Home landscaping

Your home's exterior appearance is just as important as the interior. Landscaping experts can design a plan for your yard and bring it to life.

Most people hire landscapers to increase their home's curb appeal. A home that's landscaped nicely stands out. If you ever sell your home, great curb appeal will attract potential buyers to your property.

Still, other people enjoy working in the yard, and a nicely landscaped lawn is a matter of personal pride for them. If you choose not to handle your own lawn work, you can hire a landscaping company to complete a number of jobs, other than planting and mowing.

Other services landscapers provide:

Fertilization: This service is also a common benefit of a lawn care package. Companies suggest fertilizing your lawn a few times a year to help it grow thick, but too much or the wrong type of fertilizer can harm your grass. A professional will know that delicate balance. Landscapers calculate the cost by the square foot and the average fertilization package typically costs around $200 to $300 per year.

Landscape design: If you just can't visualize what you want your yard to look like, many companies offer design services. They'll pick plants, plant flowerbeds and create the perfect layout for your lawn. This service may be free if you decide to implement the plan. If not, you'll have to pay a fee for the plans.

Aeration: Typically done in the fall and spring, aeration pulls plugs of grass, thatch and soil from your lawn. These plugs leave holes that allow the lawn to breathe better. It also allows fertilizer and water easier access to the roots. Aeration costs on a typical lawn fall in the $100 range.

Hardscaping: Need a new patio area or fire pit? Many landscapers also take on hardscaping projects, such as installing brick or stone pathways.

RELATED: 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Paver Patio Installation Contractor

Landscape lighting: If you're so proud of your landscaping that you want to show it off at night, many companies provide exterior lighting options. Lighting is also a great idea along the driveway and sidewalks to improve nighttime visibility.

Leaf removal: Raking leaves is a major chore in fall. Many landscaping companies will do this chore for you. Expect to pay labor, hauling and disposal fees. Generally, leaf removal costs about $350 to complete.

Be ready for spring by checking out the Angie's List Spring Maintenance Guide.

Planning a landscaping project

Because we don't all live in areas where it's 85 degrees and sunny year round, it's important to plan ahead when considering any landscaping projects. Planning ahead will give you ample time to do your research and make sure you're hiring the best professionals in the area.

It will also help you get a clear idea of how you want your outdoor space to look and give you time to compile your wish list.

Here are some tips to consider:

Consider utilization: Think how you'll use the landscape. Will it be for outdoor entertaining? Are you trying to gain privacy or dampen noise? Hoping to boost curb appeal?

Get inspired: Collect landscape images that appeal to you. Try sketching a rough idea of what you have in mind. Visit garden centers and make a list of plants that interest you. Present these materials to the landscapers under consideration, and listen to their advice. Sometimes, designs or plants may look good, but aren't well-suited to your particular property.

MORE: Photo Gallery: Outdoor Patio Ideas

Break it down: Decide which parts of the property you want to landscape. You don't have to do the whole yard at once. Break it up into projects or phases. This makes the tasks more manageable and affordable.

Hire or DIY: Decide if you're going to do the job or hire someone. If your property has slopes, drainage issues or other kinds of potential engineering problems, hiring a landscape architect or designer may be your best option. You'll also want to make sure you have the appropriate tools to complete the project.

RELATED: DIY or Hire: How Much Does Lawn Mowing Cost?

flower bed

Choose plants that will best fit your overall landscape design. (Photo by Roger Tunis)

Landscaping ideas

There are infinite possibilities when it comes to landscaping, so the sky's the limit. Small, affordable projects include adding mulch, planting flower beds and edging, while more advanced and expensive projects might include building a koi pond or patio, or planting multiple trees. If you have no idea what you really want, consider talking with a landscaper.

Planting flower beds: Landscapers can make flower beds into various shapes and sizes. When done correctly, their design will complement the home. Make sure to add mulch to give the beds a clean look, suppress weeds and preserve moisture.

Mulch: Mulch helps soil retain moisture, limits temperature fluctuations and improves the look of your landscaping. Mulch comes in a variety of colors and grades. You can even use recycled rubber as mulch.

Hanging plants: Most landscaping is on the ground, but hangers allow you to take it up a notch. Hanging planters bring landscaping to eye level.

Trees and shrubs: There are multiple options when it comes to planting trees and shrubs, but it's crucial to pick types that will thrive in your specific climate. Talk to a landscaping professional if you need help choosing a tree or shrub.

Gardens: Want to grow your own food and save money at the grocery store? Hire a landscaper to to create a garden area, orbuild your own raised garden bed.

Water features: If the sound of water soothes you, consider a waterfall feature, pond or water fountain for your yard.

