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Do you and your family have fun in your yard, or is it just unused space that means you have a long list of chores this weekend? A well-planned
yard gives you extra room to enjoy without adding a tremendous amount of upkeep, and summer is a great time for you to start making a master plan for your yard for the years to come.

Polls continually show millions of American households spent billions of dollars on professional landscaping and lawn care services, revealing that home owners recognize the value of caring for their yards. In addition, the
National Association of Home Builders estimates that builders plant a minimum of two trees per lot, and six to eight trees are not uncommon on larger lots. Also, surveys show that builders are conserving more mature trees since established foliage adds value to homes.

To make your master plan, walk around your property. Note how your
house sits on the lot, where your garage, tool shed, deck, pool or other
structure is and what plants you have now. Think about what you would like to
have a year from now. Is it more trees for shade, more grass to play in, a
flower or herb garden for cutting, or just reworking an area that takes too much
time to maintain? Once you know what you want, start thinking about the plants you will need. 

A healthy, lush and vibrant lawn or garden starts with your choice of plants. Choose trees, flowers, shrubs and other plants that grow well in your area. This may sound limiting, but by choosing plants that are native or tested to be tolerant of the weather in your area, your yard will require less work and give you better results. Visit your local garden center, arboretum or botanical garden for advice and ideas. Look for sections that are like your yard, and
choose plants that grow well there whether you want brilliant flowers, ground
cover, shrubbery or herbs. 

It is very important to monitor the cycles of light and moisture in
your yard. Late summer is a good time to note where the sun is at different
times of the day and to record how much water is available naturally. Watch for
areas of day-long shade, and do not put sun-loving plants in those spots.
Likewise, don't put shade plants where they get full sun all day. In addition,
take a sample of the dirt in your yard to a county extension agent or garden
center, and ask them to determine the pH and chemical composition of your soil. Your soil's characteristics will have a significant impact on what you will be able to grow successfully.

While you are at the garden center or arboretum, watch for tips such as
planting a low water-demand plant at higher elevation than a plant which needs more water. Excess moisture from rain or watering will trickle down from the low water-demand plant to the thirstier plant nearby. In general, selecting
disease-resistant, drought-tolerant plants makes sense no matter what you plan to do in your yard.

Two key elements of a beautiful garden are shape and texture. Think of your landscape as a photograph or painting framed by plants. Larger trees and
plants belong in the back of your yard, medium-sized shrubs and flowers go in
the middle of the visual field and short, smaller plants go in the front. To give shape to your garden, select a variety of plants with varying shapes and sizes. Texture comes from plants with a variety of leaves —shiny hosta, fuzzy herbs, dull azalea, prickly yucca or aloe. Also, keep architectural details in mind when you choose plants. Rough, textured plants will highlight stucco walls, but a picket fence will look better with soft flowers and gentle vines. Don't forget to look at your yard from all angles, including noticing what you'll see when you look through the windows from inside your home.

By
taking the time to think through what you want your yard to look like, and
noting what your limitations are, you'll have greater success with your efforts.
In addition, you'll spend more time enjoying your yard instead of working in it,
and you'll see an added benefit when you sell your home since a well-planned
landscape adds value to any piece of property.

 


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