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According to the 2016 Remodeling magazine Cost vs Value survey, the average return on home improvement projects was 6.7% higher than the previous year. This may vary a bit,  of course, depending on where you live. Where home prices are higher and  job growth is strong, the payback  is much higher.

Curb appeal is number one. Buyers generally make up their minds about a place within the first 30 seconds. They may not even go into the house if it looks drab, in need of repairs or paint and has overgrown landscaping. So it makes sense that the number 1 return on improvement is to spruce up or replace the front door and entry. I have received several emails in this last month regarding which are the “in” colors for painting the front door this year. All, of course, have different ideas but generally bright, clean & inviting. By replacing or upgrading the front door you should see about 91% return. Not bad. Also make sure that your address numbers are visible from the street. Then add a colorful planter too.

The rest of the improvements  & their returns are:

Get new siding, which yields about 75%, replace the roof at 72%, build a deck about 75%, refresh the kitchen gives you 83%, renovate bathrooms will give you about 66% (new bathroom will add even more), family room-68%, remodel the basement for 70% if you live where basements are present-not too many here in Florida.

But surprisingly, the REAL number one upgrade is something that you can’t even see-insulating the attic.

 

 

deck3

Houzz

1. Poolside lounge. If you have a pool (lucky you!) why not steer away from the usual plastic deck furniture in favor of something sleeker and more chic? A sea grass daybed, linen-backed deck chairs and a Moroccan tea table create a light, airy feel in this poolside space. Unwind under the shade of an oversize umbrella with a tall glass of something on ice and your favorite trashy novel. No pool? This look would work equally well on a backyard deck— I would surround
the seating area with big pots of fragrant plants, like lavender.

eclectic porch

Houzz/Sarah Natsumi Moore

2. Patio hangout. Who says only kids get to have fun on swings? Juice up your patio with a colorful indoor-outdoor hanging chair and a few big potted plants with interesting foliage, and swing your worries away.

traditional deck

Houzz/Hunter Design

3. Secret reading nook. If what you love most is to escape with a good book, a tucked-away reading nook is what you need. In a corner of this garden, a cushioned bench gets extra privacy from hanging vintage shutters and vines trailing down from overhead.

farmhouse porch

Houzz/Moontower Design Build

4. Napworthy porch. A covered porch is the perfect place for napping — the fresh air and gentle breeze soothe, but the roof is there to protect you if a sudden shower springs up while you snooze. Any daybed makes a fine napping spot, but I think the rocking motion of a hanging bed is especially restful.

eclectic deck

Houzz/Vuong Interior Design

5. Backyard hideaway. Make a simple pergola in the backyard feel like an exotic getaway by stringing up white curtains all around and placing a cushy outdoor sofa or daybed underneath. The curtains not only create privacy but can also be adjusted to block the sun on a hot day.

contemporary landscape

B. Jane Gardens

6. Classic hammock. If you have nice, big trees in your backyard, why not put them to good use? String up a hammock and let the relaxation commence. Come home from work, kick off your shoes, grab something to drink and make a beeline to the backyard. No trees? You can also find hammocks that come with their own stands.

mediterranean patio

Houzz/Esther Hershcovich

7. Private dining area. Whether you want to dine al fresco or just bring a glass of wine outdoors on a pleasant weekend, having a welcoming table for two is essential. Find a place blocked from the wind — a corner of the garden would be ideal — and make it feel even more private by surrounding it in lush plantings. Keep a stash of fresh tablecloths indoors and carry one out with you when you want to hang out at your table — it’s the quickest and easiest way to keep your table looking fresh.

tropical porch

Houzz/Ashley Camper Photography

8. Tropical retreat. Deep, dark tropical and reclaimed wood furniture, moody lighting and a hammock converge on this porch to make an irresistible hideaway. Whether your idea of R&R involves pouring cocktails and playing cards with friends, or enjoying a little peace and quiet solo, a setup like this will have you covered. On a deck that gets a lot of sun, curtains or blinds can make the space much more comfortable. For a tropical look, try hanging simple (and inexpensive) bamboo blinds.