Patios: Patios are a great place for the family to connect, whether enjoying a cookout or just relaxing at the end of the day. Pavers are a good, durable option, and there are manyvarieties of pavers to choose from, depending on your style.

shrubs against house

Your home's curb appeal forms people's first impressions of it. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Landscaping for curb appeal

First impressions are important, and that goes for your home, too. Whether you’re trying to attract potential buyers and achieve the highest resale value possible or wanting to make your home stand out from the others on the block, landscaping can make or break your home's curb appeal.

Make sure your yard is clean and tidy. A neatly mowed, edged and debris-free landscape offers the impression of a home that’s been well cared for. Keep the front walkway clear and uncluttered, and consider landscape lighting to create a warm and welcoming entrance.

RELATED: Photo Gallery: 10 Ways to Add Curb Appeal

Because you want your house to be the focal point, it’s important to stay on top of pruning. You can't showcase your home if it can't be seen from the street. Prune overgrown trees and shrubs to frame and show off the house. Branches in contact with the house are a red flag for appraisers checking structural integrity and potential pest damage. Safety issues, such as dead wood and dangerous trees, are sure to show up on costly work orders.

On the other hand, if your front yard is devoid of plants, consider planting a tree as a focal point.

Consider color. First impressions are largely emotional. Use color to attract and focus attention on positive aspects of the landscape. A single substantial container brimming with blooming bulbs and fresh spring color creates a bigger splash than the same number of plants scattered throughout the front yard.

Maintenance is especially important with color — faded bulbs and burned out plants are off-putting. Plan to trade out and refresh container plantings with seasonal shifts.

If you’re thinking of putting your home on the market, Realtors say the online photo is the first step of curb appeal, so make sure you have a photo of your home’s exterior looking its best.

lawn light

Adding lighting to your landscape can enhance your curb appeal at night. (Photo by Roger Tunis)

Lakefront landscaping

Many people dream of having a house by a lake so they can enjoy the scenic beauty and have easy access to swimming or a dock. Because the outdoors are such an essential part of a lakehouse, extra care is often taken when developing a landscaping plan.

That care should include factoring in specific challenges associated with landscaping projects near water, such as sloping and floodplain issues.

READ MORE: What are the Challenges of Landscaping a Lakefront Home?

Landscape lighting

Well-placed lighting can bring your landscaping to life at night, and it also enhances home security. Lights along sidewalks and the driveway will allow you to see when walking at night. LED lighting and solar lighting are good options for efficiency.

There are several ways to use landscape lighting, depending on the effect you wish to create:

Downlighting: Casting light downward to increase drama and beauty.

Uplighting: Casting light upward to highlight texture, size and color.

Moonlighting: Usually globe-shaped, they cast a soft, natural light glow.

Spotlighting: Casting light to specifically focus on a garden feature, such as a flower bed or sculptural piece.

Pathlighting: A series of lights set low to define a walkway for safety and increased aesthetic appeal.

Silhouetting: Incorporating background lighting to accent structural features.

Grazing: Directional light placed at an acute angle, to emphasize texture.

Hiring a landscaper

Not all landscaping professionals do the same work. Much like doctors, many of them have an area of expertise. Here's a primer on several related professions:

What kind of expert do you need?

Landscaper: These professionals can plant new trees and shrubbery; remove, modify and replace existing plants and materials, such as mulch; establish new planting beds; install sod or seed a new lawn; and provide routine maintenance. Some landscapers offer design services, but usually they work from plans the homeowner commissioned from a landscape architect or landscape designer. Many landscapers offer irrigation and sprinkler services, but there are also individualized specialists who can install these systems.

Landscape architect: If you aren't sure what you want, or if your grand plan requires changing the lay of the land, you may need to start with a landscape architect. These professionals often work on large or custom landscaping projects. They can also work on smaller, yet complex, residential projects. Often landscape architects are involved in commercial and municipal projects as well. They often have advanced education or professional training.

Landscape designer: Many have horticulture backgrounds or nursery experience and can design a landscape for a new home or renovate an existing area. They'll provide a blueprint for your yard, indicating the optimal placement of each plant and feature.

Certified arborist/tree service: These pros specialize in tree pruning as well as disease and pest diagnosis and treatment. Depending on their experience, they can provide suggestions for tree replacement, install lightning protection, or secure and brace trees that have broken limbs or are near collapse. Certification can be verified through the International Society of Arboriculture.

Gardener: A person with or without horticultural education, and often performs routine garden chores similar to a landscaper. They perform simple maintenance chores like dead-heading flowers and feeding and repotting plants. The more education or experience the gardener has, the better he/she will be able to help you pick the plants, flowers and vegetables that will thrive in your location.

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