Posted by Peggy Farber on 1/31/2018

If you were to look at a photo of a suburban neighborhood from the 1950s and one from today, you would notice many similarities. The houses have gotten much larger, but they still have perfectly manicured lawns and milky white fences. American culture has come a long way since the days of nuclear families. An emphasis on conservation and environmentalism has added recycling bins to many of our homes. But by and large our backyards remain mostly unchanged. Some people are electing to deviate from those norms to make their homes and yard more eco-friendly. Part of that change has been to adapt natural landscaping techniques that make your backyard seem less chiseled-out and more a part of its natural environment. With proper planning and care, natural landscaping can give your yard both a modern and natural look, and it won't look messy or overgrown. Here are some tips to get you started on natural landscaping in your backyard.

Native planting

A big part of natural landscaping is understanding your local plant life. Planting flora that is native to your area is not only helping your yard look more natural but also helping your local plant and wildlife. Often we bring in "exotic" plants and flowers without understanding the ecological issues that can arise from invasive species, both on other plants as well as on the local animals. So what are some ways you could alter your yard to house more local plant life? That depends entirely on your taste and on your local flora. If you live in a coastal, warm area, you might choose a sand or shell path in your yard that leads through tall grasses. If you live inland it might make more sense to choose stones or pebbles for your walkway and a variety of shrubs, flowers, and grasses for around the yard.

Lawn dividers

You won't find any white picket fences naturally occurring in the woods. But nature has its own barriers that can be adapted for use around your property. Vines, trees, bushes, and even rocks can all be used as natural barriers. People have used rock walls to mark of their property for centuries, and for good reason: they last forever (with some occasional maintenance) and they compliment the natural environment of your yard.

Make your lawn livable

Your lawn should be hospitable for your plants, your local wildlife, and for you. Using natural wooden benches, tree swings, and maintained paths will make your backyard look like the walkthrough gardens that we see in old English manor houses. But you should also keep in mind the birds, bugs, and other animals that will frequent your yard. By not using chemical insecticides or weed killers you're already helping your local wildlife thrive. But you can attract even more birds by setting inconspicuous feeders in the trees around your yard.

What's to gain from natural landscaping?

Aside from looking nice, natural landscaping has countless other benefits. When you're growing plants native to your area you know the plants are predisposed to grow well in your yard. That means less maintenance, watering, and less money spent buying replacements for dead plants. You'll be helping the local wildlife fit in, and you'll be helping yourself by giving your yard a refreshing, natural look.





Posted by Peggy Farber on 5/4/2016

Selling a house is a stressful experience. You have to look at your home with the eyes of a potential buyer and, when you do, all those nicks, stains, scratches and worn finishes become glaringly obvious. The same thing happens when you look around your yard: all those flaws you've managed to ignore all these years suddenly become visible. There are many things you can do--with or without professional help--to fix up your property and get it ready for sale. Most people focus on the house itself; after all, freshly painted walls and steam cleaned carpets do make a big difference. But there's one area that's often overlooked--one that can make a big difference not only in attracting potential buyers but also in sales value. "Curb appeal": you've probably heard the phrase before. But what exactly is it and what can you do to achieve it? Curb appeal is evident in that first glance at your property: does it look well-kept, is it attractive, does it look like someplace your prospective buyer would like to call home? The first step is to take a walk around your property, looking at it as if you were a stranger. It can be very helpful to have your realtor take this inventory with you--a trained eye can make a big difference. Look for the obvious things first: bald spots in your lawn, overgrown shrubs, cracked steps, dandelions, piles of leaves and sticks. Make a list of everything you see. It may seem overwhelming and you may not have the means to take care of everything, but prioritizing will help. If you can afford professional help, all the better; if you can't, there are things you can do yourself to improve the appearance of your property. The following list will help: • Start with general yard clean-up: remove any branches, piles of leaves or dead plants. If you have a dog, make sure there are no "land mines" on the property. • Reseed and fertilize your lawn; make sure it's kept mown and watered at all times while you're trying to sell. Take an edger and neaten up where the grass meets walkways and foundation. If you have areas of dead grass, consider treating for grubs. And, get rid of those dandelions! • Trim overgrown shrubs, especially those close to your house. If you don't have any shrubs, consider buying a few. Even a small evergreen on either side of the front door can make a welcoming difference. • If you have flower beds, make sure they're free of weeds. Renew or add a layer of mulch around flowers, shrubs and any trees you have in your yard. Not only does mulch keep weeds down and help retain moisture in the soil, it makes the beds look neater. mulch comes in different colors: choose one that will complement your flowers and your house. If your yard slopes, a low stone retaining wall will not only hold the soil (and flowers) in place, but it will also make the bed look neater. • What about the approach to your house--do you have a walkway? If you do, it may need replacing. If you don't, now is the time to add one; even a few simple pavers between the driveway and the front door can make a difference. If you don't have a railing on your front steps, consider adding one. Make sure your front door is clean and in good shape. • Do you have a driveway? If you have asphalt, look for cracks and oil stains. If you have dirt, consider laying down some gravel or pea stone. • Fencing can make a big difference in your home's salability. People with young children or dogs will most likely want one for safety's sake. Privacy is another reason for fencing; it doesn't have to be a stockade fence--a few fast-growing evergreens like arborvitae can make a big difference. Aesthetics is another reason to edge your property. If your home is in a rural area, you may already--like many homeowners in New England--have a stone wall around your property. If so, check it for loose or fallen rocks. • If you don't have any perennial flower beds, consider planting some annuals. Flats of bright, long-lasting blooms like marigolds and impatiens are inexpensive and add to your yard's beauty. As with any plants, consider the growing zone in which you live. If you're purchasing shrubs or perennials, choose ones that are hardy and require little maintenance. If the soil has a high clay concentration, loosen it up and enrich it by mixing in some loam. • If you have a deck, you may need to power wash and re-stain or paint it. Check for loose support beams; sand any areas that feel rough and might produce splinters. If you have a patio, make sure it is free of weeds and cracks. Consider replacing a cement patio with slate or brick which not only look nicer but are easier to replace. • Check your outdoor lighting; replace the bulbs, remove any dead insects. If you don't have any, consider adding some. If you can't afford wiring, solar-battery stake lights are inexpensive. If your mailbox is battered or wobbly, replace it. It sounds like a lot to consider and there's no denying that selling your home can be a difficult thing on more than one level. You want the highest price you can get, however, and these things that add curb appeal will increase your home's value and can make the difference between someone who makes an appointment to look at your home and someone who drives by and keeps on going.