The benefits of time outside are innumerable. From the known mental-health benefits of gentle exposure to the sun and the oxygen plants release during photosynthesis to the calming effects of a breeze, it’s good to go outside.
It’s even better when the connections between inside and outside can be finished before or shortly after moving into the newly built home. Continuing the theme of easy-to-enjoy, beautiful outdoor living spaces, new-home buyers who plan what to plant long before move in will be ready for indoor-outdoor living right away.
Plants not only soften the environment of a patio space, California Room or deck, but improve air quality and add dimension and visual appeal to outdoor living areas.
After working with the builder preconstruction to plan permanent features of the house — such as custom doors from the house or hardscape, patio and deck surfaces, roofline extensions and electrical work — spend time studying softscape, which refers to the living elements of the total landscape . It’s a good pastime while awaiting the home’s completion.
Concerned about drought conditions and likely water usage limits? Even given water restrictions, plant life is still important, and possible, when planning the outdoor living spaces for a new construction home.
Enter the new home’s address to learn which plants are native to any specific address in the state. If the address doesn’t populate because the home isn’t finished yet, simply enter the address of a nearby business.
The Garden Planner not only lists which plants are unique to — and are likely to thrive in — your neighborhood, but provides design ideas for landscaping.
Categorized by plant type — shrubs, perennials, succulents, ground covers, etc. — and by features such as butterfly hosts, very easy to maintain, full-sun tolerant, very low water needed — the guide is a great starting point. It even provides recommendations on the best tools, mulch, soil and other garden bed equipment that help people create a dream outdoor oasis.
Reduce the lawn
It’s remarkably easy to reduce the quantity of grass that needs water without covering the entire yard in concrete or rock.
When using the tool above from Calscape, or when visiting a garden center, search for ground covers, flowering bushes or spreading shrubs that require less water than grass does.
Many colorful plants — lavender, for instance — thrive in most areas of our climate and can get quite large, filling an expanded planting bed that might otherwise have been covered in grass. Lavender only needs to be watered a couple of times a week and a drip-line system will do the trick.
Lavender’s fragrance also repels some bugs, while its color can attract hummingbirds.
Be sure the soil near plants is well covered by rock or mulch to trap the moisture from watering. To further reduce the lawn, add paths of flagstone surrounded by soil, bark or gravel to and from groups of plants, border hedges, patios, the front walk or the sidewalk.
Prep for good soil
Start early. Speak with the builder several months before the home is complete to learn when irrigation systems will be installed and any sod will be laid.
Chances are there’s a standard installation for each homesite. Also, ask to take part in the layout of any in-ground irrigation systems.
By getting involved before the pipes are in the ground, you can recommend the general locations for drip-line manifolds and any sprinkler heads, even opting for manifolds in place of sprinkler heads to cover areas where you’re likely not to want grass.
Research mulches and soils before move in and be sure to purchase copious amounts of both before purchasing and putting any plant life in the ground.
Mulch, after all, is a key ingredient to warding off brown-thumbing. When mixed into the soil of plant areas, it breaks down the soil, acts like a fertilizer and tames weeds. It doesn’t need water, but it helps trap the water given to your plants.
Another way to achieve the same effect is to use crushed stone in planting beds. It’s pricier, but longer lasting and some people find it attractive.
Incorporating plants while preplanning outdoor spaces moves up the timetable on when a new homeowner can show off their indoor-outdoor living after construction is complete.
Next week, look for inspiration here on outdoor furniture, shade structures and more ways to blend plant life and hardscape elements.