Archive for Improving Property Value

Lawn Renovation Even in Sauna Weather – Got to Get it Done!

Hi everyone! We had an unbelievable amount of rain here this year, almost double our annual rainfall total. The air feels like a sauna even in October. It’s been hard to spend more than a few hours outside at a time in the heat and humidity — but you know I can’t stay inside, and there’s work to be done!

This type of steel rake is my favorite choice for de-thatching the lawn and preparing the soil for overseeding. Just look how much debris it removes!

This type of steel rake is my favorite choice for de-thatching and preparing the soil for overseeding. Just look how much debris it removes!

My priority now is renovating the lawn. Normally, I would finish this completely in September, but the weather has put me behind schedule. To do this right, I started by weeding the entire lawn by hand, as opposed to using an herbicide. When planning to overseed, one needs to make sure not to have any chemicals on the lawn which could interfere with the new seed sprouting.

I am using a specialized steel rake to get every bit of thatch out of the lawn — a tool I inherited from my grandfather. This is THE most grueling step. After de-thatching two-thirds of the lawn, I have collected more than a dozen full bags of debris (don’t worry — you know it’s going to the compost heap). I’m impressed with how effectively this steel rake pulls out the thatch — and it loosens the surface, which makes for great new seed contact into the top soil.

Everyone who walks by while I’m working asks me why I don’t just use a machine for this, but if you saw how much better this works you’d know why!

This is a photo of what the plugging machines do. They really don't get any thatch up, and compared to the steel rake- well, there is no comparison-

This is what those plugging machines do. They really don’t get any thatch up, and compared to my steel rake — well, there is no comparison, not to mention that the plugs of soil the machines leaves behind look like, um, something else we don’t really want to see…

I bought a premium seed that has a variety of grass types: some that sprout within a week to stabilize the bare spots, and additional varieties that will be sprouting over the next few. This mix also had a seed-starting fertilizer mixed in, but if the variety you purchase doesn’t have this, I’d recommend using some.

Keeping things moist while the seeds are doing their magic is key, but with all the rain we’ve had, I’ve only had to water the new seed a few times.

With the combination of sod, seed and fertilizer you can hardly see where the old tree stumps used to be!

With the combination of sod, seed and fertilizer you can hardly see where the old tree stumps used to be!

 

I’m happy to say that I finally was able to easily pull out the last of the roots from two pear trees which used to grace the front yard. Now those areas are much smoother in elevation. The vast majority of the surface roots came out with the tree, but a few deep ones remained. On these areas, which were quite large, I used a couple of pieces of sod and more seed around the edges to completely fill it in. Now you’d never know that those were trouble spots!

 

 

 

 

Once the new seed reaches three inches tall, you can start mowing. We gave our newly-seeded lawn its first mow this week.  I have a tip for this, too: Set your mower to highest level first, because after a few weeks of not mowing, the existing grass will definitely be quite long and would clog the bagging chute. In a couple of days, set your mower to the normal level and cut it again. This way your lawn won’t be stressed as much — and you won’t create new thatch by using a clogged mower!

Yes! Nice new seedlings emerging. What a good feeling that is-

Yes! Nice new seedlings emerging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front yard is finished, now on to the back-

The front yard is finished, now on to the back…

 

I’m hoping the weather will cooperate so I can finish up my raking this week, but (if you can believe it) we have a new hurricane bearing down tomorrow night, and two more in the Atlantic pipeline. Hope everyone stays safe, and best of luck — I’ll be back with some pretty fall flowers next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Fall !

Happy Fall!

Front Garden Renovation – Adding Curb Appeal

Here is my "before" photo of the front entrance garden. I am looking to fill in the area between boxwoods, and soften the edge of the garden.

Here is the “before” photo of the front entrance garden. I want to fill in the area between the boxwoods with a seating area that will soften the straight edge of the walkway by adding curves.

 

Long ago, when I first designed the front yard of our house, I left a 15 foot wide gap between the boxwood bushes that wrap the front of the house. This was supposed to be very temporary. My intent was to change the path of the front walkway and bring it up the middle of the lawn instead of from the driveway on the side. Well, as years slipped by, I have had much more pressing projects. The front pathway took a back seat, but it’s time to get started with a new plan. I’ve changed my mind on moving the location of the walkway for now, but I still want to soften up the existing straight line of the boxwood garden. To improve curb appeal, I added some seating and space for seasonal color by the front entrance.  I’ll show you how I went about it, step by step.

 

Then for the hard part-- cutting the edge with a scallop edger, and turning all the turf over with a rounded shovel. I prefer this to a cultivator, because you have far less grass growing back up, almost none!

First, I laid out a long rope to define where I wanted to expand the edge of the garden bed and marked the new edge with landscape paint. Then, the hard part — cutting the edge with a scallop edger, and turning all the turf over with a rounded shovel. This is back breaking work, but I prefer this to a cultivator — you have far less grass growing back up, almost none! You can see already how the curvy edge softens up the row of boxwoods.

 

Here's another angle from the side that shows the new edge.

