Restoration Guide: Site Work: Landscaping
Editor's Note: This is article 5 of 5 in Chapter 9: The Site Work and Landscaping Guide of Old House Web's Home Restoration Guide. This guide was developed and edited for old homes from original materials in the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rehab guide.
5. LANDSCAPING AROUND YOUR OLD HOUSE
Section 1--Landscaping Care
There are several reasons why your landscape is more than just pleasing to the eye. Trees and healthy plants improve air quality, prevent soil erosion, filter water that moves through leaves and foliage, and provide the organic material that eventually becomes mulch and compost. Those broad, majestic trees can provide shade for your home, thus reducing energy bills, and can serve as a windbreak when the weather is rough.
But if these desirable landscaping elements are planted too close to buildings, the roots can cause problems with foundations. Overhanging branches can be a safety concern. Leaves can block gutters, leading to water damage. Mold and fungus can form in the heavily shaded areas.
Healthy trees and shrubs can often be transplanted to areas on the property that are more suitable for them. If they can't be moved, regular feedings and trimmings can help keep them healthy while protecting your investment.
- Repairing trees and shrubs. Restoration of trees and shrubs should be done in phases; by the time you reach the point of more expensive remedies, you know whether a true preservation of the existing landscaping is possible.
- Protect trees during home renovation. Decide which trees and shrubs you want to keep, and then take steps to protect them from any excavating and construction work. Mark them clearly with colorful flags, and make certain those working on the home renovation project with you understand that those areas are not to be disturbed if at all possible. Keep in mind that digging can damage root systems very easily, so try not to dig around the trees or shrubs you want to preserve.
- Remove what you must. When you have to remove trees and shrubs, try to avoid digging out the trunk below the ground. Doing this can kill entangled roots from other trees and shrubs.
- Replace trees and shrubs. If the original trees were successful where they were planted, consider the same species for replacement. Otherwise, look for native species that are known to grow well in the area.
- Install lightning protection. The cost of removing a large lightning-struck tree might cost just as much as the installation of a lightning protection system, so why not opt for the safer route? Lightning protection can protect old, stately trees that have historic value, as well as trees that have a high financial value.
Section 2--Sustainable and Energy-Efficient Landscaping
Trees and shrubs can do a fine job of lowering heating and cooling bills. The shade from a mature tree can protect your old house from the summer sun, while winter sunlight can still shine into southern-facing windows. They also work well as wind breaks, which can be a blessing in areas that experience intense storms.
- Locating for shade. Trees and shrubs can provide shade to all parts of your home. In addition, your plants and trees can create a micro-climate that brings the temperature down by as much as nine degrees in the surrounding area.
- Locating for wind protection. Evergreens densely planted in problem areas can reduce wind speeds by up to 80 percent, and even deciduous trees can help reduce the impact of wind on your home.
- Water for conservation. Water your trees and shrubs in the early morning or evening to assure that the water is absorbed before it has a chance to evaporate under the heat of the sun. Drip irrigation encourages deeper roots.
- Landscape for the environment. Drought-resistant shrubs and trees reduce water consumption, and native plants don't require fertilizer or other harsh chemicals to look their best. Use reclaimed water, such as that you collect in rain barrels, for effective and environmentally-friendly irrigation.
- Opt for low-impact vegetation. Get rid of the manicured lawn altogether with low-impact vegetation, such as buffalo grass or moss.
Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.