modern deck1

Houzz/Churreria Photography
9. Rooftop refuge.
 A chill-out zone like this one is essential for city dwellers. Even if your space is small (and the budget is limited), you can pull together a cute retreat with a café table for sitting and a blanket-covered futon and burlap pillows for lounging.

modern landscape

Houzz/EPT DESIGN

10. Simplicity. Sometimes all you need is a place to get away. Tuck a pair of chairs (butterfly chairs are always stylish) and a small table into a hidden area of your garden — perhaps even in a side yard. Surround the seating area with native grasses that will rustle in the breeze, and hang a wind chime for gentle sounds that help release stress.

This article originally appeared at Houzz. Copyright 2014. Follow Houzz on Twitter.

 

Make a great first-impression and rev up the marketability of your home with eye-catching plantings that hide foundation walls. These ideas come from HouseLogic.com.

Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Height: 3-5 ft.
Spread: 3-5 ft.
Zones: 5-9
Best for: Front-and-center locations where hydrangea’s thick foliage and large, loopy blooms do a great job of hiding plain-Jane foundation walls. In neutral soil expect ball-shaped, pink and lavender blossoms; in slightly acidic soil, they’ll bloom deep blue.

Tip: Keep plants at least two feet from your siding to prevent moisture problems and give them room to spread.

Credit: Kathryn Zbrzezny

For more ideas on foundation plantings, please
Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/photos/plants-trees/foundation-plantings/slide/hydrangea-hydrangea-macrophylla/#ixzz32MTAjadd
Follow us: @HouseLogic on Twitter | HouseLogic on Facebook

Metal edging around grass in yard

Metal edging around grass in yard
Rigid metal edging creates a crisp barrier between grass and flower beds. Image: Jonica Designs

Ramp up your curb appeal with cool landscaping projects you can easily pull off in a weekend.

Project #1: Install Rigid Flower Bed Edging

The setup: A crisp edge where the lawn meets the flower beds looks great and eases mowing. Opt for rigid edging — the flexible plastic stuff looks amateurish from day one.

Use a charged garden hose to lay out a smooth curve.

Tip: A “charged” garden hose full of water makes for a smoother, kink-free curve; charge up by turning on the spigot but leaving the sprayer off.

With the hose as your guide, use a lawn edger or spade to cut away excess sod and make an incision for the edging. Tap in the edging with a rubber mallet and add the stakes. Trim the edging with a hacksaw, using a speed square to mark for cuts.

Specs and cost: Steel — $1.25 per lineal foot; aluminum — $2.25 plf; rigid plastic or fiberglass — $1.65 plf.

Tools: Garden hose, flour or powdered chalk, lawn edger or spade, shovel, speed square, hacksaw, rubber mallet, hammer.

Time: 1 day to edge a typical yard.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/landscaping-gardening/easy-landscaping-projects/#ixzz318NAe2jY
Follow us: @houselogic on Twitter | houselogic on Facebook

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon  Published: 2011  HouseLogic NAR

Labor Day through Halloween is your window for preparing lawns for a lush spring.

“I’m already thinking about next year,” says John Dillon, who takes care of New York City’s Central Park, which features 200 acres of lawn in the middle of Manhattan. “The grass I grow this fall is what will be there next spring.”

Fall lawn care is no walk in the park. It’s hard work, and Dillon guides you through the four basic steps.

1. Aeration

Aeration gives your lawn a breather in autumn and provides room for new grass to spread without competition from spring weeds. Aeration tools pull up plugs of grass and soil, breaking up compacted turf. That allows water, oxygen, and nutrients to reach roots, and gives seeds room to sprout.

If kids frequently play on your lawn, plan to aerate twice a year — fall and spring. If your lawn is just for show, then aerate once a year — and maybe even once every other year.

A hand-aerating tool ($20), which looks like a pitchfork with hollow tines, is labor-intensive and meant for unplugging small sections of grass. Gas-powered aerating machines (rental, $20/hour) are about the size of a big lawn mower, and are good for working entire lawns. Bring some muscle when you pick up your rental: Aerating machines are heavy and can be hard to lift into your truck or SUV.

