appearance.

Landscaping: 4 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Yard’s Curb Appeal

Make a Landscaping Plan

I wanted to keep a unified look in my yard, so I decided on a color scheme–pink and purple because I have two daughters. I went to the lawn and garden department of the big box home improvement stores and found a lot of plants to fit my theme.

Go Vertical

My yard is about 2-1/2 feet above the sidewalk and surrounded by a rock-and-cement wall, which is actually prettier than it sounds. But once I cut away all the dead, dying and overgrown original landscaping  (much of which couldn’t be saved because they were Junipers that cannot be trimmed), I was left with a fairly bare canvas. I wanted to keep some grass, but not very much.

I outlined the front yard with a wavy-edged border to keep it interesting. Next, I added height by filling in the border with mounds of dirt. I covered the whole thing with landscape fabric to try and keep out the weeds, then I placed all my newly purchased plants around the yard to make sure I liked how it looked before I dug holes in the wrong spot.

Use Lots of Color

I live in Colorado. A common misconception about Colorado is that it snows all the time. We are actually a high desert, which means very little precipitation. In order to conserve water, I xeriscaped my property—landscaping that uses little or no water.

I was not very excited to do this at first. I thought I would be stuck with unattractive brown grasses and other plants without flowers, but I found some gorgeous greenery for my yard that is absolutely blooming with color.

My favorite is the Salvia. It bushes out with vivid green leaves and tall stalks of violet flowers. The plants attract bees and hummingbirds to make your yard positively hum.

 

Another favorite are Snapdragons. They come in almost any color you could imagine and produce copious amounts of blooms.

 

Imagine my surprise when I found a purple ornamental grass called Purple Fountain Grass. Of course I bought them, but instead of just winging it, I actually read the instructions for planting them. The teeny plants I bought said to plant them 3 feet apart. I did, but thought they looked silly spaced so far out. I’m really glad I followed directions because these guys got HUGE by the middle of the season!

 

Perennial Favorites and Other Tips

Another thing to think about is how much time you want to spend digging in the dirt every year. While I enjoyed making my yard look great, I was ecstatic when I was finished. I certainly didn’t want to do this amount of work every year. I purchased mostly perennials–plants that come back year after year. I do supplement with annuals  (the ones you have to plant every spring), but my yard is mostly filled with plants I only have to plant one time.

Find plants that do well in your neck of the woods. Advice is only as far as a Google search away. Most state universities have extension programs to help guide you to native plants.

If you want to save even more money, start a bit earlier in the season from seed. Seed packs are far less expensive than plants.

Walk around your neighborhood for ideas. I am not a landscape designer, and I am new to the area. My family takes nightly walks through the neighborhood, and we brought our cameras with us to take pictures of favorite plants. A quick consult with the local nursery told us about the plants and their water needs and matched them up with our general landscape design. The results speak for themselves.

before-after

Our Yard Looks Great, Now How About You?

My house is located in the middle of my street. We have been extensively remodeling it for the last two years. People walk down my street all the time and whenever I am out, I am showered with compliments about the house in general and the landscaping specifically.

I only spent about $700 to landscape the whole property, but I have easily added three times that in value.

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help out our newer readers.]

What is your favorite plant to add to your landscape? What landscaping tips would you add?

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9 Clever Landscaping Hacks for Your Best-Ever Yard

Kill Weeds with Boiling Water

For an all-natural and virtually free way to kill weeds, all you need are a few kitchen basics. Fill a pot with water, bring it to a boil, then dump the water on any offending plants—the piping hot liquid will kill them instantly. This trick works especially well for weeds that pop up in cracks or joints on the patio or driveway, because the hot water could harm neighboring plants, but it won’t hurt the surrounding hardscape.

 

Use Fake Turf to Deter Dogs

Because pets use the lawn as a playground and bathroom, dog owners often end up with torn-up grass with patchy brown spots. But you can have a gorgeous lawn and keep your best friend happy too if you install lush-looking artificial grass in place of the real stuff. The turf will deter dogs from digging, conceal their bathroom area, and prevent them from tracking mud into the house. As an added bonus, homeowners with artificial grass never need to mow the lawn!

