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Quick Guide to Landscaping

Project Planning
August 09, 2018

Adding lush vegetation, pebbled pathways, and new furniture to your yard can be a fun process, but there’s a whole lot of landscape planning and preparation that goes into a successful landscape renovation.

If you’re interested in revamping your home’s outdoor living space this summer, use this quick guide to learn about must-know landscaping basics before you get started.

Landscaping Terminology

As you begin brainstorming landscaping improvement ideas for your home, it may help you to know some key landscaping terminology. Understanding these basics will help you decide which features suit your needs best, and help you communicate with your contractor to be confident that you see eye-to-eye, making your yard renovation seamless.

Keep these must-know landscaping basics in mind as you start planning your project for your yard:

    Landscaping Terminology - Drought Tolerant 
  • Drought-tolerant landscaping: In dry, drought-prone areas, this type of landscaping is essential. Drought-tolerant landscaping incorporates plants and yard design features that require minimal water. From low-flow irrigation systems to native plants to artificial turf, there are plenty of options.
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    Landscaping Terminology - Hardscaping 
  • Hardscaping/Softscaping: Your contractor may ask you about your thoughts on hardscaping and softscaping. Hardscaping refers to the elements in your yard made of heavier, solid materials, like walkways, stones, pools, and benches. Softscaping covers flowerbeds, gardens, trees, shrubs, and grass. An easy way to remember: hardscaping most often refers to your patio, while softscaping has to do with the yard.
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    Landscaping Terminology - Ground-cover 
  • Ground cover: This term refers to any type of growth that covers an area of ground in your yard. Ground cover is designed to protect your top soil from drought and erosion. The best ground cover options reduce the need for irrigation, require less maintenance, and can add a unique look to your yard.
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    Landscaping Terminology - Terracing 
  • Terracing: Does your yard have steep slopes? Terracing transforms a steep slope of land into layers of flat steps. Terracing is designed to prevent erosion , and as an added bonus can create an upscale look right in your backyard.
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    Landscaping Terminology - Hydrozoning 
  • Hydrozoning: Want to conserve water? Hydrozoning is an easy way to cut back on your water use. Cluster plants with similar water requirements to avoid over- and under-watering.
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    Landscaping Terminology - Edible Garden 
  • Edible gardening: Do you love to cook? You can create your very own urban farm in your backyard. Sustainable landscaping design includes edible gardening. Imagine growing your own fresh ingredients at home!
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    Landscaping Terminology - Outdoor living room 
  • Outdoor living rooms: Many homeowners are on the lookout for ways to spend more time outdoors, and outdoor living rooms are the perfect solution. Turn a patio into extra living space with an outdoor kitchen setup, comfortable furniture, and a fire pit.
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Understanding Your Climate

Understanding Your Climate Map

When choosing landscaping upgrades for your yard, consider your climate.

Energy.gov has divided the United States into four basic climate regions (excluding Alaska), and each of these climates experiences different conditions throughout the year. In order to create a thriving, low-maintenance yard, you need to understand the ways your local climate affects landscaping options.

  1. Temperate: Regions with a temperate climate typically don’t deal with extreme temperatures; summers and winters are moderate. If you live in a temperate region, be sure to make great use of shade with large trees, umbrellas, or patio coverings. This will give both your plants and your family a break from that bright sunlight. If you have strong winter winds, you can use shrubbery and trees on the north and northwest side of your home to serve as a windbreak.

  2. Hot-Arid: If you live in a hot-arid region, drought-tolerant landscape design plans are the name of the game. This climate region experiences hot, dry summers with very low humidity. Look for trees that thrive in dry, hot climates to give your yard a bit more shade, and pick from the many available drought-resistant plants. Cacti and succulents can provide plenty of character, so take your pick from the many varieties.

  3. Hot-Humid: States in this type of climate may experience a great deal of precipitation and warm temperatures. Use trees to maximize shade during the summer; just make sure these trees allow low-angle winter sunshine to penetrate through to your home.

