- Author: Dustin Blakey
The real estate market may not have returned to its pre-bubble days, but there are signs of life in the home market. I have noted a few homes in my neighborhood that have changed owners. This usually means activity in the landscape, and not all of it is beneficial.
When new owners move into a house, they are often presented with a landscape that at best isn't what the new owners would have chosen, or at worst has been neglected for a considerable time.
Perhaps it's the pride of ownership, but many times new owners feel compelled to so something in the landscape. For better or worse, work must be done, or so it seems to be thought.
It is very common to see new homeowners hack back their trees and shrubs, scalp their lawns, and put in too many new plants, often of the wrong kind.
A study of tree topping (Fazio and Krumpe, 1999) found that 26% of people who topped their trees had been in their home 4 years or less. The remaining 74% had been there between 5 and 70 years. These numbers strongly suggest that new homeowners are motivated to act on their yard with the best of intentions.
Probably the best advice I can give is to hold on, take a deep breath, and work on something else first. Use this time to research all your options in the yard. Bad choice can reduce property values and create future liabilities.
When you move into a new house and are faced with managing an existing landscape, follow these tips:
- Do not severely prune your trees and shrubs. Trees and shrubs may need some care, but topping (arbitrarily cutting back limbs and branches) will disfigure your tree/shrub and may lead to future problems. Consult a Master Gardener or arborist to determine a good course of action. A tree service that suggests topping is not following recommended practices. The best tree companies don't usually knock on doors.
- Rake leaves, remove debris, and prune off limbs and vines interfering with the mechanical operation of your home. Remove plants and debris that are a fire hazard.
- Start a compost pile for yard waste.
- As soon as possible, check sprinklers to ensure they are working as expected. If you are unfamiliar with irrigation, this is probably a job best hired out. A spring set-up of a sprinkler system is not expensive. If you pay for metered water, it usually pays for itself in a season in water savings. They can show you how to set your sprinkler times as well. If, after irrigation, the street is wet or if you see "Old Faithful" erupting in your yard, your system needs attention for sure.
- Do not plant trees and shrubs without researching whether it is appropriate for your location and climate, and whether it will fit into your landscape as a mature specimen. Many trees get surprisingly large with age!
- Do not plant trees under power lines.
- You may need to mow some overly tall turf. If this is the case remove the clippings from the lawn and compost them; however, it is best to mow frequently enough that you never have to bag clippings. Bagging clippings removes nutrients from the lawn that are best left there. If you are leaving globs of grass on the lawn either mow more often or consider raising your mowing height a little to see if that helps.
- Don't over use fertilizers or pesticides. Read labels.
Enjoy your new home, but remember to resist the urge to act now! Most landscape work can wait until you've done a little research. Our Master Gardeners can give you research-based answers.