Do You Need to Rip Up Your Yard?

A handful of factors, including water, soil and your neighbors, will determine the extent to which you need a landscape redesign.

Posted by Steve Graham | Jan 17, 2010
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Landscaping upgrades can range from replanting a corner flower garden to a complete one-time redesign. There are several factors to consider to help you decide how far to take a landscape redesign.

The first consideration for many homeowners is cost. Minor upgrades can be cheap or sometimes even free, while a complete redesign can be quite costly. However, you may be able to recoup the extra costs in water savings or additional resale value.

Existing Landscape

In extreme cases, your whole property may be a dirt-scape rather than a landscape. Even with a decent yard, you will probably need to improve the soil - unless the previous homeowner was a master gardener. If you determine your soil is weak through pH and nutrient tests (consult your local Cooperative Extension office for an expert analysis), you will have to add lime or other additives, as well as organic matter such as compost.

If you're going to redo your soil, it may be worth the investment to undertake an entire redesign at the same time, instead of doubling the workload. Sod forms strong roots and is difficult to dig up, so avoid planting grass that you think you are likely to replace in the not-too-distant future.

On the other hand, unappealing garden patches between spreads of relatively healthy grass may only need a gradual and basic landscaping redesign.

Water Worries

Water is another major factor that can help determine the extent of a redesign. Irrigation systems are expensive, and the water can be even more expensive - for both your pocketbook and the environment. Properly watering a lawn takes 0.623 gallons of water per square foot, so multiply your lawn area by 0.623 to find the number of gallons you need per watering. Multiply the total by the approximate number of times you water your lawn each year, and multiply that by the cost of water to estimate the cost of irrigation each year. In the long run, it may outstrip the redesign costs it would take to create a less water-dependent landscape.

Poor drainage or small, hard-to-reach spaces may require a moderate upgrade without a total redesign. Water should drain away from your house at a grade of at least one inch per foot. Adding soil to improve drainage means landscaping the new dirt, preferably without grass, since it needs water that could still seep toward the foundation.

Similarly, a steep slope might cause too much water runoff (not to mention the difficulty of mowing on a sharp angle) and require more appropriate landscaping for just the affected portion of the yard.

Curb Appeal

Finally, consider curb appeal, both for your own aesthetic enjoyment and resale value. In terms of property value, it is important to keep up with the Joneses. A brown lawn amid masterful landscapes will turn away potential buyers. Remember that the front yard is the first thing a buyer will see. The American Society of Landscape Architects recommends that homeowners invest 10 percent of the home's value in landscaping.

Of course, balance resale value with your family's needs. Consider leaving a patch of lawn for playing catch with the kids before turning the entire yard into a manicured landscape.

Water, resale value, and soil and yard conditions are all factors to consider in deciding the extent of your landscaping redesign.

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