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Learning how to garden in your new home

There is more to moving day than unpacking boxes; there’s also learning to care for that garden inherited with the new home.

But where to start with a newly purchased property?

Michael Becker, president of Estate Gardeners Inc. in Omaha, Neb., suggests that putting safety first.

“Check out the dangers,” says Becker, a spokesman for Planet, the Professional Landcare Network that certifies green industry professionals. “Are the retaining walls stable? Are any trees leaning or diseased with dead branches?

As for plantings, be patient with the perennials.

“Go through the seasonal changes,” Becker said. “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.”

Other things to consider when dealing with an unfamiliar landscape:

•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?” asks Josh Kane, president and head designer at Kane Landscapes Inc. 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.

– Dean Fosdick, Associated Press

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