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Do-It-Yourself Landscaping Tips
Now that you have moved into your new home, it is time to think about your yard. Landscaping can be a lot of fun, or it can be a huge challenge. If you are willing to tackle the landscaping project yourself, you will no doubt find huge budget savings over paying a professional. For those who have a green thumb and enjoy working in the yard and flowerbeds, landscaping your yard may be a hobby that becomes your own personal work of art. This is a way of adding decorative accents and highlights to decks, patios, fences, ponds, pools, driveways and sidewalks as well as other features around your home and in your yard. Whether landscaping is your cup of tea and you are doing this for enjoyment, or you are jumping into the project for the money savings, these tips will help you get started.
- Look at the Big Picture - Typically, landscaping the front yard centers on appearance and street appeal. Your front yard and elements in the yard are framed with trees, shrubs and flowers to accent your home. They create a welcoming atmosphere for your family and your guests through an array of heights, colors and textures. The landscaping in your back yard is focused on living, entertaining and relaxing. Focus on framing individual spaces of your yard to create solitude, hide unwanted areas and accent hardscape features such as fences, decks and patios. Plan to separate different areas with paths and decorative structures.
- Begin with a Site Analysis - Think about your yard and how you plan to use it. Make a list of ideas including your needs and wants. What elements are necessary for access, travel, utilities, pets, children and boundaries? Do you plan to have an open area for your children to play? Do you anticipate using the sunny corner of the yard for a vegetable garden? What elements in your yard can you change, move or remove? What features can you add?
- Create a Map of Your Yard - Draw a map of your yard. Clearly mark all boundaries, utility lines and utility access points. Now sketch in the various areas you want to create. Include pathways and other spaces for walking.
- Design With Year-Round Interest - Your landscaping will be part of your yard 365 days a year. It is important that you design your gardens and planting beds with elements that will carry through the four seasons. You should begin by researching the plant selection available in your area. A local nursery or lawn and garden center can help you with this. Select plants that flower in early spring, some to flower throughout the summer, others to offer colorful autumn foliage, and something to maintain structure during the winter. Designing for the four seasons will offer a variety of textures in your gardens and planting beds.
- Planning Your Boundaries - Think about the boundaries of your yard and how they are defined. If you have unwanted elements serving as boundaries such as a washed out drainage ditch along the back of the property or a utility pole in the far corner, consider using height to hide or accent the existing boundary. Or, you may choose to create a new boundary in front of the undesirable element blocking it from your view or enhancing the look a bit. Remember to consider how tall your boundary will grow over time. You will be responsible for maintaining its growth. Perhaps a row of colorful flowering shrubs will hide the drainage ditch. A decorative arbor near the utility pole with flowering vines will pull attention away from the unsightly utility pole and bring the focus back to your beautiful landscaping. A row of neatly trimmed evergreen trees may block a less than attractive view of the neighbor's untidy yard. Another way to design and landscape your boundaries is to use solid features. These features, such as arbors or trellises, should fit with the rest of the design. Perhaps you have decided to use white flowers in your planting beds. A climbing vine on the trellis with white blooms would create a striking appearance and define your boundary.
- Include Hardscape Features in Your Design - Hardscape features, such as fences, walls and arbors, make an exceptional design statement. They add character and depth to your enchanted landscaped yard and also offer a finished look. Decks and patios provide transition from the indoors to the outdoors. They offer the perfect space to relax or entertain outside, so you might as well include them in your landscaping design. Accent these spaces with landscaping making them visually interesting. The added character you provide with landscaping will turn a boring deck or patio into a fantastic and soothing outdoor comfort zone. Perhaps a few potted plants on the deck or a flowering boarder along the patio will add texture and a vibrantly colorful punch. Using flowers and shrubs to highlight a hardscape feature is one landscaping tactic, but consider the reverse method. Take an area you envision to be predominantly filled with flowers and other shrubs and accent it with a hardscape feature such as a garden bridge, decorative bench, colorful gazing ball, bird bath, section of a wooden fence or even a landscaping boulder. Arranging flowers and shrubs around a hardscape element creates a focal point for that space.
- Water Features are Worth It - Another way to enhance your yard and create a focal point is to install a water feature. They are not difficult to install and most lawn and garden or home improvements centers will have everything you need from the liner to the pump. A simple pond with a fountain or a small waterfall not only acts as a focal point, but also makes soothing sounds, perfect for relaxing at the end of the day. If you decide to install a pond, you can add an extra splash of color by adding a few goldfish or Japanese Koi.
- Select the Right Plants - It is important that you do your research or consult a professional at a nursery or lawn and garden center when choosing plants. It is necessary that you select plants suitable to the sunlight and soil conditions your yard offers. You cannot expect a beautiful flower to remain healthy in a shady spot in your yard if it requires full sun. Matching the soil conditions of your lot to the plants you select is a main key to beautiful landscaping.
