By Vicki Duong

It’s been a mild winter in many parts of the country, but spring is an eagerly anticipated season no matter where you live. Much of the excitement revolves around getting outside and back to nature, and if you’re a homeowner, that means landscaping and gardening.

Spring also is when home-buying activity picks up, so even if you’re planning to move on and out, having a well-manicured lawn and an attractive garden are great selling points. If nothing else, it gives your home great curb appeal and will at least get some potential buyers to stop and take a look inside as well.

Before buying new plants, consider past success and failures. Keep in mind that even plants appropriate for your part of the country might not work in your yard because of soil conditions, sunlight patterns or pests. Knowing what plants require sunlight and which are made for the shade will help avoid frustrations when the heat is on. Calculate how many hours of sun each garden section receives, and then check planting directions to make sure your greenery will get what it needs.

Over-watering plants isn’t efficient and might destroy your landscaping work. Sales tags and nursery workers can provide you with watering directions, so be sure to follow the advice. Spreading a few inches of mulch in landscaping beds can protect your plants and shrubs from drying out and can be an attractive look if kept tidy and uniform. Mulch also keeps down weeds and moderates soil temperature.

A thriving garden will brighten up any yard, but be cohesive with the color scheme.
If you like pinks, add lavenders and blue-hued plants. If bold red is more your style, mix with yellows and oranges. If you’re not sure what will look good, walk around the neighborhood or check out a gardening catalog or website.

Landscaping projects can also be practical moves, such as planting shade trees on the south and west sides of a house to help reduce cooling bills. Choose trees according to their size at maturity, which could be 20 years away. Deciduous trees such as maples, poplars or cottonwoods are good because their leaves cool your house in summer and their bare branches let light in during winter. Plant them close enough to shade your house, but not so close that they will overwhelm the space.

But all of your work could go for naught if your lawn is weedy, patchy or unkempt. If you’ve had trouble keeping your grass lush and green in the past, go to a landscaping center, buy some fertilizer, apply it every six weeks and water it. But if your lawn is beyond repair and this is the spring you’ve decided to fix the problem, sod could be your best option. According to the National Gardening Association, the average cost of sod is 15 to 35 cents per square foot. If you hire a landscaper to do the work, labor will add at least 30 percent to the total cost.

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