The third week of March is the best time to fertilize established roses, lawns and small fruits like blueberry, raspberry and strawberry plants. The longer days are waking up these plants and the new foliage tells you that these plants want food now! Do not fertilize tender plants such as newly-planted roses, hardy fuchsias, summer blooming bulbs and shrubs like lilies, dahlias and hydrangeas or plants that surprised you and survived the winter such as phormiums and sedums.
March is also the month to evaluate your front landscape and put together a plan for some curb appeal. You don’t need to be selling your home to invest in a better front view. A welcoming front entry, colorful flowers and a cared for landscape does more than just raise property values. There is intrinsic satisfaction waiting for any homeowner or apartment dweller that is welcomed home with a bit of beauty.
Three Steps to Curb Appeal
Step one: Focus on the front door.
You don’t need to own your own home to liven up your entry. Even the darkest basement apartment can benefit from a portable pot of living plants. Add some life to the dark side with foliage plants that stay evergreen all year long and don’t mind the full shade. Acuba, Fatsia japonica, variegated ivy or the magnificent large leaves of an Acanthus or Bear’s breeches are all plants that will live for years in a pot despite a lack of sunshine. In the summer months you can add shade-tolerant annuals such as impatiens, lobelia, begonias and coleus. White and light-colored bloomers stand out in the shade.
Next, consider painting the front door a vibrant accent color or at least light up the space with a fresh coat of white. A new door mat, upgraded light fixtures and dusting the cobwebs from the corners will turn any first impression from poor to positive.
Step two: Wake up the welcome walk.
Many homeowners rarely use their own front door — so it is easy to forget about the overgrown plants, slippery sidewalk and other hazards that make the walk to the front door less than welcoming. Take the route your guests must use and then determine if walkways need pressure washing or if there are overgrown plants in need of pruning.
A great design idea to widen a narrow walkway is to add pavers alongside the existing walkway creating more surface area. Installing outdoor pathway lights is another bright idea to improve curb appeal. Don’t forget about the impact of blooming plants as you rethink your front walk. Pots aren’t just for the porch. Set a trio of container gardens into the planting bed, keeping the pots level by setting them on top of stepping stones or a grouping of pavers. Pots in beds raises the blooming plants closer to eye level and creates an instant focal point in a boring landscape. The deep blue, deep red, rich purple and other highly-glazed and shiny pots sold at local nurseries are frost and crack resistant and can be left outdoors all year long to add structure and color.
Step three: Control the chaos with some repetition.
Adding curb appeal to your front landscape can be as simple as repeating a plant, color or form in at least three spots. Plant different sizes and shapes of containers with the same variety of purple petunia, repeat the rounded form of a clipped boxwood or repeat an evergreen signature plant such as Nanina (Heavenly Bamboo) or Dwarf Alberta Spruce. You can group the same plant material in clusters of three to five, in a staggered hedge, in the center or corner three different beds or even as the focal point plants in container gardens.
The reason that repetition works to calm the chaos in a front yard landscape is because it gives the eye a familiar place to rest when your home is viewed from the curb or street. Repetition is like a melody that reappears throughout a song or the repeating patterns that Mother Nature designs when rolling hills, fields of wild flowers or ocean waves repeat to calm and delight the human senses.
Don’t Forget the Obvious: Maintenance Matters
Improving your home’s curb appeal can be as simple as mowing and edging the lawn, clearing away the clutter and weeding and mulching the beds. Repair the gutters, get rid of the moss on the roof and keep your driveway free of fallen leaves and debris.
A well-kept home does more than improve the real estate values in your neighborhood — it welcomes the homeowner as well as the guest, calms the mind and raises the spirit. We humans get spring fever for a reason — feather your nest, clean up your cave and create a buzz about your home hive.
Marianne Binetti is a syndicated columnist.