Depending on the size of your property, professional aeration costs about $150.

2. Seeding

Fall, when the soil temperature is about 55 degrees, is the best time to seed your lawn because turf roots grow vigorously in fall and winter. If you want a lush lawn, don’t cheap out on the seed.

Bags of inexpensive seed ($35 for 15 pounds) often contain hollow husks, weed seed, and annual rye grass seed, which grows until the first frost then drops dead. Splurge on the good stuff ($55 for 15 pounds of Kentucky Bluegrass seed), which resists drought, disease, and insects.

Water your new seed every day for 10 to 20 days until it germinates.

3. Fertilizing

A late fall fertilization — before the first frost — helps your grass survive a harsh winter and encourages it to grow green and lush in spring. Make your last fertilization of the year count by choosing a product high (10% to 15%) in phosphorous, which is critical for root growth, Dillon says.

Note: Some states are banning phosphorous-rich fertilizers, which are harmful to the watershed. In those places, look for nitrogen-rich fertilizers, which promote shoot and root growth. Check with your local extension service to see what regulations apply in your area.

4. Mulching

Instead of raking leaves, run over them a couple of times with your mower to grind them into mulch. The shredded leaves protect grass from winter wind and desiccation. An added bonus — shredded leaves decompose into yummy organic matter to feed grass roots.

A mulching blade ($10) that attaches to your mower will grind the leaves even finer.

By:  Lisa Kaplan Gordon  Published: 2011  HouseLogic NAR

Guess what I will be doing this weekend…yes, even in Florida, we have to rake leaves! I do have to admit that I have a lot less leaves to rake than when I lived in either northern California or Maryland. The weather is pretty nice too-sunny, clear, 72 degrees with a slight breeze-so I guess I really should not complain.  As I checked my email I strayed a little (like I have a tendency to do from time to time when on the Internet) and came across this article. I think that it gives me some kind of bonus points for doing some research before doing the actual work. Right? Maybe? Kinda? Sorta? Aww, probably not, I just need to get out there & as Nike says, “Just do it”.

4 Leaf Removal Tools that Clear Yards of Fall Debris

  • Published: September, 2011
  • By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Just for fun, take an inventory of all the leaf removal tools cluttering your  garage.

If you’re like me, you’ve got a half-dozen rakes of different sizes and  materials, a couple of blowers in various states of repair, and a couple of  infomercial gadgets that promise to make annual leaf gathering faster and  easier.

In fact, you need only a few essential leaf removal items in your landscape  tool collection to accomplish your autumn goal — removing the heavy leaves  that smother grass and make your lawn a splotchy mess in spring.

Fewer  gizmos and more elbow grease help home owners remove leaves and keep up with lawn  maintenance, says Brett Lemcke of R. M. Landscape Inc. in Rochester,  NY.

“The reality is, you can’t avoid hard work” when it comes to fall  landscaping chores, says Lemcke. “There are some tools that will help us, but  the best help is family and friends. The more hands, the better. Doing it  yourself is daunting.”
Unless you tether a mower to a stick and let it  mulch leaves all by itself.
Whether you rake,  blow, or tie a mower to a stick, you should remove leaves at least twice each  fall.
“Some people wait until every last leaf falls, and then they pick  them up,” Lemke says. “You should pick them up throughout the season. Don’t wait  until the last minute.”