- Layer Flower Beds - When designing a planting bed, arrange your flowers in three rows, especially those that are framing a space or serving as a boarder. Begin with the tallest flower in the back row. In the middle row, plant the mid-sized flower. The shortest flower should be planted in the front row.
- Use Repetition - When arranging flowers and shrubs in planting beds, use repetition within the planting bed and in other spaces of your yard. This provides an element of unity throughout your outdoor space.
- Use Evergreens - Planting evergreen trees and shrubs gives your yard and garden structure and color throughout the year. During the winter months, when the deciduous trees have lost their leaves and are looking somewhat lifeless, the evergreens will still be full with needles and wearing an earth-friendly winter color. These evergreens will continue define your gardens and add character and definition to an otherwise barren yard.
- Select Drought-Tolerant Plants - If you are taking the time to landscape your lot, you will want it to look good at all times. Choosing to use drought-tolerant plants will keep the flowers blooming and looking their best on the hottest and driest summer days in July and August long after the others have become dried and shriveled. Plants that are not drought-tolerant may look good in April and May and then begin wilting away or require constant watering the rest of the summer. Drought-tolerant plants will not require as much watering and will continue to look healthy and beautiful through the end of summer.
- Supplement Perennials with Annuals - It is no secret that perennials only bloom for a certain amount of time under particular weather conditions. If you choose a perennial that blooms in May and another one that blooms in July, what is going to make your garden vibrant with color during the rest of the spring and summer months? Annuals can fill in the gaps maintaining an ever-blooming landscape with a variety of flowers and continuous color.
- Use Foliage - True, flowers give every yard and lot beautiful color, but various types of foliage will add character and pizzazz. Spice up your landscaping design with diversity using other non-flowering plants of different colors and textures. Evergreens, ornamental grasses, shrubs and ivy are attractive choices.
- Use Rocks - Rocks can add a lot of character to your landscaped spaces. Landscaping boulders add impact and interest to a garden providing a focal point as mentioned earlier. Smaller stones create a nice boarder or edge along pathways and planting beds. Even smaller stones, such as pebbles, and even sand, can be used to cover the walking path. Another alternative for the path is to use flat rocks for stepping-stones. It is important to remember when using landscaping boulders, stones for edging and stepping-stones that they will take on a more natural appearance if you take the time to bury them down in the soil a few inches. This will create the more natural look of the stones having always been there, instead of the appearance of rocks thoughtlessly lying on the ground.
- Rocks for Sloping Lots - If your home was built on a sloping lot, you might consider creating a two-level backyard. Landscaping boulders are perfect for building a retaining wall. This simple idea will create an upper and lower garden. When dug into the ground and exposed on one side, they provide an ideal rock retaining wall that fits well with your landscaping.
- Landscape the Vegetable Garden - Just because you have a vegetable garden, does not mean it cannot look great too! Plan to leave a one or two foot boarder around your garden. Plant all of your vegetables they way they should be planted according to recommendations on the see packets and pots. Keep in mind the vegetables in your garden that bare colorful fruits such as eggplants, tomatoes, acorn squash, bell peppers and pumpkins. These are naturally occurring colors that you will harvest. These colors will come and go throughout the summer months. Now, plant short flowers around your boarder that will bloom from spring to fall. You may even use stones for trim. If your garden shares one side with the boundary of your yard, try something taller like sunflowers. You are sure to have color in your garden from early spring to late fall.
- Plan for Low Maintenance - If you plan for simple maintenance, you will enjoy your yard and landscaping much more than you would if your yard is difficult to care for. Select plants that do not need a lot of attention such as trimming and pruning. Keep the edges of planting beds simple lines and contours instead of odd shapes and sharp corners. No matter how beautiful your yard is, you will resent it if it is too much work. Think about deciduous trees. The more you have, the more raking you will do in the fall. If you select trees and shrubs that bare fruit, it might get messy. True, it will be a good food source for the native animals and they are beautiful when they are flowering, but do you want to get berry stains on your carpet because you have a berry stuck in your shoe?
- Start a Compost Pile - If you are going to take the time to rake your leaves and collect grass clippings, you might as well use them to your advantage. Start a compost pile and maintain it through out the year. You can find plenty of information on how to do this online. Next spring when you are ready to start planting, work some of the compost into the soil. It provides far more nutrients, is inexpensive and is more earth-friendly than purchasing synthetic fertilizers.
- Enjoy your Yard - If you are going to take the time to landscape your yard yourself, make time to enjoy it. There is nothing more rewarding than enjoying the views of a gorgeous yard on a pleasant evening. You will have the perfect haven for entertaining guests or quiet relaxation. And, you created it yourself!
Landscaping can be challenging and rewarding. It is an ideal activity or for outdoor enthusiasts, gardeners and those who want to try something new. Think of it as an outdoor hobby room with limitless possibilities. Roll up your sleeves and dig in! Your outdoor living space is waiting for your creative touch!
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