 

Plant Over a Septic Tank

Septic tank covers can be a real eyesore in a garden. Instead of ignoring the sewage necessity, try covering it with layer of mulch and beautiful flowers. Homeowners can easily sweep the mulch out of the way to access the tank, and nobody will know what lies beneath the landscaping.

 

 

Use Bulbs to Create Year-Round Color

Many flowering plants have brief bloom times, and some perennials have surprisingly short lifespans, so if you want constant color in your garden, you need to plant vibrant annuals or switch out perennials regularly. For a low-maintenance alternative, plant a mix of flowering bulbs, such as snowdrops and lilies, that bloom at different times. If you rely on bulbs, you’ll have to plant only once each year, and your garden will look great from spring to fall.

Prevent Flooding with a Rain Garden

Surfaces that don’t absorb rainwater, such as streets, sidewalks, and rooftops, can cause water to collect and pool, leading to flooding. You can capture the water runoff and return it to the environment by creating a rain garden, a depressed area in your yard planted with a mix of perennials and native plants. Rainwater will flow toward the garden, where it will nurture the plants and drain into the soil.

 

Fill Your Flower Bed with Pots

To pack your garden with color year-round, purchase pots and fill them with flowers that have different bloom times. Place the pots with blossoming plantsfront and center in your garden. As the season progresses, move the pots around to make the most of the flowers, and swap out pots when necessary.

 

 

Edge a Garden with Pine Board

Giving your garden a well-defined edge keeps things tidy and instantly increases curb appeal, but stone borders are expensive, and flexible plastic edging can be unattractive. A wooden border is a great compromise: Pretreated pine boards are readily available, inexpensive, and easy to cut. Simply outline the perimeter of the garden bed with a shovel or spade, then wedge in lengths of wood to create the edge.

 

 

Pack Planters with Peanuts

Although large, dramatic planters and pots pack a punch in any landscape, they can become inconveniently heavy when filled with soil. Fortunately, most plants don’t actually need that much soil to take root, so you can lighten the load by filling the containers halfway with packing peanuts before adding the soil. The planters will be easier to move around, and you’ll save money on soil to boot.

 

Plant Ground Covers on a Slope

Maintaining a steeply sloped section of lawn can be tricky, because it can be tough to mow and can easily erode from exposure to wind and water. Structural solutions like retaining walls or terracing can be expensive, and most plants don’t grow deep roots fast enough to control erosion. As a solution, try planting ground covers like English ivy, periwinkle, or dead nettle, all of which grow quickly and densely, making them ideal for holding the soil in place.

 

Do’s and Don’ts of Summer Landscaping

landscaping

 

11 tips that will save your garden, lawn, and flowers … not to mention your green thumb rep.

Whether you’re dealing with a California drought, an mid-Atlantic heat wave or Deep South downpours, summer can be a tricky time to garden. Here’s what you need to know before you leave the comfort of the air conditioning for a steamy backyard jungle.

DON’T: Plant cool-season vegetables

Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to attempt veggies like peas, lettuce, carrots and radishes in summer. They will quickly bolt in the heat, meaning that they’ll devote their energy to blooming and producing seeds, making the edible parts bitter.

DO: Plant hot-season vegetables

Take advantage of summer’s plentiful heat and sunshine by planting these heat-loving edibles: okra, sweet potatoes, chili peppers, cowpeas, yardlong beans and eggplant. Okra produces prolific pods all summer long, and is drought-tolerant as far as vegetables go. Sweet potatoes make an excellent temporary groundcover in veggie gardens and flowerbeds, shading out weeds until the arrival of cold weather, when they can be harvested.

DON’T: Water unless necessary

It’s tempting to set the sprinklers on a timer, kick up your feet and consider it taken care of. But here’s why that’s a problem: First off, do you really want to be the guy or gal who’s caught running sprinklers in a rain storm? Water plants when they are newly planted, or are wilting and/or dropping leaves due to drought.

DO: Use drought-tolerant plants

Drought-tolerant plants are all the rage, and not just because they conserve water. Grow drought-tolerant plants because they’re low-maintenance and because you’re an average person with — you know— a life. That said, ‘drought-tolerant’ does not mean that you can plant it and forget it. Keep the soil moist until the plant takes off on its own.