Here are four essential leaf-removal tools  that’ll help you clear your lawn before winter sets in:

  • Rigid leaf rake. This plastic, fan-shaped rake is your  go-to rake for collecting leaves. Pick one with a cushion handle and a 30- to  36-inch fan. Avoid the super-wide fans that can spread to 48 inches; they’re too  big to rake between shrubs and in flower beds. Cost: $10-$20 (30-inch fan).
  • Leaf tarp. Instead of scooping leaves into a million  plastic bags, rake or blow them into a big pile on top of a polypropylene leaf  tarp. Then drag the tarp to the curb and dump. Cost: $22 for 12.5-by-10-ft.  tarp.
  • Leaf blower. Select a two-cycle, gasoline-powered blower to  collect leaves in tarps or blow them directly to the curb. If you have a large  yard, buy a backpack model, which is more expensive but more comfortable than  handheld blowers. Cost: 2-cycle handheld blower: $180; 2-cycle backpack blower:  $300.   (*** I personally don’t like leaf blowers for the most part because so many people tend to blow the leaves into my yard or their neighbors instead of picking them up. Ugh! Annalisa***)
  • Yard vacuum. This tool vacuums, shreds, chips, and bags  leaves and other yard debris. Once leaves are ground up, they’ll decompose  quickly in your compost  pile. Cost: $400-$650.

Read more:  http://www.houselogic.com/blog/landscaping-gardening/leaf-removal-equipment-tips/#ixzz1bRU97ql3

Here are some great pointers for your gardening adventures.

By: Oliver Marks from House Logic

Even veteran gardeners make rookie mistakes, like giving plants too much water and too little space. Here are common garden blunders. Consider yourself warned.

It’s easy to misjudge and make a mess out of your landscaping. Here are seven common garden blunders, and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Too many changes, too soon

The excitement of buying a new home, plus a stretch of warm spring weather, often creates a passion for yard work. But don’t just do something, stand there! What looks like a spring weed might be a fall-blooming vine; that bare spot in March might reveal tulips in April.

Try this instead: Live with your land for a year. Observe how many hours of sunlight each part of your garden gets. Test the pH of your soil to determine if acid-loving or alkaline-loving plants will be happy in that particular patch of heaven. Observe when your lawn greens up in spring and becomes dormant in late summer.

The money and time you save by watching and waiting will be your own.

Mistake #2: Too much togetherness

Trees and shrubs that look properly spaced when you plant them will crowd each other and compete for water, sun, and nutrients in a few years. If you’re lucky, you can transplant some bushes; if you’re not, you’ll have to throw away starved shrubs.

Try this instead: Before digging, read spacing instructions. Give trees plenty of space–you can always fill in later. Stagger bushes and plants and create two rows, which will create more breathing room. The results will look absurdly sparse at first. But live with it. In a few years, your shrubs will fill empty spaces without suffocating each other.

Mistake #3: Planting without a plan

Planting new garden beds without a long-term landscape plan is like pouring a house foundation without blueprints. Your haste results in a waste of time, money, and muscles.

Try this instead: Draw a simple sketch of your yard–what’s there now and what you might add later, such as patios, outbuildings, and pools. Bone up on the trees and shrubs that grow best in your soil and climate. Go online and click around landscaping sites that help you pick plants and design beds.

Visit your local nursery or home improvement center where design staff can answer questions and make suggestions. Or hire a professional landscape designer to create a starter plan for as little as $250 to $500. Find a professional at the Association of Professional Landscape Designers or the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Mistake #4: Neglecting the root of it all

Even the hardiest plants need a little help putting down roots in new locations. Sprinkling the foliage doesn’t nourish the roots, the plant’s nerve center. You must deliver water to the root ball below the ground, or your plants will be stunted and short-lived.

Try this instead: Place the hose at the base of new bushes, trees, and plants and let the water trickle out for 20 to 30 minutes, twice a week (more during hot spells), for 4 to 12 weeks. Or snake a soaker hose ($20 for 50 feet) through your beds, which will deliver slow and steady water to roots.

Mistake #5: Forgetting the sun

Too many gardeners pick plants based only on looks, not the growing conditions plants require and the conditions that exist. Rookies will plant sun-loving perennials under an old oak tree or sun-shy hostas in the open. They look great for about a week, and then die.

