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Illinois Green Industry Association--the resource for industry professionals in Illinois--to provide garden tips to our valued gardening consumers in and surrounding Illinois.


Enhancing the Value of Your Home
from the National Garden Bureau, www.ngb.org

It is an active time in the real estate market. Agents are busy with open houses and showings as people move across town and across the country. Homebuyers are searching for that perfect new home for their family, while home sellers look for ways to make their house stand out from others on the market. Both buyers and sellers are concerned with curb appeal; what someone sees when they drive by a house. An attractive, well-maintained yard and garden is a key part of that view. The first impression of a house and the surrounding landscape can make a potential buyer take a closer look at the property or immediately move on to the next house. For home sellers, attractive landscaping can help a house sell days or weeks faster than other houses on the market. It's estimated that trees and gardens can increase a home's value by as much as 15%.

All homeowners, especially those trying to sell a home, need to do an outdoor cleaning. Investing a little time and a few dollars can make the outside of your home sparkle. Mow the lawn and rake up leftover leaves or debris. Trim trees and shrubs by removing broken branches and any unsafe, low, or overhanging branches. Then add a few bags of shredded bark mulch around the base of plantings for a nice, clean look.

Whether selling your home, buying a new home, or maintaining your current home, there are always plenty of things to do to keep a house in good shape. If you've never done much to the areas outside your home, now is the time to get started. Gardening doesn't have to be a lot of work or take a lot of time. A few shortcuts can create an instant garden. You don't even have to own a shovel.

Start by adding containers of colorful flowers. They're easy to grow and can be placed in many areas around the house and yard. Put a container by the front door to welcome visitors to your home. If you have a covered porch, add a few hanging baskets. Attach some window boxes to the deck rail. Enhance an ordinary planting of shrubs by grouping containers in front and around the shrubs to make the area look larger and more attractive.

You'll find an assortment of pre-planted containers in a variety of plant and color combinations available at the local garden center, home store, supermarket, and hardware store. Simply determine if the container is recommended for sunny areas or shaded spots, then choose whichever matches the conditions where you'll put the container. Trailing petunias, giant-flowered geraniums and mixed annual baskets love sunny spots. For shady areas such as a covered porch or a house surrounded by trees, look for baskets filled with lush green ferns, variegated ivy, colorful impatiens or enchanting fuchsia. Keep the container watered and remove the faded flowers to keep plants blooming the rest of the summer.

Looking for something more unique? Design and plant your own containers. Available in a variety of sizes and colors there's a style of plant container to complement any home. Whether you like plastic or clay, ceramic or wood, there are two simple rules. Select a container that's large enough for the plants and make sure it has drainage for excess water so plants don't drown. Then fill the container with a good soilless growing media. For easy maintenance, choose a media (soil) that contains a slow-release fertilizer for healthy plant growth.

When deciding which plants to choose, express your creativity by selecting plants or flowers in the colors or combinations you like. If you're a cook, choose a variety of tasty herbs or mix herbs with flowers and vegetables in the same container. Do you like to nibble on vegetables fresh from the garden? Plant different types of lettuce or grow a cherry tomato plant. The possibilities are endless. If you need a little inspiration, look at pre-planted containers at retail stores for ideas of pleasing plant combinations.

Some new homeowners who want a larger garden may find that their soil is not the best for growing plants. An easy solution is to garden in raised beds. They can be quickly made from landscape timbers, lumber, or bricks. Raised bed kits of wood or recycled plastic can be purchased from garden catalogs and websites. After assembling the frame, simply fill with bags of high-quality soil, compost, and composted manure. Annual flowers and vegetables such as lettuce and beans can be grown in a shallow raised bed that is 4-6 inches deep. For perennial flowers and plants such as tomatoes that need to develop a more extensive root system, a bed that is 8-12 inches deep is recommended.

Plants can also provide solutions to some potential homeowner problems. Maybe you'd like some privacy or a screen to hide an unsightly view. A hedge of shrubs is great but can take time to grow and fill in. In the meantime, plant a row of sunflowers from seed or plants. They grow quickly, withstand heat, dry conditions, and provide beautiful flowers. As an extra benefit, the flowers can be cut for attractive bouquets. Do you want to soften the appearance of a chain-link or wire fence? Plant some morning glories or a vegetable such as cucumber, squash, or gourds at the base of the fence. The vines will grow quickly using the fence for support while covering it with leaves and delightful flowers or nourishing vegetables.

These ideas provide homebuyers, home sellers, and all homeowners with easy ways to become involved in gardening. Whether your garden is a hanging basket, a colorful flower border, or a large bed of delicious vegetables, you'll enhance the value of your home and create a more beautiful living space for everyone to enjoy.

By Janis Kieft





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