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Real Estate

How to get to know the garden in your new home

| Sunday, March 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Americans are a restless bunch. They change locations with a frequency that would tire a migrating songbird. But there is more to moving day than unpacking boxes; there's also learning to care for that garden inherited with the new home.

If you were thinking ahead, you asked for an inventory of the plants and accessories that came with the house. A few more tips:

Be patient with the perennials. “Go through the seasonal changes,” says Michael Becker, president of Estate Gardeners in Omaha. “Learn what things look like in your yard. Determine if it's aesthetically what you want, or if it's so high-maintenance you won't have the time to care for it. Most perennials need pruning and deadheading.”

Make note of the average frost dates. Do soil tests. Map the yard for sun and shade. “If you live in the city and all you have is a porch or a patio to work with, where is all that water going to go that you'll be putting on plants?” says Josh Kane, president and head designer at Kane Landscapes in Sterling, Va. “Also, where do you get the water? You'll have to figure out how to care for everything.”

Water fixtures. “Look for care instructions when dealing with special features,” Kane says. “A lot of people get put off or are scared of things like koi ponds, pools and fountains that require startups, maintenance and attention during the seasons.”

Don't try to do everything the first year. Mulching will keep the weeds down. Composting will improve the soil. Bringing in some annuals for window boxes, hanging baskets or containers will provide instant color. “Nothing gives you as much impact in a garden as planting annuals,” Kane says.

Anticipate. Avoid planting trees or shrubs near sewer or water lines, to prevent root damage. Study the plat map for restrictions that could prevent expansions or additions. “A lot of people might want to build a big outdoor room or pool and find they can't do it because of an easement on the property,” Kane says.

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