Try this instead: Observing the spot where you’re going to put the plant and estimating the amount of sun it gets over the course of a day during the growing season. To translate that into the language on plant labels, use this key:

Full Sun 6 hours a day or more
Part Sun/Part Shade 3 to 5 hours
Full Shade Less than 3 hours

Mistake #6: Over-watering

An automatic irrigation system is a luxury that keeps your landscape hydrated throughout the growing season with almost no effort. Unfortunately, auto-watering can bring disease, root rot, and a premature death to plants; it also wastes water.

Many gardeners set watering timers for 15 to 20 minutes each morning, which wets the surface but doesn’t soak deeply to nourish roots of large trees and shrubs.

Try this instead: Water for 40 to 60 minutes only two to three times a week. Check with the company that maintains your irrigation system for local recommendations. A deeper soak also helps lawns develop deeper root systems. (***Also check to see if there is water rationing in your neighborhood due to droughts this year before you set timers.-Annalisa)

Mistake #7: Budget blunders

Your landscaping can fall victim to construction bulldozers that park on lawns and dig too closely to trees and shrubs. New construction also demands rethinking your landscape plan to accommodate additions.

Unfortunately, many home owners don’t include landscaping in their construction budget. They end up with a beautiful new family room, screened porch, or solarium, and a few lonely azaleas planted around the foundation as an afterthought.

Try this instead: Allocate 10% to 20% of your construction budget to the landscape—both hardscaping and plants. If your construction spreadsheet can’t stand another line item, make a plan to landscape–in stages, if necessary–as soon as possible after construction is completed.

Oliver Marks is a former carpenter and newspaper reporter who has been writing about home improvements for 16 years.

This a great article for anyone wanting to improve their yard or start an edible garden.

By: Laura Fisher Kaiser

Carefully plan and plot your garden to add value to your home and make the most of your time and money.

So don’t impulsively drive to your garden center. Walk your land, consult an almanac, test the soil, and make a budget. You’ll save your back, your budget, and your home’s curb appeal.

Tip #1: Get to know your land

Before shelling out money for new plants, consider what’s thrived and died in past gardens. Ask, “Is this plant doing its job? Adding beauty? Providing shade? Creating borders?” Give a pink slip to landscaping that’s not pulling its weight.

If you’re a newcomer to gardening or to the area, scout the neighborhood to see which plants look happy and which wither on the vine.

Keep in mind that even plants appropriate for your growing zone might not work in your personal patch. Your particular soil conditions, sunlight patterns, pest populations, and available water will determine what will grow. Your local cooperative extension service can analyze your soil and recommend amendments and suitable plantings.

Tip #2: Become sun savvy

Even experienced gardeners make mistakes. They plant shade-loving plants in full sun or sun-loving plants in partial shade. Before planting anything in your garden, compare the amount of sunlight your landscaping needs for the amount you have.

Evaluating garden sunlight is tricky because daylight is a moving target: Seasons change and plants mature and cast different shadows.

So before plotting plant beds and tree locations, study the movement of the sun throughout the day and, if you have time, throughout the year. Calculate how many hours of sun each garden section receives. Then check planting directions to make sure your greenery will get what it needs.

Tip #3: Become water wise

Over-watering plants can kill your landscaping and budget. To avoid death by water, know how much and when your greens need to drink: Sales tags should have watering directions.

Drip hoses are thrifty ways to water plants, because the water goes directly to roots, drop by drop. Wind drip hoses around tree bases and bottoms of shrubs. Put hoses on automatic timers to avoid over-watering.

If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, install an ET (evapotranspiraton) controller. These systems, which use real-time weather data sent by satellite to control when sprinklers turn on and off, can cut water use by as much as 30%. The controller costs between $300 and $400, depending on system size, but many municipal water agencies offer rebates, particularly in the arid Southwest.

Tip # 4: Mulch much

Spreading a few inches of mulch in landscaping beds protects your plants and shrubs from drying out, and makes beds look tidy and uniform. Mulch also keeps down weeds and moderates soil temperature.

Organic mulches–grass clippings, wood chips, pine needles–eventually decompose and add vital nutrients to your soil and landscaping. Organics also encourage worm growth, nature’s own soil tillers and fertilizers.

