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Plan Ahead for a Better Yard

by Jon Nunan

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Landscaping

Landscape planning is the key to creating a beautiful, cohesive yard that meets your gardening goals and enhances the value of your home. Piecemeal landscaping can mean having to redo your work when it just doesn't flow—and spending more time and money than you had anticipated. If you are considering a landscape upgrade, there are several things to factor in before you break ground that will make your project a successful one.

Yard Drainage
Whether you're settling in for the long haul or staging your home for sale, one of the first things you should consider for your landscape planning is drainage. Proper yard drainage is important for more than appearances! By creating proper drainage, you're protecting the plants and trees on your property from fungus, disease, and insect infestation; good drainage can also prevent basement flooding (a problem that can cause more than yellow leaves and bug bites).

If a problem already exists, good yard drainage is often achieved through several different techniques. Drainage ditches, gutter installation or repair, downspout extensions, and changing the slope of certain areas of the property can each play a valuable role. In some cases, the addition of certain varieties of local plants may also be of great benefit. Since problems with yard drainage are highly dependant on variable factors and the solutions can take many forms, it is typically best to consult a professional to develop a plan that will both eliminate drainage issues and enhance the look of your property at the same time.

Landscape Planning with Native Plants
Comprehensive landscape planning is far more involved than many homeowners imagine, but utilizing plants that are native to your area is a good place to begin. Professionals in the field are well versed in combining the art of gardening with practical knowledge about plants, shrubs and trees. Choosing the native plants can lead to a yard that practically takes care of itself; choosing the first plant that catches your eye often results in a landscape that is more hassle than haven. Do your homework and consult with a pro! Install greenery that is appropriate to your climate and you'll face less maintenance in the future, plus you'll spend less money on water, fertilizer, and replacing plants that were simply not up for the challenge of your local weather patterns.

Don't Skimp on Variety in Your Landscape Planning
Beautiful landscapes come from incorporating plants and shrubs of varying heights, shapes and colors, so adopt a plan that shows off the best that nature has to offer. As different types of flora look their best during different seasons, keeping variety a priority in your landscape planning will also give you a better looking yard for more months.

Variety doesn't have to end with the plants you choose! Integrating other outdoor features such as decks, patios, walkways, swimming pools, and ponds will break up the space and add interest to your yard. Many of these additions will also serve practical purposes; for example, adding a gazebo will not only add a unique touch to your yard, it will also allow you to enjoy being outdoors in less than perfect weather, provide a place that can be easily lit for nighttime gatherings, and add value to your property if you ever decide to sell.

Creating a Landscape Plan
Landscape planning is not a task that works out well when you "wing it", and consulting with family, friends, neighbors, experts and others in your area will give you a good idea of what works and what doesn't. Pre-made landscape plans can also be found in books, magazines, and even online for a very small investment, but be careful as these plans may be designed for an area with very different environmental conditions than your own.

If you don't want to shell out the full bill all at once, you can redo your landscape in increments over several years. Remember, though, that everything you do each year should fit together, making having a definite landscape plan in hand when you begin even more important.

Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.