Now is the time when many a homeowner’s fancy turns to thoughts of the perfect yard. The nurseries and do-it-yourself stores are packed every weekend, and my back is aching from digging and planting. These are signs that spring has sprung.
Well-thought-out, attractive landscaping is one of the best things you can do to improve your home’s curb appeal. But before you jump into your next project, take time to think about your ultimate landscape and yard-work objectives. The bang for your buck factor can be really high, but if you’re not careful, that “little” yard project can turn into a major investment.
Be realistic about the exact purpose your project. Is it to create more privacy, to get more shade, to reduce the amount of maintenance required, to address an issue like drainage or is it purely for curb appeal? Parsing these factors will help greatly in choosing the proper materials, especially plants or trees.
The employees at most nurseries and home improvement stores can be very helpful in helping you nail down just what you need for projects and anticipate facets that may not have occurred to you. For instance, invaluable are solid suggestions as to what plants will work best for different types of sun exposure and soil conditions, as well as how tall or wide a given plant will grow to and how fast. It’s extremely important to pay attention to those details, or you’ll end up wasting a lot of time and money on things that won’t serve your purpose and accomplish your goals.
Particularly if you are dealing with new plant material, keep in mind that plants do indeed grow (hopefully!), so spacing and placement are critical. I’ve seen too many people plant bushes (especially foundation shrubs) and trees too close together or too close to their home, which may look great when they’re planted, but in a few years they’ll be encroaching on each other, your home, and walkways sooner than you think.
Also think about the amount of maintenance involved in your yard project. For instance, plants that require a lot of watering have become more and more difficult to maintain here in Atlanta due to the water shortages of the last few years. Don’t set yourself up for extra work or failure.
Likewise, know your limits: If you are only going to have the time and other resources to do maintenance, don’t add a lot of annual beds or other facets that are going to take your time both initially and on an ongoing basis. A great example is a single friend who knew he had time to either dig and plant and prune or to do basic maintenance, so he farmed out the maintenance to a trusted contractor and kept the facets he enjoyed on his own to-do list. The best part: It paid off when he came time to sell his home. If you have to make a choice, choose maintenance over flourishes; simple-but-well-maintained trumps “fancy.”
So, do some planning – forecast a bit, learn from the experts and from neighbors and friends, and then choose your landscape battles. Oh, and remember to take some ibuprofen at the end of those satisfying days working in the yard!