  4. Cool: Cool climate regions experience cold temperatures throughout the majority of the year. Use landscaped windbreaks like dense evergreen trees to protect your home from chilly winter winds.

You also should consider your microclimate. This is the climate immediately surrounding your home; while you may reside in one of these four main regions, your area could be affected by different factors. For example, you may get more sun than the average home in your region, or you may deal with heavier winds. Understanding the conditions in your immediate area is a landscaping basic, as it can help you determine which renovations and plants will best meet your landscaping needs.

Selecting Native Plants Based on Your Climate and Ecosystem

Selecting Native Plants Based on Your Climate and Ecosystem

Understanding your climate can help you choose native plants—an important part of sustainable, eco-friendly landscaping strategies. A plant is considered native to your area if it has occurred naturally without human introduction.

Native plants thrive in the soils and weather of your particular ecosystem, which translates to less watering needs, and potentially fewer pest problems—meaning you can avoid the use of toxic pesticides. Native plants may also help manage rainwater runoff, thanks to their deep root systems that can soak up excess moisture. Exotic plants that evolved in other regions are often more difficult to maintain, don’t sustain local wildlife as well, and may even become invasive, damaging native vegetation in your yard.

Pay Attention to Local Restrictions

Certain landscaping features might be restricted in your area. For example, homeowners in Nevada typically aren’t allowed to use rainwater catchment systems to recycle rainwater. Homeowners in California’s Central Valley are only able to water their lawns on a certain number of days in the week.

Many sustainable landscaping design features may help you abide by these restrictions without sacrificing landscaping style. For example, artificial grass allows homeowners to cultivate a green lawn even in areas with strict water restrictions.

Consider your needs and landscaping motivations and you’ll find a variety of drought-tolerant landscape features that suit your needs and follow local restrictions.

Financing Your Landscaping Upgrades

Landscaping projects can add up, and some homeowners might forgo important energy and water-efficient upgrades because of the upfront costs. The financing options from Renovate America can help you access the money you need to get the yard upgrades you want.

  • HERO financing: HERO (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity) is a financing option that is offered by Renovate America and is designed specifically for home improvements that provide energy efficiency or renewable energy benefits. HERO is currently available in California, Missouri, and Florida. In California, HERO can also be used to finance certain water efficiency upgrades. For more information on HERO and eligible products, visit our FAQs.

    HERO is paid at a fixed interest rate through an additional line item attached to your property taxes. Approval for HERO financing is based primarily on equity in your home and your ability to pay. If you’re looking to conserve energy and water and create a beautiful yard, HERO could be the right fit.

    What kind of landscaping renovations can you finance with HERO in California?
    • Artificial turf
    • Drip irrigation
    • Rainwater catchment systems
    • Rotating sprinklers
    • Greywater systems
    • Irrigation control systems
    • Windows and doors

    …and that’s just for starters. Benji financing opens up opportunity for even more renovations.

  • Benji financing: Benji is a traditional financing option offered by Renovate America Financing. With Benji you can finance anything that’s affixed to the property, making virtually every landscaping home improvement fair game.

    Whether you want to add a new deck to your home or install new windows, with Benji, you can do it all. Benji is currently available in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

    Approval for Benji financing is based on your credit, and you can apply through any contractor in the Renovate America network. What kind of projects does Benji financing cover? Plenty, including:
    • Artificial turf
    • Drip irrigation
    • Rainwater catchment systems
    • Rotating sprinklers
    • Greywater systems
    • Irrigation control systems
    • Windows and doors

    …and the list goes on. No matter your landscaping goals, we have a solution.

A beautiful, relaxing backyard can play host to picnics, barbecues, games of tag, stargazing, and more—make sure yours is ready with this quick guide to landscaping. Learn more about financing your landscaping project with Renovate America and start working towards the yard of your dreams today.