Shredded bark mulch from the garden center provides a rich look for your beds, adding curb appeal. It also prevents dirt from splashing on leaves.

(I think that mulch is extremely important. It protects the plants from the elements & reduces the amount of water needed. I like to put shredded mulch on first because it decomposes & it is cheaper. Then I put 2-3 inches of bark nuggets on top. It more expensive but it keeps the lighter shredded mulch from washing or blowing away. I have been an avid gardener for many years in 3 states & the Caribbean, each with completely different climates . Annalisa)

Tip #5: Color your garden

Stick to a simple color scheme for flowers and blooming shrubs in your garden. Your landscaping will look more cohesive and professional.

Massing plants of coordinated colors creates a sense of luxury and order. If you like pinks, add lavenders and blue-hued plants. If hot red is your color, mix with yellows and oranges.

Keeping to a single color family in your garden also narrows your focus when roaming plant center aisles. If you are a gardening newbie and can’t tell a tea rose from a trumpet vine, ask the store’s plant expert for help. Most will be glad to exchange their knowledge for a sale.

Also, gardening catalogs and websites often group complementary colors together. Some even provide a complete landscape plan, which you can faithfully recreate.

Tip #6: Avoid invaders

Ivies, grasses, and vines will fill in your garden quickly, and just as quickly take over your landscaping. Once these “invasives” take root, unearthing them is difficult, and in some cases, impossible.

Your garden center doesn’t call these spreaders “invasives.” They are billed as “fast growers” or “aggressives,” but often that’s code for non-native plants that take over the landscape and crowd out locals by stealing nutrients, light, and water.

(Native plants are used to the local weather & soil conditions &  generally need less water & attention. Annalisa)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture maintains a list of invasives that includes various ivies, grasses, weeds, vines, self-seeding varieties of bushes and shrubs, and even seemingly innocuous herbs, like mint. Your county extension service can steer you toward the species best suited to your garden. Warning: If you love growing mint, grow it in a pot on your deck or patio.

Tip #7: Beware of neighbors bearing green gifts

You should love thy neighbor, but don’t ever take cuttings from their gardens unless you know exactly what they are and how they grow. Self-seeding perennials, such as Black-Eyed Susans and coneflowers, will quickly fill bare spots with splashes of color. If you tire of them, just grab a spade and dig them out.

But if a neighbor extends a slender stalk of Rose of Sharon, or other invasive tree species, run away screaming. These trees will spread throughout your yard and grow roots so deep that only a professional–or the better part of your weekend–can dig and pull them out.

Tip #8: Plant shade trees for natural A/C

Shade trees planted on the south and west sides of a house reduce cooling bills–up to 25%–and lower net carbon emissions. So include shade trees in your landscaping plan.

Choose shade trees according to their size at maturity, which could be 20 years away. Dense deciduous trees–maples, poplars, cottonwoods–are good selections because their leaves cool your house in summer, and their bare branches let light in during winter. Plant them close enough to shade your house, but not so close that they will overwhelm the space.

If you want a faster growing shade tree, about 2 feet per year, select a northern red oak, Freeman maple, or tulip tree.

Tip #9: Power down your lawn mower

The Environmental Protection Agency says gas-powered lawn mowers contribute as much as 5% of the nation’s air pollution. Switching to new generation electric and push-reel mowers—which are lighter, quieter, and kinder to your lawn than power mowers—reduces emissions and cuts fuel consumption.

To mow three-quarters of an acre of grass with a power mower requires 1 gallon of gas. As gas prices head to $4 per gallon, you could save $100 a year by switching to a muscle-powered or electric machine. An electric or good push-reel mower costs $150 to $250, so it will quickly pay for itself.

Tip #10: Grade your landscaping

Once a year, walk your property, cast a hard eye on your garden beds and ask, “Is that plant doing its job? Is it growing into its space, or wandering wherever it likes? Are leaves healthy or spotted with mold and pests? Are these greens improving curb appeal or just making my house look overrun?”

If a plant or shrub isn’t working out, it’s compost. If shrubs are growing too close to your foundation–1 foot away is good–transplant or prune them.