Here’s another angle from the side that shows the new edge. Once it had rested for a few days, I broke up the shovelfuls of turf to smooth it out. Over time the turned grass will degrade, providing nutrients for the new garden area.

 

I added some stone benches that we already had, transplanted some pachasandra and some annuals, and finished it out with a nice topping of mulch. Over time the pachasandra will fill out and create a nice border. I'm planning to add some flagstone pieces to the front side and fill in with some more pachasandra between the stones, in the fall when the weather is cooler.     I added some stone benches that we already had, transplanted some pachasandra and some annuals, and finished it out with a nice topping of mulch. Over time the pachasandra will fill out and create a nice border. I'm planning to add some flagstone pieces to the front side and fill in with some more pachasandra between the stones, in the fall when the weather is cooler.

Here is the “after” shot: I added stone benches, transplanted  pachysandra and annuals, and finished it out with a nice topping of mulch. You already hardly notice the straight line of the walkway.  I’m planning to add some flagstone pieces to the side bordering the walkway and fill in with more pachysandra between the stones in the fall when the weather is cooler. Until then, I’m happy with the progress, and the more welcoming look!

 

I’m not quite finished with it, but already I’m much happier with the amped-up curb appeal, and a new place to sit in the garden. I’ll post another photo in the fall when I add some flagstone pieces to transition from the walkway to the benches. I’ll transplant more ground cover to fill it in when the weather cools off. Hope you all have a safe and wonderful 4th of July! Happy gardening!

 

 

 

 

A moment in time – waiting for the cherry tree to bloom!

Anxiously waiting for the cherry tree to bloom.

Anxiously waiting for the cherry tree to bloom.

 

Every year I’m working against the clock to have the yard looking at its peak when the cherry tree blooms. This year we have had an inordinate number of warm days, and I have almost finished — well, at least the front yard. It’s hard work, but the weeding, edging, mulching (90 bags!) and lots and lots of pruning are almost completed. We have lots of people who drive by and a few who take Easter pictures here when the tree blooms coincide with Bunny Day. I think this year I was lucky that this tree is a little behind the Tidal Basin cherry trees in D.C. The cold snap and late ice and snow storm that collided with them didn’t harm mine, just delayed it a few days. For those who are as in love with these trees as I am, this is a Kwansan variety. Its double flowers are magical!

 

The “Charleston pink” phlox that surrounds the tree is at its peak right now, and the tree is hours away from exploding with color, so this is just a teaser and I will post another photo when the tree is blooming — until then, Happy Spring!

 

Update, April 6th -  The tree has started to open. I’ll post a photo each day until it’s fully open. We had an incredible Spring storm that blasted through here just now with intense wind and the darkest clouds I’ve ever seen. Everyone in its path — stay safe!

You can see now how many flowers have opened in just a day. More to come!!!

You can see now how many flowers have opened in just a day. More to come in tomorrow’s update!

 

Update, April 7th – She is now in all her glory! It’s always worth the wait. I feel so happy to have her in my garden.

Full bloom! Always worth the wait! Happy Easter everyone-

Full bloom! Always worth the wait! Happy Easter everyone…

One more close up for posterity! How I love this tree-

One more close up for posterity! How I love this tree!

 

 

 

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My Gardening Goals and Dreams for 2017

A new year is starting- time for some new gardening goals!

A new year is starting — time for some new gardening goals!

Hi there! It’s been a hard few months for me, trying to not worry too much about the future, but I’m doing my best to re-focus on what I can do. I urge all to stay aware of clean gardening practices and what we can do for the environment: not using chemicals, recycling/composting, participating in clean-up efforts in our communities, and last but not least, sending your Senators and Representatives a call or an email asking them to keep as many environmental protections in place as they can. You can reach them all at (202) 224-3121. The Capitol operators can help you find your Senators or Representatives, even if you don’t know their names.

We have a lot of work ahead of us! I don’t mean to rant on, but really, who doesn’t want a clean and healthy world? I think we can all agree on that! I think that is my biggest dream. I hope we can curb our losses at the EPA. Climate change is real!

Here in my little corner of the world, I managed to get quite a lot finished up in 2016, but I still have so much to do. This year’s main focus is on improving the areas under and around the deck.

It was time for an edit in this garden. With more shade from a tree, it was out with the sedum and in with a transplanted rhododedron.

It was time for an edit in this garden. With more shade from a tree, it was out with the sedum and in with a transplanted rhododedron.

Here are my goals: I’ll make an designated area to place the trash can and recycling bins that is both out of sight, but still easy to roll out to the curb. This also will improve the area where I store my flower pots, extra hoses, etc.  And, there is one area I couldn’t work on last fall because I ran out of time — I need to lift some of the bricks on the back walkway and level them. After sixteen years, the ground has sunk around the plexi pipe that carries the runoff water from the downspout — should be an easy fix! Third, I will use my brick saw to cleanup the edge of the walkway where it connects to the driveway.

All the cosmetic work will boost the curb appeal, too — always a plus. When spring arrives, the garden around the base of the deck will get some annuals to really fill out the space and give some added color.  Looking at the winter garden, when most everything is bare or died back to the ground for the season, things look bleak, so I will post a  picture when everything has sprung back to beautiful life and show some before and after shots in a few months.

