Landscapes for Young Homeowners
When you move into your first non-rental home, my best advice is to keep the grass mowed and wait a year. Relax about the landscape. It can wait until you get moved in. Take notes and pictures of anything exciting you see happening throughout the year. It would be a shame to start digging around, only to find out you destroyed a nice mass of native azaleas in the process. You never know where the bulbs are located until you see them sprout and bloom.
When you are ready to tackle the yard, your first priority is enclosure. Establish property boundaries and install fencing and screening to control access and egress. Mix things up along your new walls. Use evergreens, fence panels, gates, and flowering shrubs to build private outdoor rooms.
Just because your property lines are on an odd trapezoidal geometry doesn’t mean you must strictly follow those lines. You can fill a weird corner with tall evergreens and place your fence in front of or behind the vegetative screen.
If you plan on having pets, the enclosure project must include ground level (and below ground level) mechanical restraints. Fencing will need to done to the entire perimeter. Bury inexpensive wire fencing a few inches under the ground and bend it toward your yard to deter tunnel digging later. Another nice benefit from this is fall leaves are corralled and easier to rake.
Screen planting can be multilayered and varied. A boring hedge of cheap evergreens soldiered along the property line lacks flare. Undulating tall, medium, and low shrubs is much nicer. Add groups of flowering shrubs within your privacy hedge for color and seasonal interest.
For ease of maintenance, locate shrub and perennial beds along the outside edges of each outdoor room you create, so the turf area remains in a single, easy-to-mow block or circle. As time passes and your trees and shrubs grow, the turf area can be reduced to an ever-smaller patch. Kill all the superfluous grass in the yard and mulch the remaining plant beds. If the existing, remaining turf grass is not very healthy, then install a new carpet of vigorous sod after meticulously preparing the soil.
If you are very smart and have enough money, the next priority will be to put in beneficial soil amendments and build the soil structure of all the plant beds. Even if you don’t plant until much later, the soil will be ready as soon as you walk into the yard, pot in hand and shovel at the ready. For those of us without such foresight, be sure to add good organic matter and composted manure in a piece-meal fashion whenever you introduce new plants to the site.
Start some fruit-producing shrubs and trees in the area if you have room. Children will love being able to pick blueberries or crabapples from their own plants. Avoid planting any shrubs with attractive berries that are poisonous, and educate your children on the dangers of putting anything and everything in their mouths for a taste.
Keep any tools and chemicals in a secure work shed. Pave a spot for refuse containers. Put up a screen around the air-conditioning unit. Create a deck or patio for a table and seating. Stay within a themed style for all your hardscape elements. The fence, the shed, the screens, the railings, an dthe trellises should all provide continuity for your landscape, very clearly stating they are part of an intentional design.
Keep any tools and chemicals in a secure work shed. Pave a spot for refuse containers. Put up a screen around the air-conditioning unit. Create a deck or patio for a table and seating. Stay within a themed style for all your hardscape elements. The fence, the shed, the screens, the railings, and the trellises should all provide continuity for your landscape, very clearly stating they are part of an intentional design.
If your yard is big, it will be difficult to find the time to garden when your children are young. You can establish no-mow, natural areas beyond the refined turf and managed beds. They can form a mini-wilderness you can address later as time permits. Keep it mulched or use a string trimmer once or twice a year to keep it free of invasive weeds.
At this point, you can stop and wait several years. The basic landscape arrangement is in place. You can bring in a doll house, climbing structure, or tree house and watch your children grow and play. If you want more color or plan on hosting lots of parties, fill in any available open spaces in the plant beds with annuals. Bring in extra potted plants for parties. Time to start building memories.