Make sure trees are growing no closer to your house than the width of their mature canopies. Otherwise roots can burrow into foundations, and overhanging branches can trap moisture against the roof or siding, leading to rot and insect damage.

Check your flowering plants and shrubs to see if they are indeed flowering. Too few or dull blossoms should rally after a dose of fertilizer or layer of compost. An inexpensive alterative to commercial fertilizers is manure tea. Fill the foot of old pantyhose with a clump of cow or horse dung, tie the hose to the watering can handle, and let the manure steep in water. You can get weeks of nutrition from a little bit of dung.

Jeanne Huber is the author of 10 books about home improvement and writes a weekly column about home care for the Washington Post.

By: Laura Fisher Kaiser

The success of any landscaping project depends on having a plan and sticking to it.

First, consult a pro

To figure out how to allocate your landscape dollars, start by picking the brain of a pro. Even if you have a naturally green thumb, a trained professional can save you from wasting money on wrongheaded ideas and open your eyes to possibilities you haven’t considered. There are various types of landscape pros, and their expertise is priced accordingly.

If your yard has major issues or you have grand ambitions, consider hiring a certified landscape architect to design a comprehensive plan that includes such things as irrigation, lighting, architectural features, soil conditioning, and, of course, the growing stuff. A verbal consultation costs about $100-$150; a detailed plan can run from $300 to $2,500. The American Society of Landscape Architects offers a state-by-state “firm finder” on its website.

Landscape designers typically charge less than degreed landscape architects and are a good choice for simpler projects that don’t require construction. Horticulturists specialize in plants, not necessarily design. Then there are landscape contractors, the design-build firms of yard work. Start by asking friends whose gardens you admire for recommendations. Your local home and garden center is another good source for contacts.

Set your priorities

Before you get any dirt under your nails—or hire someone to get dirty—you need to make two lists: a) what you want and b) what your property needs. These aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but the exercise is important for setting priorities. It would be folly to spend big bucks on an outdoor kitchen before resolving potentially disastrous issues such as a diseased tree or drainage problems.

The first question that a professional will likely ask is: What do you see yourself doing in your yard? Hosting Sunday barbecues? Doing the crossword puzzle in a hammock? Swimming laps? Growing vegetables? Clip pictures of outdoor spaces you like and don’t like to clarify the feeling you’re trying to achieve.

Remember that part of your landscape budget will go toward the “b” list. Those are things that may not lend themselves to sexy magazine spreads but can protect your property value—not to mention enhance your quality of life—by lowering water bills, reducing the need to mow or rake, or blocking the view of your neighbor who hot-tubs in the buff. We’re talking about practical considerations such as irrigation, fencing, lighting, equipment storage, privacy, and security.

Create a “floor plan” to target costs

To ballpark costs for materials and labor, think in terms of square footage, which is how landscapers charge. According to Costhelper.com, hiring someone to create a “naturalistic garden” averages $11 a square foot; the cost can double for a formal garden with walls and water features. And don’t forget to factor in long-term maintenance such as mowing, mulching, and pruning. (Sweat equity, anyone?)

If you’re designing your own plan, start by measuring your property or getting a plat survey from the county. You might even be able to find a topographical map indicating features like slopes and swales. You can sketch the basic layout to scale using old-fashioned graph paper or landscape design software. Prices have come down considerably on the latter, but quality varies widely, so check online reviews before purchasing. A free option: Google’s Sketchup, with cool apps for trees, pavers, shrubs, outbuildings, and the like.

Once you have the parameters, create a floor plan, marking off different sections just as you would rooms of a house. The front path is the foyer, there might be a “dining room” with a picnic table, a shady “bedroom” for a hammock, a “rec room” with play equipment. Consider the costs for each area of your plan, including materials, equipment, furnishings, greenery, and any specialized labor like irrigation or electricity.

