Did you ever move into a new house and then look outside at the yard and say, “what now?” A new home and a new yard are exciting projects to shape and personalize. However what do you do if you aren’t a master gardener or don’t possess a green thumb? It might be a bit intimidated when it comes to learning about your new plants, trees, and flowers and how to care for them. Here are a few a few tips from the experts.
- Do a Walk-thru of the Yard. New homeowners should do a thorough inspection of their yard looking at the condition of the grass, plants and trees. Make a notation of any plants that don’t look healthy or trees that look diseased or are too close to the house. Look for signs of insect damage and note any areas that are overgrown and have debris. Many landscape companies will provide a free consultation and review a homeowner’s yard with them and make recommendations for care of problem areas.
- Learn About Your New Plants and Trees. If you have no idea what type of plants are in your new yard, there are a number of smart phone apps like Leaf Snap that can help you identify your plants using photo recognition software, or of course you can consult an expert. If you moved far away, you should check to see if you moved to a different plant hardiness zone. The USDA provides a zip code search to check your zone, http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/. Make sure you choose plants that are right for your climate zone.
- Perform Routine Maintenance and Clean-up. Clean up any brush or debris in the yard. Weeding and mulching is an inexpensive way to make a yard look great and it provides health benefits to the plants. Mulching offers a wide variety of benefits including helping plants retain water, keeping the weeds at bay, and keeping the soil cool. Mulch should be at least 2-3 inches deep after settling, maximizing weed suppression and water retention. Do not pile mulch against trees or shrub trunks since they need air to circulate and leave a few inches of space between the mulch and the trunk. Also, be sure not to pile mulch against the house because it may attract termites.
- Check the Soil Condition: The soil is the foundation of everything in the yard. Grass, plants and trees depend on healthy, well-balanced soil to flourish. Healthy soil is made up of adequate microorganism activity, drainage, and good oxygen flow. Make sure the soil has the proper pH balance. Homeowners can check with their local agricultural extension office (many counties have staff from the state university agricultural extension offices that deal with horticultural issues) or lawn care professional to have the soil tested. There are DIY soil kits available at most major home improvement and lawn/garden centers. Homeowners should test the soil approximately every three years; this test will tell what nutrients are needed to add to improve the soil and should be able to provide how much phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients the lawn may need.
- Evaluate the Health of Mature Trees: Mature trees are one of the greatest assets in a yard. Trees provide shade and significant cooling to the home and add beauty. To assess the health of their trees, homeowners should consult with a licensed arborist. Many tree care companies will provide a free consultation, or charge a small fee, and will walk through the yard with a homeowner and review the health of their trees and make recommendations about care and pruning.
- Prune Trees and Shrubs for Health. Professionals can point out necessary pruning. Older, weaker, brittle or diseased limbs or branches need to be pruned to improve the robustness of the shrubs and trees. It is also important to prune limbs so that they are a safe distance away from the roof and windows.
- Check the Roots of Established Trees: Make sure the roots of larger trees are far enough away from the house foundation, patios or walkways. If they are already near the foundation, ask a professional about root pruning to keep the foundation safe and save the expense on repairs.
- Analyze the Variety of Grass in Your Yard: A lawn is a major part of the overall look of the home and affects the value as well. In fact, many homeowners (42 percent, according to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive) say that they put care into their yards first and foremost because they take pride in it. But owners need to select the right grass for their area. There are many different varieties of grasses and some are adapted for certain climates, some are more drought resistant, and some grow better in sun or shade. If your existing grass is not a good fit for the region or local climate, it will not thrive or will require considerable and often costly maintenance to stay lush. If the grass looks patchy or unhealthy consider a consultation with a lawn care professional.
- Locate A Landscape Professional: Homeowners can find a well-qualified landscape or lawn care professional on our directory. It is important to make sure they are licensed and ask about whether they have staff who are Landscape Industry Certified or maintain other arborist or irrigation certifications.