5 tips for spring landscaping success

Start by determining what you would like to accomplish with your landscaping. Are you trying to increase the curb appeal of your home? Do you want to create a space for your family to enjoy meals outside? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you make the right decisions. (Photo courtesy of Artistic Landscapes)

Start by determining what you would like to accomplish with your landscaping. Are you trying to increase the curb appeal of your home? Do you want to create a space for your family to enjoy meals outside? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you make the right decisions. (Photo courtesy of Artistic Landscapes)

With the thermometer inching upward and the days getting longer, spring is the perfect time to evaluate your yard and landscapes.

Landscaping can make big improvements to the appearance of your property, adding curb appeal and value while making outdoor spaces more livable. It provides a good excuse to get out of the house after a long winter’s confinement, acting as a source of exercise and stress relief.

Homeowners who will take a do-it-yourself approach to landscaping this spring should start to develop a plan of action. Those who are new to landscaping, or don’t know how to proceed should contact a highly rated landscaping service. Regardless of the category you fall into, the following tips can help get your landscaping project off the ground.

1. Don’t overlook the small things

Whether you’re itching to get some dirt under your fingernails or plan on hiring a professional landscaper this spring, prior to getting started, you need to make sure the yard is prepped and ready to go.

Walk around the yard and pick up any trash, debris or sticks that might have fallen during winter storms.

Using a rake or leaf blower, remove any remaining leaves or yard waste from flowerbeds to ensure they are clean and ready for mulching or planting. Check outdoor spigots, sprinkler equipment and unpack hoses.

It’s also a good time to take inventory of your landscaping equipment and make any needed repairs.

If you mow your own lawn, make sure your mower is in good working order before it’s time to cut the grass. To get the most out your mowing machine, consider having it de-winterized or tuned-up by a mower repair service. Changing the oil, replacing the spark plugs and air filter and sharpening the mower blades will make your mower more dependable and last longer – and help keep fast-growing spring grass in check.

2. Make a plan

Although it’s enticing to just dive in and head to the nearest home improvement store and load up your cart with plants and supplies, having the right plan can make or break your project.

Start by determining what you would like to accomplish with your landscaping. Are you trying to increase the overall curb appeal of your home? Do you want to create a space for your family to enjoy meals outside? Some people simply choose to add landscaping to increase privacy or to control erosion. Knowing the answers to these questions will ensure you are making the right decisions. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the basics before moving on to accessories.

Next, establish your project budget. Buying new plants, landscaping materials or hiring professionals can quickly add up to high costs, so determine from the beginning exactly how much money you want to spend. If you plan to use high-end building materials or appliances, they need to be included in the budget. Starting a project without ensuring there will be funds to bring it to completion increases the likelihood it will come to a standstill.

Draw a map of the yard to give yourself a visual picture to work with. Include structures like sheds, walkways and existing landscaping. This will help you determine the amount of workable space, as well as the amount of light that will be available for plants and gardens.

Ultimately, you want a plan that works for your home. You can hire a landscaping service to take your ideas and turn them into a plan that works for your home.

3. Create something useful

You can spend thousands of dollars on elaborate landscaping projects, but if they aren’t user-friendly, they’re likely to be neglected. Creating a landscaping plan that incorporates outdoor living, relaxation and socialization should encourage more use, and add more return on your investment.

“The No. 1 thing homeowners should do to their yards this year is to create an area for relaxing,” says Tony Hurley, owner of highly rated Artistic Landscapes in Georgetown, Mass. “This can be as simple as an area of lawn that is enclosed by fragrant shrubs with a chair and table to have a cup of coffee or glass of wine, or, the area can be more elaborate with a fire pit or patio with landscape lights. A fire pit can be used to toast marshmallows or as a gathering place for older kids and adults to spend evenings together. If a patio is included in the landscape improvement, the patio will inspire more outdoor meals to be enjoyed with family and friends.”

Michael Van de Bossche, owner of highly rated Earth-Wood Arts in Indianapolis, says homeowners who are uncertain about the functionality of a project should simply ask a qualified landscaper.

“I would recommend that homeowners have their landscapes appraised by someone who has plenty of experience in the field, not a salesperson,” Van de Bossche says. “The right advice can mean the difference between improvements that have tremendous impact functionally and aesthetically, versus additional features that might impact only the wallet. Once the true potential of an existing landscape is reached, then enhancements can be added.”

4. Hire a pro

Big project or small, consider hiring a landscaping professional. An expert will be able to determine whether your plan will work based on the configuration of your yard, recommend plants, trees and other vegetation that will flourish in your specific climate, and supply the tools and manpower to get the job done.

Aaron Nissinen, owner of highly rated Preferred Landscape Services Inc. in Hillsboro, Ore., says professional landscaping companies have the training and expertise that many homeowners lack.

“We have the experience and qualifications necessary to do the job correctly, which brings a huge peace of mind to our customers,” he says.

He adds that a contractor license may be required for landscaping in your area, and you should check to make sure you hire a licensed pro. “We are members of the Oregon Landscape Contractors Board, which assures a homeowner that we are fully licensed and bonded and have certification for all areas of landscaping,” he says. “We have passed all of the rigorous testing requirements and continue each year to maintain that license by taking additional courses and training.”

Some people run into trouble when they overestimate their abilities or willingness to commit to a large project.

“We have rescued many homeowners who began projects themselves only to find that they lacked the skills and time to successfully complete their projects,” Van de Bossche says.” Sometimes projects look fairly simple when, in truth, they are not.”

Hurley says hiring a professional could make all the difference in successfully completing a landscaping project.

“It’s beneficial for homeowners to hire a landscaping firm because it should have the capabilities to transform the homeowner’s goals and ideas into a design, and ultimately a finished landscape that achieves their goals and is appropriate for their property and neighborhood.”

5. Get a green lawn

Fertilizer is essential to maintaining a healthy looking green lawn because it adds necessary nutrients that may be missing, prevents invasive weeds and strengthens the grass roots. Most lawn fertilizers contain a mixture of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium nutrients. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient, but too much can lead to excessive growth or discoloration. Fertilizers come in fast-release and controlled-release forms.

For homeowners in moderate climates, March is a great time to start thinking about a game plan for fertilizing the lawn. “A balanced fertilization with a pre-emergent for control of annual grasses should be applied during the month of April, since crabgrass begins to emerge in May,” Van de Bossche says. “The nitrogen should be a 50/50 split of fast and slow release forms. Too much quick release brings too lush of a growth when combined with spring rains.”

Van de Bossche recommends a second, half-rate application of the fertilizer after 60 days with one application of a higher nitrogen fertilizer in between the two. You can purchase fertilizer treatments yourself and apply them with a broadcast spreader, but adding too much or too little fertilizer, or applying it at inopportune times, can actually harm your lawn.

For more information on landscaping, or to find a highly rated professional in your area, visit Angie's List Guide to Landscaping and Lawn Care.


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