Wednesday, April 18, 2012

recession-era gardening

I invited some fabulous bloggers--and fellow home rangers--to write guest posts on The Lone Home Ranger for this entire week during Vivi's Spring Break (called "April Vacation" in Beantown). These lovely ladies will be bringing you features focused on healthy, natural, and simple living. Enjoy!


Today's post comes from Sheri over at Donuts, Dresses, and Dirt. Be sure to read through to the bottom of the post to see her bio and link to her blog. I've also written a few of my own thoughts about her post.

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Coconut lime echinacea
 As a professional landscaper and a homeowner, I understand the challenge in figuring out where and how best to invest in your home and property. It may be tempting to let those overgrown shrubs go for another year.

But keeping your property in good shape is critical to maintaining (and even increasing) its value. Landscaping is an investment that actually improves over time as plants and trees grow and mature. And if you are in the process of selling your home, creating “curb appeal” is essential to attracting interested buyers and reducing the amount of time your home is on the market.

Proper landscaping has other benefits too:

It lowers your energy costs – strategically placed trees can shade your home and reduce the need for air conditioning – lowering your electric bill in the process.

It enhances your surroundings and improves the natural environment – trees and shrubs act as a visual and sound buffer, blocking out unwanted noises and replacing them with the more pleasurable sounds of birds and rustling leaves. And as we learned in school, plants absorb excess carbon dioxide and release oxygen, improving our air quality. Many plants provide a home for beneficial wildlife, which has become increasingly important as construction, pollution and climate change have eradicated local creatures’ natural habitats.

It boosts your physical and emotional well-being – gardening provides incredible health and emotional rewards. And, over the years, I’ve had many clients tell me that even just walking through their garden - taking in the colors, textures and fragrance - makes them happier.

So what are the best choices to make when investing in your landscaping?

Here are my favorite tips:

Take stock of what you have – that giant azalea may still have some blooms left in it, but if it is blocking your windows, has lots of bare, leggy branches or is misshapen from years of neglect, it may be time to remove it. A new plant – healthy and appropriately scaled – is a better investment than money and effort spent on reshaping a plant whose time has come. That said, you may have some “gems” that are simply in need of some TLC to bring them back to life – for those plants, a proper pruning and regular feeding may be all that is needed.

Be water-wise – you can substantially reduce your water bill by installing an irrigation system – in my opinion the best investment you can make in your garden. It pays for itself by conserving water and delivering it exactly where needed - at the base of the plants. Overhead watering (i.e., sprinkler or hose) is extremely wasteful as most of the water evaporates before reaching the ground. And as far as your plants are concerned, it is the least desirable method of irrigation. Excess moisture that remains on the foliage (especially during humid weather) can lead to a host of problems, such as powdery mildew and fungi.

Hire a professional – there are some tasks that, if done professionally, will actually help you keep your overall costs down. For example, consider having any sizeable trees professionally planted. Proper preparation of both the planting hole and the root ball of the tree are essential to ensuring that the tree survives and flourishes.

If you don’t have the budget for a full-scale landscape design, consider hiring a designer on a consulting basis, or even for a one-time meeting. Many designers will assess your site conditions and even provide a list of plants that can take some of the guesswork out of planning your garden. In the end, this process will save you money by reducing or eliminating costly mistakes due to buying the wrong plant for the wrong location.

Surveys show that we’re spending more time at  home[i] (“staycation”, anyone?). So “home” has become a place that needs to serve a variety of functions - relaxing, exercising and entertaining.

By maintaining your landscaping you will improve the value of your home AND the quality of your day-to-day life.

A good thing indeed!



Sheri is a mom of 3 – ages 20, 15 and 3, a professional landscape designer and creator of the blog donuts, dresses and dirt. She writes about cooking and baking, gardening and what she calls her “favorite finds” – anything from the best hand cream to a must-have summer dress to where to find the most delicious doughnut in New York City!



Editor's note: Sheri makes some great points that I've had some personal experience with, although I am not knowledgable enough on the subject of gardening to provide a thoughtful analysis as she has today. When we were getting ready to sell our home in 2010, it was important to us to keep preparation costs as low as possible. We had bought our home outside of Washington D.C. with a six-month old baby and a brand-new job (for me), two weeks prior to the $700 billion bailout. Woops! We knew selling it only two years later to move to Boston (with a second baby in tow) could result in a loss for us, so we struggled with the decision of whether to spend money on the house to improve its look. 


In the end, we opted to use a professional landscaper (my mom!) to improve the yard and were so pleased with the results. $2,000 of enhancements later, we sold the house after three days on the market and walked away from the close without owing the bank money! This unexpected positive outcome was no small feat for as dire as the DC housing market was at the time. Our real estate agent felt the landscaping made the difference.

Speaking of my mom's landscaping, if you are in the Atlanta area, you could not ask for a more experienced, creative, and detail-oriented professional to work with you on your landscaping needs. She dealt with two very fussy homeowners (i.e. me and Nate) like a real pro and didn't bat an eye at our many questions and nitpicks. In short, I highly recommend her! Visit her website for more information.

On another personal note, I would like to mention the good investment an arborist can be for the large, historic trees on your property. I wish we had hired one when we moved into our home in Virginia. A big part of the reason we were attracted to the home was its 150+ year old willow oak in the back yard. It was the largest tree for miles around and provided shade for our home and the three others around us. As we were selling the home (the home inspector for the buyers had just left two hours prior, in fact!), a giant limb--with a girth larger than two people's arm span--fell onto our neighbor's property, ruining their two cars, their fence, and busting through a 2nd story window. We were lucky it didn't fall on our home, which the girls and I were in at the time. When the arborist arrived, he knew immediately the cause for the damage was the huge snowfall we experienced the previous winter. He told us he had begged the previous owner to maintain the tree better, but she refused, citing the cost as her reason. As it turns out, hiring an arborist prior to the accident would have been cheaper than the cost of removing the tree limb from our yard and would have prevented the extensive damage to the poor tree.



5 comments:

Julie Kimber said...

We are just getting ready to fill beds we've prepared around our house, so this post is well timed for us! I saw your post about homemade crackers over at citykidshomeschooling and would love to know where you got your cracker recipe! Thanks in advance!!

Jacqueline Pointer said...

Thanks for the plug Justine and for the brand new website ! I'm excited to post our pictures .and show off our client's gardens.
Mom's garden has become a lavish paradise , and has given her a strong sense of well being as mentioned in this gardener's blog . She now walks the long meandering garden path's down the hill to the "Monet - style " bridge that overlooks the river and calls herself "lady bountiful " for all the beauty that surrounds her .

The Lone Home Ranger said...

Hi Julie! Your blog is super cute, I was looking at it earlier. I love that you post the books you're reading on the side. As for the cracker recipe, I am waiting to hear back to see if it's going to be published elsewhere, but for now, I'm happy to email it to you. I didn't see your email on your blog. Can you email me? (Click envelope in top right sidebar under "Follow Us"). Thanks!

Barb @ A Life in Balance said...

I'm so excited to meet a new blogger!

We have an extensive landscape which I think might be a bit intimidating to the next owner, if we ever decided to sell. Fortunately for them we can attest to the durability of the plantings since they survived drought and lots of kids running through them. :)

I would love to hire an arborist at some point to look at our dwarf apple trees. One of them appears to have a disease. We finally pruned them back very hard this year to see if we could bring them back.

The Lone Home Ranger said...

We pruned our hybrid red bud and cut away the grafted plant, so the next year we had an ordinary red bud. Woops! Yet another reason to hire an arborist. Good luck with your tree.

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