Garden Hotline: Protect your landscape investment

Many homeowners may not realize that their landscape can increase the value of their home by 8 to 12 percent according to a study conducted by Alex X. Niemiera, an Extension Horticulturist in the Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech. Results of the survey showed that relatively large landscape expenditures significantly increase perceived home value and will result in a higher selling price than homes with a minimal landscape. While indoor design trends change over time and appliances wear down and cause the value of the home to decrease, a well-tended landscape can balance out the value, even increase it. Having a sophisticated design with a coherent plan, a range of plant sizes and maturity, and diversity of plant life from evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs and perennials and annuals will significantly increase the value of your home.  So what exactly are the benefits of a well-manicured landscape and how do we protect this investment?


From “Why Landscape? The Value of Plants and Landscaping,” by Michael and Patti Harrison of Flowering Meadow Nursery, you can learn the many benefits to maintaining a landscape. Here are two of their ideas:

Having large trees can decrease your energy bill by 25 percent by reducing your air conditioning cost

Native plants reduce need for pesticides

Hedges reduce bothersome noise by masking unwanted noises with pleasant sounds such as breezes through the leaves.

Gardening can also be beneficial to our health - from the American Demographics, Roper Report the top reasons people garden; to be outdoors (44 percent), to be around beautiful things (42 percent), relax and escape the pressures of everyday life (39 percent), and stay active and get exercise (35 percent).

Have a Plan

Whether you’re a new homeowner or long term resident, recommends having a coherent plan for your landscape.  Employ a professional landscape designer or create your own, but start by drawing up a master plan of the property. This includes where the house and any permanent structures sit on the property, where utilities are located and what plants are already in your landscape, including lawns.

Having a plan and sticking to it will look less disorganized than a landscape that was thrown together. If you live within the city of Seattle check your eligibility for a RainWise raingarden or cistern rebate project at Raingardens and cisterns significantly increase the value of your property – they benefit the environment by reducing toxins in the soil and preventing stormwater overflow.


A landscape that is well cared for prevents insect, weed and disease issues thus reducing the need for using pesticides on your property. This can be financially advantageous and also is good for your health.

For short term more immediate results, follow these tips from “Money” magazine to give the landscape a professional look.

Cut fresh edges around planting beds

Mulch beds with arborist chips or compost

Invest in annuals for splashes of color

Invest in perennials or larger shrubs

Natural Yard Care

Follow the tips for long term care from the Natural Yard Care series found on the Seattle Public Utilities site. Here are some ideas for how to maintain your landscape to protect the value of your investment and the health of your family and the environment.

Natural Lawn Care

Mowing; aim for every 5-7 days and raise your mower blade height to allow you to mow more often.

Trim the lawn edges to give the landscape a professional look.

Aeration can add oxygen to the soil, reduce compaction, and reduce the need for herbicides.

Over-seeding with fresh grass seed reduces the need for herbicides by competing for space with the weeds.

Top-dressing can keep seed moist, add organic matter to the soil and increase the health of the soil. This in turn reduces the need for herbicides.

Fertilizing in the spring with a slow release organic fertilizer reduces the amount of synthetics needed and reduces the need to use herbicides.

Weed control: hand pull weeds for 10 to 15 minutes a week to decrease the amount of weeds in the lawn, the more you pull, the more they weaken. There will be no need for herbicides when you hand pull weeds.

Natural Yard Care

Natural insect management methods reduce the need to use insecticides. Monitor plants often, walk around your landscape and take notes of insect activity. Before you treat anything take photos and send them to the Garden Hotline to help identify any insects you find to make sure they not beneficial insects.

Natural disease management reduces the need for fungicides. Monitor plants often, walk around your landscape and take notes of things that seem out of ordinary.  Take photos to send to the Garden Hotline to help identify the problem. Practice sanitation techniques like raking leaves often from under diseased plants and dispose of the leaves in the curbside compost bin. Do not compost diseased materials in home composting systems.

Natural weed management methods reduce the need for herbicides.  Mulch beds with arborist chips or fine compost to keep weeds from growing.

Use disease free leaves as mulch in the landscape, making sure to uncover smaller plants and keeping too much rom piling up around woody trunked plants.

Prune to maintain airflow in plants that are susceptible to disease.

How to Hire a Landscape Professional

Peruse the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks Solid Waste Division, Natural Yard Care Brochure: How to Choose A Landscape Company. Download the questions with their details and places for notes as a worksheet to ask potential contractors.

Have a set of questions ready and don’t be afraid to ask them. Hiring a landscaper is like finding the right doctor.  You want to build a good relationship with them.