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5 Ways to Landscape Like a Pro

Landscaping is a great way to create curb appeal and add beauty to your home. The good news is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are five simple, cost-effective ways to landscape your lawn and garden like a pro.

1. Create a Low-Maintenance Lawn

To create a lush, professional-looking lawn with minimal maintenance, leave the clippings on the grass when you mow so they can gradually decompose and return nutrients to the soil. Seed your lawn with a mix of durable, slow-growing Kentucky bluegrass and other cool season grasses. Apply the grass seed between mid-August and mid-September so there’s plenty of time for the young plants to become established before winter sets in. After seeding, water the lawn until it’s moist to a depth of four to six inches. Continue to water as needed until the weather cools off. Apply fertilizer in September and October to keep your lawn green through the fall and give it a head start in the spring.

2. Add Definition and Impact

Stand across the street and look at your home as though you’re new to the neighborhood. If your trees and shrubs are obscuring windows and other details, give them a good pruning to reveal the architecture of your house. If you share a yard with your neighbors, consider planting a row of leafy shrubs such as burning bush, which turns vibrant red in the fall, or hardy roses to create a pretty hedge. If your flowerbeds and pathways are overgrown, use a half-moon edger to cut new edges and add stones or blocks to create definition. To add designer-style impact, browse antique shops and flea markets for vintage wrought iron gates, picket fencing, statuary, and other ornaments to embellish your garden.

3. Nourish Your Garden

For an easy, inexpensive way to ensure an impressive lawn and garden, have your soil tested at the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory, which analyzes soils from Minnesota and bordering states. For $17, the lab will test a sample of your soil and provide useful information to help you enrich your soil with minerals and other nutrients to create optimal growing conditions. After you plant flowers, shrubs, and trees, add a layer of mulch—often available at no charge from your city—around the base to prevent moisture from evaporating from the soil and weeds from taking hold. Start a compost heap with coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags, vegetable and fruit peelings, and other non-meat and non-dairy foodstuffs. Water the compost heap and turn it frequently. As the material decomposes into rich, crumbly brown dirt, mix it into your soil for a nutritional bonus.

4. Narrow Your Palette

To give your garden a professional look, think like a designer and select flowers and shrubs in a limited palette of colors and repeat them throughout your garden. Depending on the color and style of your house, create a serene garden with flowers in varying shades of white and gray, a coastal-style garden with pale pink, blue, and white flowers, or a vivid, bright garden with orange, pink, red, yellow, and purple flowers. Look through garden magazines and coffee table books to get ideas for balancing sizes, shapes, and textures. To make the most of our short growing season, buy healthy, good-sized plants from reputable nurseries and garden centers. Keep the plant tags and receipts, as many will guarantee perennials for a year from purchase.

5. Plant a Heritage Tree

To create long-term value and add immeasurable beauty to your home, consider planting a heritage tree—important for their size, beauty, and ecological value—such as a sugar maple, American linden, white oak, birch, Norway spruce, arborvitae, and others. As your tree grows, it will help reduce your home’s energy consumption by blocking cold winds in the winter and creating shade in the summer. Your heritage tree will also help clean the air and provide a home for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife.

Next spring, when the snow melts and the ground thaws, your hard work will pay off with a healthier lawn, bigger blooms, and stronger plants that will grow more beautiful every year. Be patient—as professional landscapers often say, a newly planted garden sleeps quietly the first year, creeps slowly the second year, and leaps vigorously the third year.