August 10, 2016

Curb Appeal: Tips and Tricks

Karen Cooper

As summer winds down and cooler temperatures are, hopefully, on the way, it’s time to think about fall planting and yard work. This summer was just too hot for our plants to do well, so I’m looking forward to adding new plants and flowers to our yard for the fall.

Of course, getting that perfect curb appeal isn’t as easy as just putting plants in the ground. Here are my tips and tricks for creating beautiful curb appeal for your home.

Curb Appeal Tips and Tricks | Karen Cooper | Dogs Don't Eat Pizza | Mohawk Homescapes

1. First, do the ground work.

The first step in creating curb appeal is to rid the garden beds and yard of anything you don’t want in it: dead or dying plants, old mulch, dried leaves, or weeds. You can do this by hand or with a rake or pick. Do this completely the first time, or else you will spend more time pulling up weeds that kept growing when you left them behind.

Curb Appeal Tips and Tricks | Karen Cooper | Dogs Don't Eat Pizza | Mohawk Homescapes
Weeds overtaking our garden beds after a lot of rain.


I weeded this bed by hand, because it was such a small space and I actually prefer weeding by hand. Which brings me to my next tip…

2. When weeding, make sure you get the root of the weed.

If you just use a trimmer or just pull the leaves of the weed, you are leaving the root behind and the weed will grow back. Make sure you get the roots out so that it’s gone for good.

If you want to kill the weed without pulling it, you can spray it with vinegar. Avoid chemicals for killing weeds. They are bad for other plants, bad for the environment, and may contribute to the killing of honey bees.

3. Water, mulch, water again.

Watering plants deeply is the key to keeping them alive, especially in hot weather. So, once the bed is clear of weeds and debris, I water the plants. Then I lay the mulch and I water again. This ensures plenty of water for the plants and the mulch will help keep that moisture in the soil.

When watering, don’t water the leaves of the plant. This could result in the leaves being burned in the sun. Instead, water at the root or base of the plant. Make sure the soil around the plant is moist – that’s where the plant is going to pull the water into its roots.

Curb Appeal Tips and Tricks | Karen Cooper | Dogs Don't Eat Pizza | Mohawk Homescapes

A great way to control weeds is to put a layer of newspaper down before putting down the mulch. The newspaper will keep weeds from sprouting up and will naturally decompose over time. Another effective, but more costly, alternative would be to lay landscape fabric under the mulch.

4. Let’s talk mulch.

Speaking of mulch, what kind of mulch should you use for creating curb appeal? I use mini pine bark nuggets. They are natural, they break down more quickly than larger chunks of pine or other bark, and I like its dark, rich brown color in the beds. It contrasts nicely with the green of the grass.

For a more eco-friendly alternative, you could use recycled rubber mulch. Recycled rubber (from tires or tennis shoes) is ground into nugget-shaped mulch. It doesn’t decompose, so it provides a ground cover year after year.

If you have a dog, avoid any mulch with cocoa hulls or shells in it. They can be harmful to dogs.

5. Size matters (as does color and texture).

When planting new plants in a garden bed like this, consider the size of each plant. Start in the back with the taller plants, then move forward with progressively shorter plants. Keep in mind their final, grown size as a measure for this. The tag on the plant will tell you how tall and wide each plant will get once full size.

I also consider the textures and colors of plants when planting a bed. I like a mix of colors and textures. In the bed here:

Curb Appeal Tips and Tricks | Karen Cooper | Dogs Don't Eat Pizza | Mohawk Homescapes

I have the height and bright green of the arbor vitae and the hydrangea, the reddish-purple color of the medium-sized loropetalum, the red and green in the nandina, and the yellow of the marigolds. And each plant’s leaves are a different texture and shape. That provides interest and variety in a garden bed.

When choosing plants by color, think about the color wheel. If you want the plants to each stand out, think about choosing colors that are opposites on the color wheel, such as red and green or purple and yellow. If you want the plants’ colors to blend together, choose colors which are next to each other, like yellow and green.

I love marigolds around the border of a bed. I think they look like a frame or like movie marquee lights, plus they keep bugs away!

For container gardening, the considerations are the same. Gardeners often say a container garden needs “a filler, a spiller, and a thriller.”

Curb Appeal Tips and Tricks | Karen Cooper | Dogs Don't Eat Pizza | House of Hawthornes | Mohawk Homescapes


In other words, you need a flower or plant at a medium height that fills the container, like a begonia or impatiens; one that spills over the side of the container, like ivy or sweet potato vine; and one thriller – a spectacular, upright plant to get your attention, like rosemary or fountain grass.

6.  Take care of you, too.

While you are doing all this yard work, make sure you are taking steps to protect yourself as well. It can be hot out there, and yard work is hard work. Wear sunscreen and bug repellent. Also, I wear long sleeves and long pants, even on the hottest of days, to protect against bug bites and also poison ivy. And drink TONS of water. If you start to feel dizzy or lightheaded, stop immediately and get inside where it is cool. You can’t have a pretty yard if you don’t take care of yourself first!

How have you added curb appeal to your home?


For more on Curb Appeal & Outdoor Living, check out:

Curb Appeal Tips and Tricks | Karen Cooper | Dogs Don't Eat Pizza | Mohawk Homescapes

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