Andrea Davis is the editor of HomeAdvisor, an online service that connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free, ensuring quick and reliable contractor services at reasonable prices.
Whether it’s just a green lawn or trees, shrubs and flowers, your backyard should be inviting and picturesque. Adding greenery is the first step to a beautiful landscape, and greenery is what first attracts a visitor’s eye when they walk into your backyard.
To help you determine the best kind of greenery to install in your backyard, here are some of the most common elements seen in landscaping. Which ones you decide to have should be based on the use of your backyard and how much time you plan to spend on upkeep.
What Are Your Feet Touching?
Image by Scott’s Professional Lawn Care
The start of every backyard landscape is the lawn. You have a wide variety of options to choose from in terms of creating this foundation.
Your grass can be made from any variety of grass seeds – ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, fescue and so on – depending on the climate and how resistant the grass needs to be to drought and shade conditions. For example, fescue and Kentucky bluegrass flourish in cold climates, while zoysia and Bermuda grass are optimal for warm climates.
Remember, the more water the grass needs to grow, the more you’ll need to maintain it as it starts growing. This also means you will need to mow it often to keep it at an acceptable length (i.e. 2 to 3 inches). You should speak with a lawn care professional if you’re not sure about the kind of grass seed to purchase.
If you need a quicker method of grass growth than seeds, you can purchase sod and have it professionally installed or do it yourself. Sod installation costs average between $1,730 and $2,350 depending on how much you need. If you decide to DIY, sod can cost anywhere from $0.20 to $1.00 per square foot depending on whether you get bluegrass or fescue sod. Sod can be laid over dirt with mulch or manure that has some grass growth already. It will still take time to grow, but your yard won’t look like just dirt for a month or so like it would if you used grass seeds.
If you live in the desert, xeriscaping might be your best option for a lawn. Xeriscaping is landscaping a yard so it requires little or no irrigation. Instead of green grass in your backyard, you would have shrubbery, flowers and pebbles or rocks that can withstand heat conditions and little rainfall. This means you don’t have to water as much, and your lawn won’t turn yellow or brown during the summer because of 90 to 100 degree weather without rain. The only maintenance you’ll need to do is plant pruning, infrequent watering and moss removal if it grows on the rocks.
Since xeriscaping is best for desert climates, the flowers you plant should be able to handle drought and intense heat. Some flowers to consider include daylilies, lavenders, azaleas and hydrangeas.
What’s Accenting the Lawn?
Image by Native Design
Once you lay the foundation of the landscape, you can start thinking about the different colors to accent it.
Flowers are one of the best options for adding a variety of hues, with many different shapes and sizes available for homeowners to choose from. Home improvement stores have garden sections with many different types growing throughout the year. Homeowners should be aware of the climate and how often different types of flowers need to be watered. Some warm-climate flowers include orchids and roses. For colder climates, maple leaf, jasmine and willow herbs work best.
Some might require frequent watering, in which case you might consider alternatives like daylilies and hydrangeas, which require infrequent watering.
Flower pots and garden beds
If you don’t want to dig up your grass, you can also consider flower pots or garden beds that are raised from the lawn. Flower pots can be bought from home improvement stores and made from materials like ceramic, brick, stone, plastic or glass. There are also wooden flower boxes that you can hang from your windows. You also have the option to build standing garden beds on the lawn made from wood or brick. These would be filled with mulch or manure for the plants to have nutrients and grow independently from the soil. The type of pot you choose should be determined by your landscape design, as some will flow better with it than others.
What About Additional Greenery?
Image by SETX Landscape Construction, LLC.
If you need additional greenery, you should consider trees or shrubs to complete the landscape.
Trees are useful not only for their beautiful leaves but also as shade during those particularly hot days. If you decide to plant trees in your backyard, you should be aware of their roots and branches, as those could uproot your lawn or extend too far over a fence into your neighbor’s lawn. Trees also require regular watering and maintenance via trimming and pruning to stay healthy. Although they’re an investment, trees increase the appeal of the landscape and provide shade for grass, which reduces the amount of water needed for your lawn and saves you money on your water bill.
If you decide to invest in a tree, be sure to factor in the cost to maintain it. Some of the most popular trees to plant, according to the Arbor Day Foundation, are the quaking aspen, bald cypress, American beech and river birch. Be sure to check that the tree can survive in your climate by consulting the hardiness zone map for your area.
Another option that might be less expensive and just as beautiful is shrubs. Like flowers, they can be colorful and accent the beauty of the lawn. The most popular shrubs will vary by where you live, according to This Old House. For southern climates, those include hydrangeas and black chokeberry shrubs. For northern climates, shrubs like loropetalum- and rubrum-variety shrubs will thrive.
Shrubs can cost anywhere from $10 to $50 per shrub depending on the variety you want. Like trees, their branches need to be pruned, and their roots can uproot the lawn in some cases. However, they won’t grow very tall and are less likely to require as much trimming and pruning as trees.
Have any other ideas? Let us know in the comments below!
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