Truth be told, my husband and I have been in our home for over two years, so I’m not sure we totally qualify as “new homebuyers” but this is the first home that we’ve owned and anyone who has been in that position knows that it takes lots of time to learn the ropes!
One of the many reasons that I had my eye set on moving into a single-family home was the ability to be surrounded by greenery! Having lived in apartment complexes for the previous eight years of my life, I was craving the white picket fence and suburban atmosphere that I grew up in.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t excited about having to get my hands dirty and the responsibility that comes with keeping a yard in good condition. That being said, I now have ‘sweat equity’ and a vested interest in my yard and that helps motivate me to spend the time cultivating it.
So moving forward!
Both my husband and I grew up in households with amazing landscapes and while we both helped with childhood chores, we had absolutely no idea what to do when we moved into our own home!
Through advice from our family and friends, and lots of trial and error, we’ve learned quite a bit over the last two years. Below are some of my favorite and useful tips of the trade.
Maintain What You Have
One of the most important things that I learned about our yard is the importance of focusing on maintaining the existing vegetation. If you are moving into a new home, the last thing you have on your never-ending “To Do” list is to rip up a flower bed and replant, but beyond that we found it helpful to focus on keeping the existing yard alive and thriving. Through this process you can learn a lot about your space. For example, which plants are thriving? Do you like the previous homeowner’s selections? How much water is required to keep your yard looking great? What parts of the yard get the most sun/shade? What color are plants when they bloom?
We took at least six months–partly due to a lack of time, but also so we could learn the answers to these questions and more before we started investing in new plants and vegetation. Oh and we lucked out just a bit, because our home’s previous owner had great taste in plant life!
Determine What Needs to Go
During the six months that we maintained our existing vegetation, we took careful note on which plants were not working out. In our yard this included plants that seemed to struggle (i.e., a potted gardenia that was getting way to much sun), plants that created too much mess (i.e. a Rose of Sharon bush that was lovely but oh-so-messy) and plants that were just plain ugly.
This was also a good time for my husband and I to take a look at our monthly watering bill and understand what the costs (in both cash and time) would be to maintain our garden.
Visit a Nursery for Inspiration
Next was a trip to the nursery – or in our case our local Home Depot – to meander the aisles and look for inspiration. I’d caution you to avoid buying anything on your first few trips. Without some good solid research, you’ll find that you may waste money buying plants that won’t end up thriving in the place that you envision them. Rather, focus on what colors and style plants you’d like and be sure to read their tags to determine what the care specifications are.
It’s also great to ask for help. The store’s general floor crew may be a bit hit-or-miss, but generally speaking, the nursery-specific staff is typically a great resource. I also like to look at where the plants are placed in the store (full sun vs. covered shade) to get a better sense on where they will thrive.
I also love checking out landscaping ideas when I’m on a neighborhood walk/run. This is a great way to scope out plant ideas that will work well in your climate.
Read Online and Ask for Advice
Once you have a great list of plants that you’d like to consider, then it’s time to do your research. And I don’t just mean looking at the pretty pictures on Pinterest. There are some fantastic websites online that discuss best practices related to plant care, and it’s good to do this reading before you drop $100 on a trunk full of plants.
Do you have a family member with a similar yard or an especially green thumb? Shoot him/her an email and ask for their on-the-job advice.
We are working on converting part of our yard to succulents and I have had lots of conversations with my mother-in-law who did a major yard conversion a few years ago and now has some of the most beautiful succulent arrangements that you can imagine.
While my garden doesn’t quite look like this…
…I am learning a lot more about what my options are with frequent trips to explore the variety of succulents that are available.
Make a Plan
By now you’ve probably gathered quite a bit of information, so it’s a great time to make a master plan. Take some time to sit down with all your notes and research and make a “To Do” list of what you want to do. This should include plants that you’re going to remove, relocate and add to your yard.
Also, consider breaking up your plan into stages, which can be much more manageable for those with a busy work schedule. In our case, we took a weekend to dig up the plants that we were tossing and/or relocated others to more desirable areas of the yard, and then focused on adding new plants on a separate weekend.
We also discovered the practice of keeping the newly purchased (or transplanted) plants in their temporary containers for a few days before we planted them into the soil. This allowed us to see how the plants would thrive in their future homes and ensured that sun/shade levels were cohesive.
This simple practice has saved us quite a bit of time, headache and money by allowing us to move plants that don’t quite seem to be thriving before we make the effort to get them settled.
Embrace Plant Failure
Lastly, we found that despite time spent researching and talking to plant gurus, there were just a few times when our efforts just plain failed. While it’s sad to scoot plants into the green waste bin, it’s part of the process and we found that it has helped us to better understand our yard.
Now let me be clear, our yard still has QUITE a bit of work to do, but we’ve enlisted all of the tips that I’ve mentioned in this post, and they have certainly helped us find our way as we develop the look of our own yard.