Saturday, November 21, 2015

Home Ownership

You’ve just closed on your new home (new construction or just new to you.)  And now you’re ready to put your own style on everything from bathroom floors to landscaping.

I’ve never seen one single new homebuyer satisfied with the previous owner’s landscaping. You name it and someone will hate it or wonder why you didn’t do it.  It’s human nature. 

Here are some considerations for the whole landscaping gig at your new home:

1.    Don’t do any major changes to your yard the first full year.  There may be seasonal reasons for what does or doesn’t exist.
a.     Those trees may be in that odd place because they provide a windbreak from those crazy nor’easters or as a sound buffer.
b.    That huge bush might be a rare hundred-year-old survivor.

2.    Understand what’s underground and overhead:
a.     Locate the sewer, water, gas, electric, phone and cable. 
b.    What you plant over/under utilities today may be dangerous or removed in a few years.
c.     There is a free locating service – use it.

3.    Feel free to ask the neighbors the history of the landscaping.  Not ask them what to plant but they do have historical data plus you’ll get their gripes up front.  (The fence that’s on the property line, the tree that always gets their drive dirty with mulberries, the bush that doesn’t allow them to peak in your windows.)

4.    Use a diagram to plan changes.   Whether using a contract landscaping firm or doing it yourself, having an overall plan allows you to see what it will look like down the road. 

5.    Respect the history of your property.  Some things work for new construction but would look woefully out of place at an older home.

6.    Plan hard scapes FIRST.  Even if you can’t afford to put in everything in the beginning, having hardscapes in the original plan will keep you from removing important plants later. 
a.     Hard scapes are sidewalks, porches & decks, steps, edging, kids’ play areas, garages, driveways, mailboxes, clotheslines, fire pits, gates/fences, downspouts/rain barrels, irrigation systems, pool & other water features and any other large permanent structure.

7.    Large trees:  Know the measurements of the MATURE tree canopy and root system.  If these are placed wrong, it will forever be an expensive maintenance problem. 
a.     What is the purpose of the tree?  Shade, windbreak, privacy, decorative, sound buffer or wildlife habitat?
b.    What are the tree’s maintenance requirements?  Nuts, fruits, leaves, sap, susceptibility to disease & wind damage, invasive root system and will these things be a problem where you plan to locate?

8.    Bushes:  Considerations are much the same as when planning trees.
a.     Use bushes that are complementary to the age of your home.
b.    All bushes need some maintenance.  Understand all their requirements.

9.      Do NOT plant things too close to buildings – ever. 

10.   If you’re putting in a new landscape, amend the soil FIRST. 

11.   To sod or to seed?  It’s a money and speed choice.  Both will need water to establish.

12.  Now is the time to realistically calculate how much you’re willing to work or pay others to work.

13.   Edging:  Easy to mow around.  Will it require heavy weed pulling or herbicides?

14.   Consider how much light/shade – water/drought a piece of ground gets in ALL seasons.  It can make or break a plant.

15.   Landscape fabric/mulches:  Landscape fabric and mulches help control weeds but can become unsightly and difficult to remove.  Chose well. 

16.   I’ve covered this before, but unless you live where there are legal restrictions to what can and cannot go in your yard, you can pretty much design as you want.  Others may hate your 20 foot pink elephant bought at a bargain from Nature World but if you truly can’t live without it, put it in but then try to shield it from others.  It’s called “being a good neighbor.”

17.   If you want to remove the previous owner’s landscaping, instead of trashing, consider giving it away to other gardeners.  It’s the old:  One person’s trash is another person’s treasures.
There’s nothing wrong with getting ideas from Pinterest, neighbors and decorating books.  Then adapt what you love and put your own personality on the landscape.  

Wait a year, make a plan, do your research and happy gardening!

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