Increase Your Home's Value with Landscaping

By Charlie Nardozzi


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Homeowners Spend Money on Landscaping

According to the 2007 National Gardening Residential Lawn & Landscape Services Survey homeowners spent $17.3 billion to hire professional landscape installation and construction services in 2006. That's nearly double the amount spent five years before. Another $9.9 billion was spent on do-it-yourself installation, bringing the total to a whopping $27.2 billion dollars spent on landscape installation.

In 2006, 24 percent of U.S. households also spent another $17.3 billion on lawn and landscape maintenance services. This number represents an almost doubling of the money spent on lawn and landscape maintenance services when compared with 2001.

Tip: Dress it Up With Mulch

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to dress up your landscape and yard is by using mulch. Organic mulches are often a local resource and easy to find. Not only are they attractive in the landscape, they conserve moisture and prevent weeds, which helps your plants grow better. Plus, as mulch breaks down it creates a healthier soil that will translate into healthier plants. Preferred organic mulches include bark nuggets, shredded and composted fir bark, and weed-free pine straw. Avoid weedy hay.

The type of bark mulch you choose depends on where you'll use it. For pathways use shredded bark or mini-chips. These compact well and make for level footing. Large-sized bark nuggets don't compact well and can last for years in the landscape. They should be used around trees and shrubs where people will not be walking. Also, avoid placing bark nugget mulches in wet areas or on slopes because they can float away during rain. For an extra treat, spread finely textured cocoa hull mulch around beds close to decks, patios, or sitting areas. The chocolate scent will thrill your guests!

In dry areas of the west, inorganic mulches such as stone and volcanic rock are popular. They don't break down or add fertility to the soil like organic mulches, but they keep the soil cooler in these arid, hot climates.

A good rule of thumb is to apply a 2- to 4-inch-deep layer of organic mulch annually. Remove old mulch before adding a new layer so it doesn't build up into a deep layer around the plants and hinder moisture and air penetration. However, in warm, moist climates, add a second layer of organic mulch in midsummer because the spring application will decompose quickly in the heat.

Our homes are among the most important financial investments we'll ever make. While we often spend time and money upgrading appliances, painting the exterior, fixing roofs, and remodeling kitchens and baths, we often end up neglecting our landscapes. But that may be changing.

There’s a close association between the yard and the home. “People associate a beautiful garden with a warm and inviting home,” says Craig Humphries, Director of Consumer Insights at The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. A well-maintained yard also reflects well on the owner’s values. “It gives the impression the inside of the home is as well cared for as the outside,” he says.

NGA's 2007 Lawn and Landscape Service and the Value of Landscaping Survey revealed Americans' attitudes towards their yards. The survey showed that most homeowners believe a well-designed and maintained landscape adds 10 to 19 percent to their home's value. With housing values dropping in many areas of the country, having a beautiful landscape could make the difference between breaking even and making some money on the sale of your home.

Nearly all the homeowners surveyed (94 percent) appreciated the benefits of a well-designed and maintained landscape. The most common benefits cited were that it provides a place of beauty and relaxation for the family, beautifies the neighborhood, reflects positively on the homeowner, and adds real estate value and curb appeal (first impression from passersby) to the home.

But what defines a well-designed and maintained landscape? Read on to discover the answer, and to find some landscaping tips to help make your yard more functional and attractive for you and your family.

Hardscape Elements

When you look at your yard you should notice not only the type and health of the "greenscape" (trees, shrubs, lawn, flowers), but also the hardscape — the more permanent, nonliving sections of your yard such as walkways, paths, decks, walls, fences, and buildings. Just as the plants in your yard need maintenance and attention, so do the hardscape features. A new or properly maintained hardscape tells a potential buyer that the yard and house are well cared for.

Besides the normal painting and repair of structures and buildings, look at what you need to do to maintain your walkways and stairs. If they are permanent walkways made from brick or concrete, keep them clean and fix any broken steps. While permanent walkways are great for the main routes around the house, more rustic paths work better elsewhere in the yard and are less expensive to build and maintain. Use shredded bark mulch, bark chips, pine straw, or stone to create these more decorative and functional paths. Design them to curve and meander, creating the illusion of more space and a sense of surprise in your garden.

Stone walls, arbors, and decorative fences made from local materials blend in nicely with the natural environment. Use them to block unsightly views and provide an interesting visual contrast to the house and landscape. They also provide a beautiful backdrop for climbing vines, flowers, edible plants, and shrubs. You can even use these structures to create warmer microclimates for plants and people to enjoy. The outdoor "rooms" they define give the sense that the home is larger, extending beyond the house's walls.


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Designing with Plants

To complement the hardscape, select greenery that is hardy and adapted to your growing conditions. Check local public gardens, nurseries, and your neighbors' yards to see what grows well in your region. When designing your landscape, keep it simple. Balance the design with a mix of trees, shrubs, and flowers, and repeat themes throughout the landscape to keep the whole yard unified.

Think of the immediate and long-term impact of your plant selections. Choose trees and shrubs that will look good when installed yet that won't outgrow their location in three to five years. A plant that's too large can block a window or crowd out others, giving an impression of neglect that may translate into a lower price for your home. Choose plants that provide a natural transition from the surrounding area. For instance, if you have a wooded lot nearby, select some native plants that would naturally grow in those woods and still look good in your yard.

When selecting plants for color, choose trees, shrubs, and flowers that will be attractive in more than one season. For example, American cranberry shrub (Viburnum trilobum) has beautiful spring flowers, attractive leaves that turn red in fall, and red berries that stay on the plant well into winter. Such plants can help make a home more attractive to homebuyers who are shopping in those seasons when the surrounding landscape is drab and colorless.

If you have a small urban yard, try growing plants in containers — even small trees and shrubs. Use them to create privacy and proved a garden getaway from the noise of the city.

To "insure" your investment, choose plants that will thrive in your soil and sun conditions, apply organic fertilizer annually, water and weed beds, and apply mulch around trees and shrubs.

Landscape Accents

Think of your yard as a room. Furniture and attractive walls define the room, and accents express your personal style. You might personalize the garden with water elements (fountains, waterfalls, and small ponds) and garden art that provide a sense of drama or whimsy. Or, have some fun and put pink flamingoes and plastic alligators on your lawn! This is your yard. Even though one of the goals is to landscape to increase your home value, it's your place to live and enjoy right now, too.

For more information on landscaping, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, Edible Landscaping with Charlie Nardozzi.

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