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Landscaping & Garden Design Considerations

Good landscaping provides more than just a beautiful setting for your home. It also serves to irrigate, heat, cool and protect your house. Careful thought should be given to which plants are chosen, and for what purposes they may be used.

Trees are a defining feature of landscape design. Deciduous tress can offer shade in the summer and actually cool the surrounding air, then shed their leaves in winter to allow sunlight to naturally heat the home. Evergreens are the best choice when setting up a windbreak, or for sections or the home that benefit from year-round shade.

When building on a new lot, try to remove only the trees that will impede construction. You may wish to remove more of them later, but choosing from established trees is easier and cheaper than planting new ones.

Shrubs and other medium-sized plants placed near the side of the home can block reflected heat from radiating into the outer walls. They can also serve as privacy screening or augment the contours of the home. Like trees, seasonal shrubs that lose their leaves will allow for more heat to reach the home in winter months.

Grass is the most plentiful plant on earth, and a feature of the majority of American lawns. Different climates will support different species of grass - you may find that a mixture of different grasses works best for your yard. For jumpstarting your lawn, you may wish to install sod rather than planting seeds, as the grass is already growing and comes with its own topsoil.

As far as topsoil goes, if you're building a new home be sure to save the soil excavated from the digging of the foundation. You can use it later as quality topsoil and avoid having to purchase and bring in peat moss or other nutrient-rich matter to give your plants a healthy, productive environment.

Gardening can not only liven up your landscape, it can provide you with vegetables, herbs and even medicinal plants such as aloe. Try to get an idea of what types of plants you want to grow before planning your garden's size and location - exposure to the sun will be an important factor to consider. Compost and mulch are great natural fertilizers that may cost you nothing. If you're new to gardening, it's best to start small, letting your garden expand as you grow more comfortable with its habits and needs.

Landscaping may involve more than just planting trees, bushes and flowers. Shaping the land itself to provide irrigation and protect the home from collecting water can be a boon both to the surrounding plants and the home's foundation. Berms, which are essentially large mounds of dirt on which grass or other plants may grow, can protect a home from wind, heat and cold. You may also wish to include masonry or wood to define areas of the yard, creating levels, gardens or recreational areas.

A well-landscaped home makes for a better all-around living environment. Potential buyers certainly know this. So consider your landscaping as an investment opportunity as well as a beautification project.

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