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Decorative and Functional Landscaping

August 12, 2011Learning Center
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Far from simply being decorative, landscaping fills an important role in your home environment. Consider some things trees, shrubs and grass may affect:

  • Drainage
  • Breeze and wind deflection and direction
  • Shade for roof, windows, and patios
  • Privacy from neighbors

Do not underestimate the value of well designed landscaping. Poorly designed landscaping doesn’t look very good, and it can be ineffective at providing the above needs. More than that, it can make a beautiful home seem drab, while a well designed landscape can make an average home seem more luxurious.

Below are some handy tips that can help you prepare a landscape that matches your home.

 How to plant a yard

Step 1

Choose the right type of grass for your climate (Your local Home Depot or Lowe’s can assist you with a proper choice”). Decide whether you will start with grass seed, stolons or sod.

Step 2

Plant cool-season grasses in early spring or fall. Plant warm-season grasses in late spring to early summer.

Step 3

Test your soil – send a sample to your local cooperative extension service or a private lab, or test it yourself with a home kit. Find out what nutrients you have and lack, what the pH is, and whether or not you need lime or sulphur. (Or just check with neighbors or a nursery that knows local conditions.)

Step 4

Improve the soil by spreading 2 to 3 inches of organic matter, such as compost or ground bark, over the planting area. Also spread a starter fertilizer, which is usually high in potassium and phosphorous, if called for after a soil test.

Step 5

Till the soil to incorporate the organic matter to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Make two or three passes in alternating directions.

Step 6

In dry-summer areas, consider an irrigation system to simplify watering. Place enough sprinklers or hoses and pipes around to irrigate, or have an in-ground system installed.

Step 7

Smooth the planting area with a leveling rake.

Step 8

Sow seed, plant stolons or lay sod over the planting area.

Step 9

Keep areas moist until grass is firmly established (six to eight weeks on average).

How to plant shrubs

Step 1

Plant a container-grown tree or shrub in spring or autumn for best results, especially if it’s an evergreen. If that timing doesn’t fit your schedule, though, any time except midsummer will work, as long as the soil is not bone-dry, saturated or frozen.

Step 2

Dig a hole that’s at least 6 inches wider than the container on all sides and about the same depth. Then roughen up the sides of the hole with your shovel.

Step 3

Remove the plant from its container even if the label says you don’t need to; the roots will spread out more quickly. With a small tree or shrub, it’s easy to do this job before you lower plant into its hole; with a larger plant, it’s easier to handle if you set it into the hole first and then cut away the container.

Step 4

Knock a plant out of a rigid plastic container. Simply tilt the pot onto its side, tap it lightly, and gently slide out the rootball. If the container is made of metal or a soft material such as peat, cut the pot away using a knife, clippers or tin snips.

Step 5

Gently tease out any roots that are encircling the rootball with your fingers so that they are free, taking care not to break up the ball of soil. Then clip off any damaged roots.

Step 6

Place stakes in the hole if you’re planting a tree that will need support.

Step 7

Set the plant into the hole at the same depth it was growing in the pot, and begin filling the hole, checking as you go to make sure the plant is standing straight up. Add about 4 inches of soil and gently firm it with your foot or a hoe to remove any air pockets. Repeat the process until the hole is filled.

Step 8

Water slowly to saturate the soil and remove any remaining air pockets.

Step 9

Use any extra to build a temporary berm at the drip line (the place on the ground directly below the outer edges of the foliage) and water again.

Step 10

Keep the soil moist for the first year after planting. Mulch to retain moisture, but keep at least 6 inches bare around the trunk. Check frequently; if you see yellow leaves or the soil feels dry, water immediately.

Of course, $200-500 can usually get you a professional landscape design. However, with some creativity and wise shopping at the right places, you can create your own landscape design that will make you the envy of the neighborhood!

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