Landscaping and Cooling Your Home 101

As a new home owner there are many items on your “to do” list. You want your new purchase to feel more like a home and to feel settled in your abode. One of the first projects many new home owners consider is updating the landscaping.

Perhaps one of the reasons you purchased the house was because of its drive-up appeal; lots of trees, beautiful shrubs and colorful flowers, but the foliage may not be within your taste, nor the landscaping energy-efficient friendly.

What do we mean by energy-efficient landscaping?

For one, the way a yard is landscaped can not only improve the look of your home, but also make it energy-efficient with a few minor adjustments.

Trees make an excellent source of shade, keeping a house cool in the summertime and therefore cutting energy costs. But the placement of such trees and scrubs is essential to reap some kind of energy savings. Trees, hedges, vines and trellis-pergola can all be used throughout landscaping regardless of how large or small the property may be, and placed effectively to help keep energy costs down, while also beautifying your home’s drive-up appeal.

Deciduous Trees

There is a two-fold purpose when considering the placement of deciduous trees. One, the tree can shade the house to keep it cool, and two, it can also be a windbreaker during the winter, keeping heat from escaping. An Evergreen is an example of this and an excellent source to combat both issues. Placed near windows, they help to shade the sun during the summer months and block harsh winds in the winter months.

Do you have bay-type windows from ceiling to floor? You may love them and have no desire to replace them; however, they face the west side of your home. Lots of sunshine beams through the bay windows spreading light throughout, but unfortunately they are placed in the west, which creates a rather stifling room temperament during the summer months. A tree with full leafs; such as a Bradford Pear, a deciduous tree, can be a benefit for all seasons. This type of tree drops its leafs in the fall, so what served as a shade tree in the summer, now allows beams of sunlight to shine through the bay windows to warm the house during the winter. Bradford Pears are also fast-growing trees and normally mature in approximately three years.

A trellis filled with ivy scaling up the side of a brick chimney works similarly. Leafs are full during the summer, cooling the brick of the chimney, thus keeping the inside room to the fireplace cool. Bushes around the house, placed where the sunshine hits at the peak of each day, will also help to protect from foundation issues in the future. During the hot days of summer, a cement slab foundation needs to be watered to keep from cracking or buckling. Bushes and scrubs help to shade the foundation and with watering the plants it works two-fold by also keeping the foundation from becoming too dry and prone to cracking.

Certain plants can also work as a protection for the home. Perhaps you have a couple of windows that are set low and placed in a less traveled area of your home or may be more secluded, which can lead to easy access for predators. Prickly type plants such as Cactus or Acacia are a huge deterrent.

A new house is one of the biggest investments one can make. Keeping it safe and energy-efficient can be as easy as using a few key landscaping elements that will make your house feel more like “your” home.

 

How to Select the Right Plants for Your Landscape

Your plants are the essence of your landscape. They provide the bulk of the design and cater to the overall style and feel of the space.

Due to the importance of plants and the role they play in landscape design, many homeowners get stuck in the selection phase because they are afraid to make a mistake. They plot and plan but never arrive at the buying phase as they are trying to perfect their designs for fear of making a wrong choice.

Fortunately, most plants can be changed if they do not work out so don’t sweat the small stuff. Additionally, if you take the time to consider only the essentials, you will feel more prepared to make your selections.

Here are some tips to starting the process:

Theme

Choose plants that compliment your overall design theme. What is your style? Are you drawn to romantic shapes? A streamlined, clean look? Research each plant online before purchasing to view how they look and their overall style. If you feel you are over your head, consider hiring a professional or search for your style first and see what comes up for plants in that particular theme.

Use

Use is one of the most important aspects of landscape design because it allows a plant’s true function to materialize. When contemplating how you will use a plant, ask yourself these questions:

Do you need plants around your focal points?
Is the soil string enough for the plants to grow in their locations?
How large will the plant grow and will it ever overpower items around it?
Will they be used to cover up an eyesore?
Are you creating an entertainment space?

As you can see, there are many questions to answer when choosing your plants. But, don’t get overwhelmed. Think about your unique landscape and walk yourself through each area while asking yourself questions like the ones above. Don’t get too stuck in the details though or you will never get it accomplished.

The Future

While choosing plants for the present, you must also consider the future. Think about how large the plants will grow and if they will crowd out other features. Determine the light each plant will need and plant them accordingly so they are allowed to flourish in their environment. Consider their maintenance and whether you are willing to take the extra time to keep them beautiful. If not, stick with low-maintenance plants and shrubs. Also, find out the type of soil in which they thrive and their ideal climate for growth. There is nothing worse than choosing a lot of plants and seeing them die along with your hard work.

Consistency

Lastly, make sure each plant is similar so your entire landscape looks like one cohesive whole. They should be of a similar style even though they may appear different. Exercise smooth transitions from one plant to the next and be careful about adding any plant that doesn’t look like it belongs. It will stick out like an eyesore.

Consult with a landscape design professional if any part of the project feels too overwhelming. It’s better to get expert help than to put it off. In the end, you will be happy you did.

 

How to Control Garden Weeds Organically

It’s the classic gardener’s dilemma—you want nice, fertile soil for your plants to grow, but it never fails that weeds shoot up right alongside your precious sprouts. Weeds are arguably the most prevalent garden nuisances, and they will single-handedly destroy your plants unless you take swift action to rectify the situation.

If your plan is to cultivate an organic garden, then harmful pesticides are simply not an option. Luckily, there are other ways to win the war on weeds without using chemicals.

Control Weeds with Physical Barriers

The best way to keep weeds out of your garden is to use some form of weed barrier. Weed barriers prevent weeds from growing and will help you keep your precious flowers from being suffocated.

A popular weed barrier is landscape fabric. It’s a biodegradable sheet you can cut to fit your garden’s space. Stretch it over the length of your garden and slit holes to guide your plants carefully through the material. Then, use a rake to smooth the fabric. This creates a physical barrier that blocks weeds from sprouting while maintaining the integrity of your plants.

Another commonly used weed barrier is mulch. Select organic mulch and add it to your garden very cautiously to prevent your plants from harm. As you spread the much, remove any rocks, debris, or weeds you discover along the way.

Till Your Garden’s Soil to Protect against Weeds

Tilling your garden is a necessity for healthy plants. Till early and often to encourage your seeds to sprout. This will also properly oxygenate your soil. After tilling, water thoroughly to give your seeds a good foundation for sprouting.

Keep a close eye on your garden for the next few weeks as you wait for your plants to sprout. Then, once they do, use a good garden rake to extract any weed roots you find growing near your new seedlings. Till again at this point – but this time, do it more gently, taking care to keep your digging shallow.

Home Remedies for Weed Infestation

Boiling water kills plant life. It’s also an effective tool to fight weeds – if you’re extremely careful. Pour boiling water directly on the weed to kill the roots and eliminate the weed from your garden. Use extreme caution, however. If you get the water anywhere near your plants, you risk killing them, too.

Vinegar is another great alternative to harmful chemical weed killers. Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and spray the weeds in your garden. This will kill them at the root as well, but similar to boiling water, use great care. Vinegar can kill your plants if you get it anywhere near them.

It is possible to win the battle against weeds without resorting to chemicals. Perseverance and vigilance are your main weapons, so check your garden every day and remove weeds before they grow out of control. In time, you will have a beautiful weed-free garden to show for all of your efforts.