Here's a photo of my re make of the old planters into privacy screens. I removed the rotted supports and replaced with posts I had saved from an old job. These are buried 3 feet into the ground, no cement, so they can be re-positioned later if I want.

Here’s a photo of my re-make of the old planters into privacy screens. I removed the rotted supports and replaced them with posts I had saved. These are buried 3 feet into the ground, with no cement, so they can be re-positioned later if I want. I’ll be sure to post again when everything is in leaf and bloom, but while the bushes are bare you can see the screen more clearly.

When I manage to finish all of that, the upper trim around the house and gutter system needs a complete cleaning and painting. Lots of the basics — weeding, mulching, trimming, mowing and edging — go on pretty much year round. Here’s a winter tip to make quick work of a messy, windswept yard: We find that it is much easier to run the mower over the grassy areas every month or so even in winter to pick up the leaves that blow in and smooth out the clumps of grass than it is to rake the whole yard over and over.

Here is another area that I edited. It had become crowded and one of the bushes had died. I balanced out the azalea bushes on either side of the Holly tree and divided and replanted the hosta in a wave. An edit every few years it helps to keep things fresh.

Here is another area that I edited. It had become crowded and one of the bushes had died. I balanced out the azalea bushes on either side of the Holly tree and divided and replanted the hosta in a wave. An edit every few years it helps to keep things fresh.

Last fall I did manage to finish re-making the planters and arbors and reinstall them. Using the leftover lumber from other jobs that I had stored in the garage, I added extra posts so that the planters could be used as privacy panels (hiding the less-than-pretty necessities that are stored under the deck). Then I planted the rose bushes, which had been in pots before, and divided and replanted the liriope to fill out the garden. Also, five other areas of the garden were edited and simplified. Plants had grown so out of bounds over the years, and it was time to selectively remove and transplant many to new locations. Now there is some breathing room, with nothing crowded. I added another three cubic yards of mulch to spruce up the beds, and then the cold weather set in.

This fun garden ornament has so much personality. It spins and bobs in the wind! I would love to incorporate a few more interesting things throughout the gardens like this.

This fun garden ornament that I was gifted has so much personality. It spins and bobs in the wind! I would love to incorporate a few more interesting things throughout the gardens like this.

On the creative side of things, I’m looking forward to making some stepping stones to access some of the deeper garden beds more easily.

Lastly, I received a really fun garden ornament from my sister, and it adds so much personality to the garden. Thank you, Tracy! It makes me want to incorporate a few more special things to spice things up! More on that later…

What are your goals for 2017 out in the garden? I’d love to hear!

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The Bottom Line in Curb Appeal

A beautiful pot of seasonal color will draw a buyers eye to the front door.

A beautiful pot of seasonal color on the front porch will draw a buyer’s eye to the front door.

I have family and friends in real estate and am a bit of a real estate junkie myself, so I love keeping up with what’s important to maximize the value of one’s house. I have just read a fantastic newsletter sent by a very top-notch realtor friend, Kim. Her newsletter had an article regarding how much appearance and quality landscaping can improve the overall value of your home – about 15%! In very simple math, that’s $150,000 for a $1 million home. That’s a lot of $$$$$! If that doesn’t make you want to run for a shovel, I don’t know what would!

It would not surprise anyone to know that neat and tidy are prerequisites before putting a house on the market, but why wait? Why not enjoy the beauty all along? Most of what Kim discussed is quite simple — even those people who consider themselves “plant killers” with “black thumbs” can do these things which translate into BIG dividends down the road. With no further ado, here they are:

Nice landscaping will lead to a contract 6 weeks faster on average!

Nice landscaping will lead to a contract 6 weeks faster on average!

1. Wash down your front walk, front porch, mailbox and polish address numbers.
2. Put out a new front door mat.
3. Put a fresh coat of paint or stain on your front door.
4. Replace all dead bushes, and trim others which are in need.
5. Edge and mulch existing gardens.
6. Mow grass.
7. Place a seasonal pot of flowers next to the door for a splash of color.

I would also add this: When choosing your plants, think about your design. Most people who would be potential buyers are likely to first drive by to check out the neighborhood. If a “drive by” takes no more than 15 to 20 seconds, an uncomplicated design that draws your eye to the front door is best. It has been proven that great landscaping will not only sell a house for more money, but also up to six weeks faster!

For an uncomplicated look repeating plant types will improve flow and give a professional touch.

For an uncomplicated look repeating plant types will improve flow and give a professional touch.

Here’s another interesting tip from the newsletter for making your property look more spacious: Put a flower bed in each of the corners of your lot. It makes the center of your property appear larger.

These are the basics for making the most of your curb appeal. None of them are hard to do, and just think of how much you have just increased the value of your property! Now you can just sit back and enjoy!

A big thank you to Kim Peele of Century 21 Alexandria office for the inspirational newsletter, and to Tracy Whitley of Long & Foster Glen Allen Office for the photo.