Think long term

If your ambitions exceed your wallet (and whose do not?), go back to your priority list and pick a section or projects to tackle as your budget permits, advises Angela Dye, principal designer/president of A Dye Design, a landscaping firm in Phoenix, Ariz. “What is the absolute most important thing you need to have done?” she asks. “What is bugging you most?”

A carefully conceived plan will keep you on track during this gradual transformation, both in terms of vision and budget. And remember that patience pays off. “Additions or renovations can start losing value once completed,” says Jim Lapides, spokesman for the American Society of Landscape Architects. “A landscape literally grows in value over time.”

Laura Fisher Kaiser is a contributing editor to Interior Design magazine and a former editor at This Old House magazine. The secret to her Washington, D.C., garden is blood, sweat, tears, and mosquito repellent.

Awwww, spring…

The following articles & links are from DIY Network & HGTV.

Beautify your outdoor living spaces with decorating tips, inspirational pictures and easy how-tos.

  1. 1
    Outdoor Living Spaces

    Dreamy Spaces   Outdoor Oasis

    Plan an outdoor oasis with tips on lighting, room design and more.

    Outdoor Room Design  From DIY Network

  • 2
    Build an Outdoor Room

    Guide to Outdoor Design

    Browse photos, see before-and-after makeovers and discover hardscaping ideas and water features.

    A Room Just for You

    From HGTV

  • 3
    Outdoor Room Pictures

    Style In Season

    Browse photos of gorgeous outdoor rooms submitted by the country’s top designers.

    Pretty Rooms

    From HGTV

  • 4
    Quick and Easy Outdoor Rooms

    Fast Fixes

    Make updates to outdoor spaces based on your time frame.

    One Hour, Day or Weekend

    From HGTV

  • 5
    Outdoor Rooms Summer Entertaining

    Made for Entertaining

    Prepare your deck, patio or outdoor space for summer guests.

    Party-Ready Rooms

    From HGTV

  • 6
    Waterfront Homes

    Waterfront Living

    Is living along the coast, lake or river your dream come true?

    Explore the Options

    From FrontDoor

  • 7
    Outdoor Living Products

    Decorate Your Outdoor Room

    Shop for all-weather furnishings and decor, entertaining accessories and more.

    Go Shopping

    From HGTV

  • Annalisa Weller, Realtor®, Certified International Property Specialist

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    • 2019 Florida Legislature adjourns: Remote notaries, open permits & environment among victories May 6, 2019
      TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — May 4, 2019 — 2:16 pm — Your world got a little bit easier thanks to new legislation that brings modern technology and common sense to transactions. The Florida Legislature, which ended its 60-day legislative session minutes ago, passed two bills many Florida Realtors’ members had requested. One allows the use of […]
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    • UPDATE: PRO/CPAR and HCAR merger March 25, 2019
      Pinellas Realtor Organization/Central Pasco Chapter members voted to merge with Hernando County Association of Realtors (HCAR). Although HCAR’s Board of Directors was on board to offer the Plan of Merger to its membership for a vote, an HCAR member filed a lawsuit to block the vote. A court order was issued forbidding their members from […]
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    • New FREC Team Rules: Are You Compliant? March 5, 2019
      Florida Real Estate Commission (FREC) has approved a New Team Advertising Rule that will impact brokerage office procedures and team advertising. Brokers and teams have until July 1, 2019 to comply, but it’s not too early to prepare. Teams “Team or group advertising” shall mean a name or logo used by one or more real […]
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    • ‘Welcome’ to all our new members who joined us in January February 4, 2019
      PRO/CPAR would like to welcome all of our new REALTORS® who joined us in January! We are happy to have you as a part of our organization and wish you much success in your careers. A Better Life Realty Rachel  Trimble Align Right Realty LLC Grecia Clark Align Right Realty NP Yadira Bellido American Real […]
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    • Realtor Members can win their 2020 dues by promoting their listings January 14, 2019
      The Affiliate Business Partners want to give back to our Realtor members in a major way this year. Not only do they host a monthly Pitch Session, where Realtor members can share their listings with the 100+ meeting attendees, but now they are offering an extra incentive to do so! If a Realtor member attends […]
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