There's no question that nicely landscaped grounds boost curb appeal. In fact, a well-manicured property's value can increase by as much as 14%, and it can sell faster, too. But seasonal landscaping can be time consuming and expensive, especially if you've got a growing portfolio of rental properties that all have yards to be tended.
Even if there's just a bit of grass, there's mowing, fertilizing, seeding, and winterizing that needs to get done -- unless the look you're going for is straw instead of grass. And if you don't have a green thumb, you'll likely need to hire someone to do it all for you.
If paying for lawn service -- which goes beyond just a weekly mowing -- isn't in your budget, you've got other options than concrete, pavers, and gravel to save money on maintenance and costs. Here are some year-round landscaping ideas that won't break the bank or take up too much time with planting and maintenance.
What should you plant?
A flowering tree or shrub might look beautiful come spring and summer, but they require regular pruning -- and they may not look as attractive in the fall and winter months. Plus, the flowers you have in mind might not even be able to thrive in your climate region to begin with. So where do you begin with designing your grounds?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone Map is an excellent resource that gardeners all over the country use to determine which plants, flowers, and trees will grow best in their respective regions. There are 11 climate zones, which are separated based on winter temperatures; in an average winter, each zone is 10 degrees colder/warmer than the next zone.
To find out which hardiness zone you live in, all you have to do is go to the USDA's website and plug in your ZIP code. When you do the research to see which plants, flowers, and other greenery are best for your property, you'll usually find that the hardiness zones are listed.
Of course, the people who work at your local garden center are also able to make suggestions that will complement your grounds and your climate. But in general, you'll want to consider the following when shopping for your greenery:
- Evergreen foliage options that can be used for ground cover and are attractive year-round, like boxwood.
- Flowering plants that are lush in the growing season but still look attractive when dormant, like azaleas.
- Plants and flowers that can grow among rock or gravel gardens, like succulents.
- Any plant that can survive with minimal watering (to save on the sprinkler system), like Siberian cypress.
- Plants and bushes that require minimal pruning/cleanup each season, like arborvitae (round form).
You can have flower beds if that's what you want. But don't feel you need to fill them with tulip bulbs that will look glorious for a few short weeks in spring only to have them shrivel to bare stalks -- unless you've got the time and/or money to replace them when the last petal falls. Instead of choosing flowers that will bring color to your property for a brief time, you can choose bushes, plants, shrubs, and even trees that will bring life to your property all year round with little upkeep.
Rethinking low-maintenance landscaping
It's important to remember that you can think outside the box when it comes to pavers, gravel, and other hardscapes for the grounds of your investment properties. While these options are certainly low maintenance -- and quite attractive when done well -- remember that you will still have some work to do. Here are some things to consider with maintaining a hardscape:
- Pavers and concrete walkways will need a good power washing from time to time to get rid of dirt and stains. They can also get scraped up from snow removal.
- Depending on their size, rocks and gravel can scatter, and you'll have to sweep it all back into place. Small gravel can even wash away in heavy rain or get shoveled away along with snow, so you'll likely have to purchase more at some point to refill gravel and rock gardens.
- Pavers can crack or become loose, causing a fall hazard for tenants. You'll need to replace these as quickly as possible to avoid problems.
Regardless of the hardscaping you choose, there's one thing you won't have to do on a regular basis: mow or fertilize. So go ahead and skip the lawns on your property, but know that with the right decorative greenery, you can have a lusher landscape that still saves money and time. Yes, there will be the initial outlay of time and money to purchase it and have it all planted, but you won't have the extra expense of keeping a well-tended lawn and seasonal flower beds.
Take a look at some of the costs of landscaping below to see where you can invest in your grounds and where you can cut back. You might be surprised what you can afford when grass is not your greenery of choice:
Average landscaping costs
|Landscape architect||$70-$150 an hour|
|Lawn seeding (1 time)||$400-$1,500|
|Lawn aeration (1-2 times per year)||$75-$200|
|Sod installation (1 time)||$1,000-$2,700|
|Dethatching (at least once annually)||$100-$700|
|Mulching (per project)||$100-$300|
|Sprinkler system installation||$1,700-$3,500 (plus $50-$100 annually for winterization)|
|Pea gravel delivery/installation||$300-$400|
|Mowing (per visit)||$30-$80|
|Tree trimming (per project)||$75-$1,000|
|Tree removal (per project)||$400-$2,000|
|Winterizing/fertilizing lawn (seasonal)||$75-$400|
|Planting flowers (per season/project)||$300-$3,000|
A lawn might seem rather basic at first until you add up the costs for weekly and seasonal maintenance. If you go grass-free and avoid flowers and plants that are too thirsty (maybe save those for pots so they're easily replaced over time), you can save at least $1,700 on a sprinkler system alone.
Keep in mind also that for some of these landscaping options, the prices range widely depending on property size. After all, more materials will be needed for a bigger property, and more staff will need to be hired to get the job done.
The bottom line
Well-maintained property grounds increase your property's curb appeal, not to mention its value. If a manicured lawn and flower beds aren't in your budget as a homeowner or a landlord, there are other options for adding plants and foliage to your property to make it attractive in any season.
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