DON’T: Turn your back on the garden

Because in summer, things can change in a heartbeat. Plants can succumb to pests, drought, wet soil or rot in a matter of days. Pay attention to weather forecasts and be on the lookout for plants that are clearly struggling. Don’t hesitate to use those pruners on any bullies that seem to be taking over less vigorous plants. When in doubt, rip it out.

Smiling young woman working in roses plants at summer garden ; Shutterstock ID 222185932; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

DO: Water deeply

Water like you really mean it — with a deep soak so that the water penetrates the soil without running off or evaporating in the summer heat. Watering deeply will also encourage deeper root growth, which helps plants (especially shrubs and trees) stay healthier and more drought-tolerant in the long run. Water in the root-zone with a high falutin’ garden nozzle, a soaker hose, or nothing more than a hose and a full stream of water.

DON’T: ‘Scalp’ your lawn

If you plan on turning your summer lawn into a practical putting green and you mow your lawn close, you’ll be sorely disappointed by the results. (Unless you’re willing to settle for a putting brown, that is.) Short cuts mean less drought-tolerance, patchier growth, more weeds and shallow roots. When in doubt, cut high.

DO: Fertilize warm-season grasses

Give your lawn a pick-me-up to cope with the summer heat. Your local garden center should have a good selection of fertilizers to suit your region and/or lawn type. Fertilize according to label instructions, using a broadcast, handheld or drop spreader for even coverage. Generally speaking, don’t feed on a hot day with temps above 90 degrees.

DON’T: Water in the afternoon

It’s a myth that sunlight will become magnified by water droplets and burn the plants, but watering in the hottest part of the day is still pretty useless because many plants will go semi-dormant, and water quickly evaporate in summer. Water in the early morning so that the plants’ roots have a chance to absorb moisture.

DON’T: Let weeds go to seed

Procrastinate all you want, but pull those weeds before they have a chance to bloom and go to seed, spreading their progeny all over your garden to proliferate and give you headaches. Don’t settle for hand-pulling everything either: use a hoe or cultivator for new weeds in loose soil, or a heavy-duty weeding tool like a hori-hori knife, hook or mattock for tough, established weeds.

DO: Plant tropical bulbs

Much of your garden will slow down in the heat of summer, but tropical bulbs such as caladiums, elephant ears, cannas and gingers will only grow faster. Create a lush and jungly understory beneath shady trees by planting en masse, or use sparely for architectural interest in container combos and flowerbeds.

Can This Tree Be Saved?

3 things you may not know about storm damaged landscaping

Wherever you live, storms of some kind most likely pose a threat to your landscaping at some time during the year. Hurricanes, rain storms, ice storms, snow storms — they can all cause damage from minor to major.

The University of Minnesota|Extension lists three things to remember when it comes to storm damage to your landscape:

Prediction — Predicting tree damage has less to do with listening to the weather reports and more to do with issues that may exist in your landscaping that make it more vulnerable during a storm. Look for decay and existing site problems; problems in a single branch are less worrisome than issues in the trunk. A common test recommends that “for every 3 inches of branch or stem diameter, solid wood should comprise at least 1 to 1.5 inches. Anything less than that often indicates a branch or stem that is more likely to fail during a storm.”

Find more detail on Predicting Tree Failure here.

Prevention — Monitor, prune, protect. Keeping your eye out for potential problems early gives you the opportunity to nip a small problem in the bud, before it becomes a big problem. Although pruning is necessary, improper pruning can do more harm than good. Protect your landscaping from new wounds and potential weaknesses from machines such as mulchers and trimmers; consider mulching and staking your trees to safeguard against accidental injury.

Find more detail on Preventing Tree Damage here.

Treatment — for all but the most minor damage, experts recommend consulting with an expert — if chainsaws or ladders are required, if power lines are down, if you’re not sure the tree is worth saving — those are all signs that a qualified arborist should be called in. Treating storm damaged landscaping can range from corrective pruning to cabling and bracing (see more detail on these and more treatments here).

More resources for preventing and recovering landscape damage from storms: