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Your Comprehensive Guide to Front Yard Design

Sep 1, 2020 | Lawns

When it comes to creating a garden, nothing will improve your home’s value more than your front yard will. As one of the first things people notice about your property, the front yard is not only a reflection of your personality, but also sets the mood for one’s visit to the rest of your home as well. The exterior of your home says just as much as the interior does, and it is also the first impression your home makes on neighbors and prospective buyers. A great front yard design is the key to improving your home’s curb appeal. A few aspects to think about when creating your front yard include: the type of grass, architectural flourishes, the yard’s edges, plants and gardens, and some other extra features.

Types of Grass for Front Yard Design

Part of a beautiful front yard landscape is a well-manicured lawn. However, keeping a lawn healthy is work. For starters, you need to know what type of grass you have: warm-season or cool-season. A lot of the grass in this area is a cool-season variety like fescue of Kentucky Bluegrass. The most common warm-season grass in the region is Zoysia or Bermuda grass. Once you have identified your turfgrass variety, here are a few things you need to do to get your lawn off to a strong start.

Cool-season grass

  • Apply crabgrass herbicide if you experienced a lot of crabgrass last year.
  • Reseed any bare spots in March or early April.
  • Hand pull or use herbicide to spot treat any broadleaf weeds.

Warm-season grass

  • Apply broadleaf herbicide to kill wild onion or garlic in your lawn.
  • Do a soil test to prepare any upcoming lawn renovation.
  • Apply fertilizer after spring green-up — usually in May.
  • If you need to establish a warm-season grass, wait until the soil is warm enough (usually in May or June).
  • Aerate or use a reel mower to remove any thatch build-up.

If your cool-season grass was not fertilized in the fall and you intend to fertilize it in the spring, apply it at the rate of 0.9 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Ideally, tall fescue and Kentucky Bluegrass are fed in September and October. The warm-season grasses Zoysia and fine fescue are fed only once per year. Feed Zoysia in June and fine fescue in October. Bermuda grass should be fed twice, once in June and again in July, according to the University of Maryland extension office.

Architectural Front Yard Design Flourishes

There is nothing wrong with a nicely manicured lawn. However, to really make your home stand out, you should consider adding a few flourishes to the turf. A gravel or flagstone pathway can lend a lot of personality to your home. A fountain can make a great centerpiece, and never discount just how well a fence or stone wall can synergize with your landscape’s design. Similarly, brick pavers can make a nice walkway leading up to your home and be used to create a footpath that leads to a flagpole as well. Surround this flagpole with some hostas or ornamental grasses, and you have created an interesting focal point that people will notice long before they actually arrive. Just because you are sticking to grass does not mean your front yard needs to be boring!

Edges and Leveling Your Front Yard Design

No matter what you are doing with your front yard design, a little color and vibrancy never hurt. Whether you want rose bushes or gardenias, flowers can easily bring out the best colors in your landscaping and your home’s paint-job. Avoid hard edges along the turf – try to aim for rounded edges lined with flowers or succulents, and add small flowering trees to draw more attention to your planters. Use collections of small shrubs instead of large hedges to break up the space, while giving it a natural feel.

In addition, not every front yard is level, but changes in elevation can actually enhance your landscape rather than being a hindrance to it. Consider planting specimens of varying heights and textures in order to give your space visual interest and help draw the eye in. Multi-level gardens also look nice when large boulders or rocks in various colors are used to accent them as well.

Plants and Gardens for Front Yard Design

A front yard fruit and vegetable garden is a very powerful statement piece. It is also a great functional upgrade to your front yard. You will be saving money on water-intensive grasses, and providing plenty of fresh produce for your family and neighbors. Be sure to check with your city and homeowners’ associations before turning your front yard into a garden!

Another idea is to make use of shrubs and trees to strike a visually-pleasing balance between your sidewalk and your home. Edge your landscaped garden with simple, river rock for a border. Plant arching shrubs like willow and cryptomeria for a wispy effect. Include shrubs that add colors more than green, and change with the seasons. You can even shape shrubs for a grand and graceful look!

