A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

Springing Upon Us

With these last cold fronts passing through, my thoughts are not on spring, but it is just around the corner. I have been preparing my garden for that coming season, and I just spent a bit of money buying some plants and supplies for my projects.

Looking over my charges, I realized that I could quickly go overboard in buying items to make my yard look good; fortunately, I did not. About a month ago, I was talking to a friend about her garden. She was tearing out quite a few plants, since everything was so overgrown. My wife had wanted me to fill out our garden more, when we first bought our current home. The yard had been neglected for many years. My wife had fallen in love with this house, and she wanted it to be stunning in appearance for our visitors. Although she appreciated my efforts, my beds did not look lush. To save money, I had bought smaller containers, and I nurtured the plants. This year will be the fifth year of my efforts, and that is a magic number for gardens. You see, it takes five years for a yard to come into its own. During those years, the small plants started to fill up the spaces around them, so now my beds are looking full.

For new homeowners, the yard becomes a major project when they first move into their new house. I see two mistakes being made. First, they want the full plants right away. When the plants continue to grow, they find themselves with a crowding problem, which harms the plants. Secondly, they work on the garden for the first year, and then they discontinue their efforts. Plan out the type of garden that works for you. Perennials and shrubs require less work, while annuals last only a year, but they provide more dramatic colors. Some shrubs and small trees, like azaleas and crepe myrtles, produce lovely flowers, as does the vine bougainvillea. If you like to work in the garden at times, seek out annuals, but otherwise leave them alone. Buy smaller plants, and give them the space to grow. The tags on the containers will tell you the full size, so you can give it the space that it needs. Be satisfied with a sparser look for the first few years, and you will save money.

I would also suggest that the first year should be geared towards preparing your garden beds. Maybe transplant some plants to other locations. My backyard was full of trees that had started as weeds, so I spent the first year clearing them out. By the second year, I was beginning my beds in the front yard. The third year found me working on the yards on either side of the home. I was also evaluating the plants in the front yard. Some plants just were not doing well, so I had to take them out. I created my herb/rock garden by the entrance at this time. The fourth year saw my backyard taking shape. This year will see the completion of the garden space.

If you are not planning to stay in the house long, then large garden projects will not give you your money back. If you are staying in the home, go at your own pace. Your garden will look better in the end, and it will require less work, while costing less. If you want the fuller effect to please the one you love, buy some annuals to fill in those spaces till the perennials grow to their proper size. This tactic made my wife happy. I bought the flats that were the least expensive blooms.

The most important thing is to make a space for yourself to sit back and enjoy your surroundings. Why else would you go through the effort of producing a garden?

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