49 Steps to Instant Landscaping

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If a plant is in such bad shape that it needs to be removed, either replace it or stick a decorative pot in its place. Now is also a good time to dig up any plants that you want to take with you to your new home. Clean up water features. Get rid of any visible algae, remove leaves and clean filters so that the water is crystal clear. Take care of any irrigation issues.

If there are any problems with an irrigation system, fix them. Provide information about your irrigation schedule, especially if you have an automatic system. Repair faucet leaks. A leaking faucet suggests that there may be other problems elsewhere in the plumbing, and that can be an instant turn-off to buyers. If you receive sufficient notice that your home is about to be shown, water a half-hour or so before the appointed time.

The water reduces the glare of paved surfaces and also sends the message that your plants are well-maintained. Consider labeling as many plants as possible. That way the buyer will at least know the name of each plant and can then research their growing needs. Also consider creating a complete plant inventory in scrapbook form and leaving it out on a table for prospective buyers to browse through as they tour your home.

Power-wash dirty surfaces. Consider buying or renting a power washer to clean paved surfaces. With very little time or effort, you can make grungy, grimy surfaces look brand-spanking new. Power washers also do a great job of cleaning fences, as well as brick and vinyl siding. Consider contouring slopes to slow the runoff, minimize erosion and provide time for water to soak into the soil. Design options for addressing low-lying areas include installing an underground drainage system, building raised beds, grading, or planting a rain garden.

Overall, by addressing these environmental factors, we can create a design that is in harmony rather than in conflict with the observed natural patterns. This strategy leads to a successful, attractive, low maintenance, and ecologically beneficial landscape. The angles the sun tracks across the sky.

In the summer, it is higher and has a more sweeping arch solid circles and in the winter it is lower dotted circles. A rain barrel is filled with a PVC pipe attached to a roof downspout.

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This barrel is close to the garden for easy access to water vegetables. To design a landscape that is aesthetically pleasing, enjoyable, and functional, we need information from the people who will use the space. What are their personal needs and wants, what functions do they want the space to fulfill? What activities will occur regularly in the future landscape? Checklist 19—1 is a printable list of possible uses and activities to consider when planning a landscape. Ultimately, the activities identified for a given landscape provide direction toward a design that suits all the users.

A landscape wish list may be long. Adequate space to comfortably incorporate the items on the list is essential.


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In the case of decks and patios, it is better to go too large rather than too small. A deck or patio for outdoor entertaining should comfortably accommodate the maximum number of guests who will be using the space. Wall seating around the edge of a patio and built-in benches for a deck take advantage of space and limit the need for extra furniture Figure 19— Measure outdoor furniture planned for the space and allow 2 to 3 feet of walking room around chairs. Using the plot plan scale, cut out paper patio furniture pieces sized to scale. Place and move pieces on the plot plan to help find an ideal location.

People are accustomed to more elbowroom outside. Stake off the space to see if it is the right size, if the planned location takes advantage of good viewpoints in the yard and beyond, and if the site is out of direct traffic patterns to and from the house. This small patio area extends its seating options by providing a flat topped wall. A residential landscape consists of areas that are used for different purposes. In this step, we divide the site into several separate areas—each serving a purpose, but all combining into the overall design. In residential landscapes, three general areas—public, private family , and service utility —are used to organize activities and uses.

After categorizing the activities, we can locate these areas for various uses on the plot plan.

Try to provide enough space for each activity within a given use area. Using another overlay sheet of tracing paper taped over the plot plan, note these use areas. Drawing bubbles to indicate use areas on the overlay helps to loosely define spaces for each activity Figure 19— The public use area is usually in the front of the house.

The private use or family area is often in the back of the house. And the service area is generally in the backyard or side-yard.

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It is important to locate and then develop each area so that it meets user needs, contributes to an attractive overall landscape, and addresses environmental factors identified in Step Two. The public use area is most often seen by passersby and guests and usually includes the front yard, drive, walks, and main entrance to the home. A first consideration is to direct visitors to the front door. This can be accomplished with several landscape features.

First, consider the front walk. The front entrance can be enhanced by a walkway with an interesting surface texture, such as brick, slate, concrete pavers, aggregate, or stained concrete Figure 19— Outdoor lighting improves safety and directs pedestrian traffic to the entrance after dark. Low, indirect lighting can safely light paths. Municipalities and other government agencies are moving toward decreasing light pollution. For these reasons, incorporate appropriate light schemes into the landscape, including down-lighting of specimen plantings and hardscape.

Another environmentally sustainable solution is solar lighting. To help guide visitors to an entrance area add a focal point; for example, an interesting tree with ground cover underneath or a planter with a specimen shrub. Trees, shrubs, and grass can be used to focus attention on the entryway. Hardscape elements, including rocks, planters, trellises, arbors, and water features can also draw focus to the entryway. Vehicle parking needs to be considered. Allow enough room for a door to swing open and a surface where someone exiting a vehicle can stand.

When planning the foundation areas, consider the mature size, color, texture, and number of plants needed. Consider the individual character of a plant so that as it matures it grows without major maintenance. Modern house foundations are often attractive and do not need to be hidden by dense borders of plant material. If trees are desired near the house structure, choose a tree with a small canopy when fully grown so the branches do not interfere with the porch or roof.

Placing tall trees in the backyard, and medium or small ones on the sides and in front, highlights the house Figure 19— Examples of small canopy trees are dogwood Cornus florida , Japanese flowering apricot Prunus mume , Japanese maple Acer palmatum , eastern redbud Cercis canadensis , sourwood Oxydendron arboretum , and serviceberry Amelanchier species.

Tree-form evergreen shrubs are also useful, such as yaupon holly Ilex vomitoria , camellia Camellia japonica , inkberry holly Ilex glabra , or wax myrtle Myrica cerifera.

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The goal is to enhance the total visual effect while not blocking doors or windows or creating future maintenance issues from either plant root systems or branches and foliage. While a front lawn is a very common feature, consider reducing the amount of area planted with turfgrass. Unless there are designated uses for a turf area in the front yard, the costs, labor, and chemical inputs often involved in maintaining a lawn can be avoided by planning a turf-free front landscape.


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Incorporate masses of ground covers or mulched areas in the front landscape to create interesting lines.