How to Un-Zeroscape Your Yard

Xeriscaping is an important trend sweeping the nation, in which homeowners ditch water-hungry plants and yard features in favor of more sustainable landscaping options. It allows for an attractive and friendly outdoor space that places less stress on the surrounding environment and lowers homeowners’ monthly water bills.

Meanwhile, zeroscaping is the act of obliterating all landscaping, leaving nothing but gravel or bare dirt behind. While zeroscaping also reduces a homeowner’s outdoor resource use, it does not look good or feel hospitable; in fact, it is an eyesore in any neighborhood.

So, what do you do when you buy a house that has been zeroscaped, not xeriscaped? You invest in landscaping, of course. Here are a few ways to un-zeroscape your yard, transforming it into a water-wise, welcoming oasis.

Assess Your Yard’s Health

The first thing you should do is determine the health of your land. It’s possible that previous owners didn’t do anything to zeroscape the yard – that it happened naturally because the soil is too poor to allow anything to grow. If that is the case, you need to know before you go to the trouble of putting any plants in the ground.

There are a few tests you can perform yourself to determine your soil’s structure and compaction as well as water availability. You should also buy a soil pH kit because the acidity (or alkalinity) of your soil will determine what kinds of plants will thrive. If you have the funds available, you might hire a yard professional to tell you whether your yard is fit for growing things.

Start With a Lawn

Once you have the green light for growing, the first thing you should do is put in a lawn. Admittedly, lawns aren’t inherently water-wise; in fact, they require at least an inch and a half of water every week. However, lawns are beautiful and functional landscaping features, and they can help reduce other energy use by lowering the temperature of your yard.

A brand-new lawn is difficult to care for, so you should strongly consider contracting lawn care services for at least the very beginning of your lawn’s life. Professionals know the right way to lay down sod, water and fertilize to facilitate root growth and otherwise ensure your grass grows lush and green. After your lawn is more established, you can assume lawn care duties – if you feel comfortable and confident doing so.

Plan Your Entertaining Space

Besides increasing resale value, the only reason to improve the look of your yard is so you can use it to entertain. To that end, you should start designing how you want your outdoor entertaining space to look. Will you have a patio or pergola? Will you have a grill or fire pit? Do you want to be able to reposition your seating, or will you build it into the landscape? You should think about what you would like to use your yard for while you are answering these questions and planning out your space.

Research Native Flora

If you want to reduce your impact on the environment (and reduce your water bill) you should look into planting flora that grows naturally in your area. For example, homeowners in arid environments in the American Southwest should gravitate toward desert plants, like cacti, agave and drought-tolerant trees and shrubs; conversely, in the wet Pacific Northwest, homeowners should plant shade-tolerant vegetation that will survive cold winters, like maple and fir trees or huckleberry and salmonberry bushes. Not only will native flora save you money, but it will also look more natural in your outdoor space.

Look for Recycled Hardscaping

To build a patio, define your lawn and flower beds, create pathways and more, you need hardscaping, but hardscaping can be expensive. To cut costs, you should look for recycled options. Plenty of homeowners redo their landscaping, discarding tons of perfectly good border, brick and paving stones. You can look on your local Craigslist site under the “free” section or check out apps like OfferUp and LetGo to find hardscaping just waiting for you to pick it up.

Remember Curb Appeal

While you should landscape your yard to your needs and taste, you should also remember that you will eventually sell your home. That means you should try to neutralize your decorating style or at least make personal elements small and removable. The more non-distinct your landscaping looks, the more appealing your house will be from the curb, and the greater price your home will fetch when you decide to move.