We Americans are a restless bunch. We change locations with a frequency that would tire a migrating songbird.
But there is more to moving day than unpacking boxes; there’s also learning to care for that garden inherited with the new home.
If you were thinking ahead, you asked for an inventory of the plants and accessories that came with the house.
“There’s no problem with asking owners for a list of landscape items and for an explanation about the plantings,” said Shirley French, an agent with the Woodstock, Va., office of Funkhouser Real Estate Group. “Usually, the owners are more than happy to give you a list. In fact, if they know the purchasers are interested, that will make for good feelings on both sides.”
Gardening priorities are determined mostly by the seasons. You won’t be mowing the lawn in February, but you might be staking out a spot for a vegetable garden, even one in containers the first year.
But where to start with a newly purchased property?
Michael Becker, president of Estate Gardeners Inc. in Omaha, Neb., suggests putting safety first.
“Check out the dangers,” said Becker, a spokesman for Planet, the Professional Landcare Network that certifies green industry professionals. Are the retaining walls stable? Are any trees leaning or diseased with dead branches?
“Assess the hardscape,” Becker said. “Is anything heaving, creating tripping hazards? Examine the drainage around the house. More often than not, it isn’t correct and may be damaging the structure. Bring in some professionals to help sort things out.”
As for plantings, be patient with the perennials.
“Go through the seasonal changes,” Becker said. “Learn what things look like in your yard. Determine if it’s aesthetically what you want, or if it’s so high-maintenance you won’t have the time to care for it. Most perennials need pruning and deadheading.”
Other things to consider when dealing with an unfamiliar landscape:
Learn the climate and soil. Make note of the average frost dates. Do soil tests. Map the yard for sun and shade. In San Antonio, the average last freeze in spring is March 1, according to the National Weather Service. The first freeze of fall occurs, on average, Nov. 26.
For information about soil testing, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office in your county.
Figure out logistics. “If you live in the city and all you have is a porch or a patio to work with, where is all that water going to go that you’ll be putting on plants?” asked Josh Kane, president and head designer at Kane Landscapes Inc. in Sterling, Va. “Also, where do you get the water? You’ll have to figure out how to care for everything.”
Know the rules. Acquaint yourself with the local water utility’s restrictions on lawn watering. If the new house comes with an irrigation system, learn to use the controller and make sure the system is in good working order.
Understand what will grow. If you’ve moved from a different climate, even a different part of the state, you likely will get a chance to try different plants. Don’t expect to grow lilacs in South Texas.
Study what’s growing in neighbors’ yards, and browse local nurseries to learn your options. Also, check out plant lists provided by local groups such as Master Gardeners and even San Antonio Water System.
Water features. “Look for care instructions when dealing with special features,” Kane said. “A lot of people get put off or are scared of things like koi ponds, pools and fountains that require startups, maintenance and attention during the seasons.”
Don’t try to do everything the first year. Mulching will keep the weeds down. Composting will improve the soil. Bringing in some annuals for window boxes, hanging baskets or other containers will provide instant color. “Nothing gives you as much impact in a garden as planting annuals,” Kane said.
Anticipate. Avoid planting trees or shrubs near sewer or water lines, to prevent root damage. Study the plat map for restrictions that could prevent expansions or additions. “A lot of people might want to build a big outdoor room or pool and find they can’t do it because of an easement on the property,” Kane said.
firstname.lastname@example.org Express-News Home & Garden Editor Tracy Hobson Lehmann contributed to this report.
Express-News Home & Garden Editor Tracy Hobson Lehmann contributed to this report.