Extra Features for Front Yard Design

For a welcoming appeal, consider adding some water features to design your front yard landscape. If you have a sprawling front lawn, a garden pond with some accent trees and seating benches can really help highlight this area. For a smaller front yard, you could choose a fountain or waterfall, and then surround it with colorful flowers to help welcome guests to your home.

You also can create a miniature habitat for wildlife by cutting out a circular section in the center of your lawn, and then planting shrubs and trees of various heights in the middle of it. Add some ground cover and then place a few bird feeders there and sit back from your front porch and enjoy watching the animals.

Get even more creative with your yard by creating a Zen oasis. Design your front yard to inspire peace and tranquility. Add hardscapes for texture, and to reduce maintenance, and a wood, slatted fence for elegance. Select plants that add to the ambiance, while keeping lines clean. Fill in gaps with ornaments. Finally, add some well-established evergreens for height, while keeping shrubs close to the front trimmed and low.

If creativity is not your strong suit and you are more of a traditionalist, then try keeping your front yard charming and simple. Add yard decor like a wrought iron gate, a shepherd’s hook, and perfectly symmetrical vegetation, all elements that will gives your house a taste of the country. Plant white and red rose bushes, flowering shrubs, and hydrangea for color and class. Finally, consider adding colorful boulders as a border for form and function.

The key to designing your perfect front yard is to imagine what you want it to look like, and make it happen. Do not be afraid to try new things, plant new flowers, and buy new hardscapes.

Front Yard Design Mistakes to Avoid

To maintain your new front yard, there are some crucial mistakes you should avoid making. In the United States, the landscaping industry generates an estimated $74 billion each year as homeowners look to improve the value of their homes. Nonetheless, if you do not know that much about landscaping, it can be easy to turn beautiful landscape design into a nightmare. There are plenty of front yard landscaping mistakes that can leave the front of your home looking neglected.

Here are 3 of the most common mistakes a homeowner can make while implementing their landscape design.

Improper Planning

Many homeowners think they can just start planting before they take the time to plan. However, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration. The first step in landscaping is to take an inventory of your yard, and note the conditions of the soil, drainage, climate conditions, and any existing vegetation. Try to grow plants that will work with the state of the property that you have, not the property you wish you have. Your landscaping contact at Johnson’s Landscaping can help you make these hard decisions.

Overcrowded Plants

Plants need space in order to ensure the proper amount of air circulation. If your plants or shrubs are planted too close to each other, it can stunt their growth. Overcrowded landscaping forces plants to compete over water and nutrients in the soil, which can put the entire cluster of plants at risk. When planning your design, keep in mind how tall and wide each type of plant is expected to grow. If you plan with an expert at Johnson’s, you will get the right amount of space in between your plants.

Not Watering Enough

To maintain a beautiful landscape, your plants must be watered on a regular basis. Not watering often enough is one of the biggest landscaping mistakes a homeowner can make. Professional landscapers suggest that homeowners invest in a simple drip-irrigation system. These systems can be attached to a spigot with a timer, ensuring your landscape will always get the water it needs to flourish.

However you plan to upgrade your front yard, Johnson’s Landscaping Service is here to help. We have been helping homeowners throughout DC and Montgomery County, Maryland bring out the best in their homes’ exteriors since 1960. Our professional designers and landscapers will work with you every step of the way – from drafting to installing your new landscape.

Your front yard is your home’s calling card. So everything you do to it makes a curbside impression. We can help you turn your average yard into a lush and beautiful landscape that you will be proud to call home. Contact us today to discuss some more front yard ideas and get advice on how to avoid some common mistakes!

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About the Author

Matt Johnson grew up in a family of landscapers and gardeners as the grandson of Raymond Johnson (Founder, 1933, Johnson's Florist and Garden Center) and son of James and Carol Johnson (Founders, 1960, Johnson's Landscaping Service, Inc.). Since 2007, he has led Johnson's Landscaping Service with his brother, Charlie.  Matt and his wife Jaime live in Petworth in Northwest DC with their 3 sons and 2 big dogs.

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