According to meteorologists, summer is already here. Summer is measured between the months June, July, and August. Most importantly, scientists have already noted that — in most parts of the country — there are record-high temperatures in store for the next few weeks and likely for the entire summer. How do these uncharacteristically high temperatures impact homeowners’ landscaping and hardscaping plans?
Landscaping vs. Hardscaping: What to Consider
What will best suit your yard? Is traditional landscaping the right option for you, or is it time for you to look into easy hardscape ideas? While there isn’t a single answer that will work for everyone, there are plenty of things to consider when determining whether landscaping, hardscaping, or a combination of the two is optimal for your lawn and your purposes. Here are some things to think about:
- Start with the basics. Know the difference between hardscaping and landscaping. Hardscaping describes any man-made, manufactured elements you find in your yard. Examples include sidewalks, stone pathways, pavers, patios, fences, pergolas, and retaining walls. Landscaping, on the other hand, refers to the entirety of the outdoor design. Landscaping includes softscape, like plants, shrubs, trees, greenery, and flowers, as well as hardscape.
- High temperatures, dry climates, and any other extenuating circumstances. If you are on the fence about investing in residential landscaping or hardscaping, start by considering any extreme conditions in your area. If temperatures are extremely hot, if the climate is extremely dry, or if droughts and water shortages may be a problem for you, take that into account. In that case, it may be best to invest the bulk of your time and money into easy hardscape ideas that do not require watering or irrigation to sustain.
- Curb appeal. According to RISMedia, a well-crafted outdoor space can increase the value of your home by as much as 10%. Sinking money into your landscape or hardscape will improve the outer appearance of your home and encourage buyers to come inside when it comes time to sell. Take an honest look at your home’s exterior to determine how to most effectively spend your money. If you are working with limited space, a more traditional landscape with mostly softscape elements may be most suitable. If you are working with a bigger space, it may be wise to invest in easy hardscape ideas. That may mean working with an asphalt contractor to pave the driveway, fixing a well-worn sidewalk, or putting up a fence for additional privacy.
- Cost and maintenance. Another thing to consider is cost and maintenance. Generally speaking, a traditional landscape with mostly softscape features — or one that blends hardscape and softscape — will be more costly to maintain than a yard made up almost entirely of hardscape. Softscape requires regular watering, fertilizing, and treatment for pests whereas most hardscape requires only the occasional maintenance and cleaning.
Is a landscape design made up of almost entirely softscape or one that heavily incorporates hardscape best for you? The answer to that question will depend on your lawn, your local climate, your goals, and your resources. Remember, while it may be tempting to craft a landscape that features primarily softscape or hardscape, the best solution may be to blend simple softscape tips and easy hardscape ideas. For inspiration, see below.
Landscaping Dos and Don’ts
As with any other home improvement project, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about sprucing up your yard, especially if you focus on its vegetation or softscape. Here are some pointers to successfully improve your landscape.
Do Make It Eco-Friendly
If you choose to focus on softscape entirely or in addition to easy hardscape ideas, one of the best ways to go about it is to make it eco-friendly. An eco-friendly landscape has several advantages, including:
- Eco-friendly landscapes require less maintenance. Enjoy all the perks of a lush, green landscape without the painstaking upkeep. If you choose the right types of plants and flowers, they require very little care. For example, lavender is an attractive yet sustainable option. Lavender requires very little water — the plant will often thrive if you water it just once a week — acts as a natural insect repellant, and the flower’s scent is well-known for its stress-relieving potential.
Other sustainable and easy-to-maintain plants include ribbon grass, sedge, witch hazel, and black-eyed susans. Choose these eco-friendly, low-maintenance plants in lieu of plants and flowers — or as a no-mow alternative to a traditional grass lawn. Check with local ordinances or your homeowner’s association (HOA) to see if a no-mow lawn is an option for you. Plus, sustainable landscapes and no-mow lawns are ideal in climates with very little rain and/or climates prone to drought.
- Sustainable landscapes are less expensive. Eco-friendly plants require less water. Many species act as a natural bug repellent, requiring fewer pesticides and/or visits from a lawn maintenance care team. Alternative lawns do not require regular mowing like traditional grass lawns. This low-key landscape maintenance not only saves you time but also saves you a considerable amount of money.
- Environmentally-friendly options are safer for you and your family. A traditional landscape or softscape may pose a hazard to you and your family. Many pesticides used to maintain lawns are made from caustic chemicals that can lead to cancers and neurological diseases. These pesticides may also have negative environmental effects, polluting the air, soil, and water around them. If you commit to eco-friendly alternatives, like planting grasses and flowers that naturally repel bugs or safe, green bug repellents, your actions benefit the environment and your family’s health.
Do Create An Outdoor Oasis
The right landscape will not only make your house look better, but also make it a more pleasant place to be. For a relaxing landscape, incorporate tall plants and bushes that add privacy, add fragrant blossoms, and plant plenty of trees for shade. Once again, lavender is a great choice. The plant thrives with very little care and its blooms have a distinctive, soothing aroma. Roses, gardenia, freesia, and jasmine are also well-known for their pleasant-smelling scents. Keep up on tree pruning to make your backyard or chosen outdoor retreat a place to truly unwind — not to worry about stray branches, overgrown bushes, and other upkeep. With the proper shrub care, your greenery will look divine.
