Sunday, September 30, 2012

Curb Appeal

Landscaped properties sell homes by adding curb appeal.
Well maintained landscaping shows that you care about your property.

Keep paving smooth, presenting a neat appearance. Comfortable entries allow you to enter a home guiding you in the most efficient manner. Walk grades, or steepness, should be no more than 5% with a minimum width of 42”. If stairs are necessary, always plan for at least two or more. A single stair is a “trip step.” Build each step a maximum of 6” high and the tread (the part you walk on) a minimum of 14” deep.
Comfortable Entry
Trip Step
Use landscape lighting for aesthetics, security and safety. Down-light from trees and use a few lights against the house or on plants with interesting growth habits. Invite buyers to experience your property in the evening to view this different atmosphere.

Color in the landscape “pops,” especially flowers. Sellers who do some homework in the year leading up to a listing can show their garden’s potential. Take pictures when plants are at their showiest times. Passing along information on plants, and photos of gardens is as important as other information buyers receive about your home.

Here are further landscape design suggestions to enhance your property:

• Balance the front of your property equally with trees and shrubs. Trees add the greatest value, according to the American Nursery and Landscape Association, so install them first. Create large beds, 8-12’ wide, around the home’s front corners. Utilize vertical plants, like holly, hinoki falsecypress, water lily star magnolia or chindo viburnum (V. awabuki ‘Chindo’), planted about 8’ off corners to “anchor” the house to the landscape. Install shrubs no closer than 3-4’ from the foundation.

• Design tiered beds – low flora in front, taller plants to the rear. Install them in groupings for impact. Use broadleaf evergreens, or other shrubs. Fill in open spaces with groupings of perennials or annuals that flower at various times throughout the growing season. This type of arrangement requires a planting bed 10-12’ wide. Keep planting beds edged and free of weeds.

• Choose shrubs for year round ornamental value, especially if you don’t know when you’re selling. Some shrubs and trees offer 12-month interest, like kousa dogwood with spring flowers, edible summer fruits, fall color and interesting winter bark. Little Henry Virginia sweetspire’s foliage turns maroon in fall, with deep maroon stems in winter, and white, fragrant, horizontally growing panicles of flowers in late spring/early summer.

• Containers enhance entries. Any plant that can be placed in the ground can be grown in a container. Any object that will hold soil with drainage holes in the bottom will work. Think of your containers as a garden – install trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, fruits and vegetables, as long as the size of the container will accommodate the size of the plant. Containers allow gardens in areas without space for traditional landscaping.
Colorful Container Planting
 • Watering and drainage are critical to plants in containers, especially hanging baskets. They can require watering every day during the summer if located in the sun.

• Repeating plants in mass by using the same colors in large sweeps will be an eye-catcher for buyers if in bloom when you’re planning to sell. For example, plant masses of mums in fall, moss phlox in early spring, purple coneflower in early summer, and black-eyed Susans later in the summer.

• Outdoor art or a specimen plant near the entry will attract attention. Only use a piece or two. Sculpture serves as a contrasting element with gardens. Design plants and sculptural elements in proportion to the size of your home or property.

©2012 Joel M. Lerner
Editor, Sandra Leavitt Lerner
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fall Lawn Care

Fall is the best time to refurbish or plant cool season turf. It’s the most common groundcover used by homeowners, in full sun, when provided with moist, well-drained soil rich in organic material.

Lawns help control erosion and dust, dissipate heat and noise, reduce glare, lower fire hazards and are used for recreation and aesthetics.
Utilizing Lawn As A Path
They are specialized, withstanding regular cutting at heights of 2”-4”, perennial, green most of the year and grow into a tight carpet that will withstand some foot traffic. 

Turf is divided into two types -- warm and cool season. In the Washington DC region, now is the time to establish or renew cool season grasses. We live on the northern cusp of hardiness for warm season grasses. The only variety practical to plant here is zoysia and that’s in spring.

Cool season grasses stay green during cool temperatures and turn brown during drought and heat. Some will stay green through winter. They hold their chlorophyll longer and withstand our winters better. Even now, coming out of this hot summer, it took only one soaking rain and cooler temperatures for them to begin growing.

Pick a cool season grass seed by choosing between two types – dwarf, turf-type tall fescue or a fine leafed variety, such as bluegrass, creeping red fescue and perennial rye grass hybrids. A blend of several compact growing tall fescues or a mix of fine textured grasses for seeding your lawn depends on your needs. Tall fescues are wear tolerant, disease resistant and mowed at 3”-4” in height. Fine textured bluegrass, fine fescue, and/or perennial rye are softer to the touch. They can be mowed at 2 and ½” and still maintain their lush appearance.

 Most cool season grasses grow best in soil with a pH of 6.5 (pH is the measure of acidity and alkalinity). Find where to have your soil checked through your County Cooperative Extension System,

Create a healthy lawn:

• Aerate with a plug aerator from an equipment rental company. Spikes must be hollow and remove plugs of soil. Go over lawn three or four times, more if possible. Never aerate when lawns are soggy.

• Condition soil with compost that is fine textured enough to fill aeration holes. Sprinkle about ½” over holes. Don’t cover healthy turf because you will kill it. LeafGro is a locally composted, fine textured material. You might use as many as five bags of LeafGro per 1000 square feet of turf, if your lawn has a lot of bare areas, and only one or two bags per 1000 square feet if your lawn is thick.

• In September and October cool season grasses can use high nitrogen fertilizer because their leaves and roots grow vigorously until winter. Use a fertilizer that is at least 40 to 50% organic or has a percentage of slow release or water insoluble nitrogen (WIN) utilizing a drop or broadcast spreader. Always follow instructions on the packaging.

• There is a fine textured cool season seed mix, blended for thickness, slow growth and low nutrient requirements called Pearl’s Premium Ultra Low Maintenance Grass Seed Sun or Shade, This mix contains five species of low growing native fescues plus frontier perennial rye and deep blue Kentucky bluegrass. This mix is slow growing, so lawn might only need mowing monthly. Follow directions on package for seeding.

• Moisture is available to plants in the form of dew with cooler temperatures. But, be sure your newly aerated and amended lawn is moist enough by sprinkling seed with water lightly every day. As seed begins to sprout, water more deeply to keep grass growing.

©2012 Joel M. Lerner
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