For the best results, this is the perfect opportunity to blend a more traditional landscape or softscape with some easy hardscape ideas. Combine a wall with climbing plants or vines for optimal privacy or create attractive shady areas with a trellis and some vibrant flowers.
Don’t Hide Your Home
Any landscape designer worth their salt will tell you that the purpose of a quality landscape is to complement your house — not to diminish or hide it. As with anything else, it is possible to do too much when it comes to landscaping. That can eclipse your house, making it look cluttered and messy, or even hiding it almost entirely from view.
‘Unless you are hiding from the law, there is no reason for shrubs and trees to be obscuring the front of your house, including your windows,’ The Tallahassee Democrat reports. Rely on window treatments, like shades, curtains, and blinds, for privacy instead.
Keep in mind what varieties of bushes, shrubs, and plants grow freely — and which ones are likely to get away from you. If you want a lush landscape without the constant upkeep, consider planting dwarf varieties, especially around entryways and windows where they can easily get out of hand.
To draw the eye to your home, choose colorful flowers and plants, line the walkway with vibrant blossoms, and spruce up the landing with some decorative planters.
The Dos and Don’ts of Hardscaping
If your plan is to largely invest in hardscape features, go about it in a way that saves you time, money, and that truly boosts the curb appeal of your home. Use these easy hardscape ideas to get started.
Do Consider Functionality
One of the best things about hardscaping elements is that many of them are not purely aesthetic. It is more than possible — even preferable — to choose hardscape features that look great and serve a distinct purpose, too. Prioritize functionality when choosing hardscape features. Some of the best all-around hardscape features include:
- Fences. Fences keep animals on your property, they afford you much-needed privacy, and they can even help muffle noises from rowdy neighbors or heavily trafficked roads. Talk to fence companies about the best fencing options for your purposes.
- Patios. A well-worn patio makes your home look markedly worse. An old patio may be stained black, brown, or green over time. With enough disuse or neglect, weeds may start growing up out of the cracks between bricks and pavers, and these weeds may ultimately crack, chip, or damage your patio.
Use this opportunity to completely restore your patio or replace it altogether. When your patio looks nice, you are much more likely to eat, entertain, and relax out on the deck.
- Gravel and stone fillers. Plants require a lot of maintenance. Hardscape is much easier to maintain and, if you incorporate it the right way, it can look just as inviting. Fill gaps between pavers or large areas near fire pits and other outdoor features with attractive stone to keep areas striking and virtually maintenance-free.
- Fire pits and water features. When it comes to function, don’t forget about entertainment. It is important to incorporate elements into your landscape that will help put you at ease. Pick the features that best suit you and your needs. Install a pool, poolside ledge, fire pit, seating, or outdoor kitchen to make your backyard truly comfortable. Add a water feature, like a fountain or a koi pond, for an option that is pleasing to the eye and contributes to the overall serenity of the atmosphere.
Do Spruce It Up
Easy hardscape ideas can go an incredibly long way to make your space more striking and comfortable. Even seemingly small improvements, like paving the driveway can make a tremendous difference.
Pave dirt and gravel driveways. It is good practice to resurface or reseal paved driveways every two to three years to keep them looking their best. Add a bit of extra flair to new or resurfaced driveways by lining them with eye-catching brick pavers and installing lighting to illuminate your path at night.
Similarly, retaining walls are another practical way to amp up the appearance of your lawn. Retaining walls keep soil, slopes, and landscaping features in place, while also adding to the aesthetic appearance of your home.
Don’t Neglect Maintenance
A word of caution: while it may be tempting to execute some easy hardscape ideas and call it a day, that can lead to more problems in the long run. While hardscape features require less maintenance than plants, vegetation, and other softscape, that does not mean that they do not require maintenance at all. To keep a home with mostly hardscape looking its best:
- Semi-regularly pressure wash driveways, sidewalks, and patios. Pressure wash these surfaces at least once every two years or more frequently as needed. Set aside two to four hours for the project. Cover nearby plants, shrubs, and flowers with hardy tarps, and use a blower to remove any loose debris before pressure washing. Remember to test a small patch first, and know what settings are appropriate for your purposes. Never pressure wash delicate materials, like certain types of brick.
- Clean your wood fence. Repaint it or reseal it as necessary. Extend the life of wood fences by power washing them semi-regularly. Use the opportunity to examine the fence for any imperfections and fix them as you go. Add a fresh coat of paint or new stain to your fence every two to three years.
- Scoop out debris and clean fire pits. Keep stone or brick fireplaces looking their best by periodically scooping out any remaining ash and debris and using a diluted hydrochloric acid solution to scrub the interior. Thoroughly rinse with water, and let it completely air dry over the next two or three days.
What is best for your lawn? Is it most practical for you to create a traditional landscape or to sink your time and money into easy hardscape ideas? Consider your local climate, budget, and goals to make the decision that is best for you.