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Landscaping Ideas

by Scott Zeller

7 Easy Landscape Ideas for a New Home





You’ve closed on your new home, unpacked your belongings and breathed a sigh of relief. Now it’s time to look outside and turn your attention to the landscaping. Check out these seven easy landscape ideas for a new home.






The following is a guest post by Meredith Hale.

You’ve closed on your new home, unpacked your belongings and breathed a sigh of relief. Now it’s time to look outside and turn your attention to the landscaping. If you’re lucky, you purchased a home that was once owned by a master gardener. However, most of us find our new yard needs a bit of work to make it our own. While some large-scale projects are more complex, there are some simple things you can do to personalize your outdoor living space. Check out these seven easy landscape ideas for a new home:

Plant Shade Trees

Trees are valuable to a landscape once they’ve matured. Older trees not only help shade your home and yard but also freshen the air. Trees also harbor neighborhood birds, which are important to the local environment. Planting a tree is a great way to mark the purchase of your new home and invest in the future. Make sure to plant a shade tree far enough away from the house so that it doesn’t interfere with the foundation or sewer system. You also want to avoid trees that will have you constantly raking and cleaning out the gutters. Consider planting evergreens on a breezy side of the yard to help block the wind.

Go Native

If you plan on adding any new plants to your landscaping, choose purple yarrow, coreopsis, red yucca shrubs or any of the native options that thrive naturally in Dallas. These are the plants that you may notice growing along the edge of a lake, beside roadways, and in untamed areas while on a hike. Native flowers need little water and will attract pollinators to your yard. They’ll also cut down on the amount of time you’ll have to spend maintaining your landscape.

Spread Some Mulch

Bringing in mulch to spread around the base of your landscaped plants is easy and will pay off in the long run. Organic mulch options, like bark dust, will provide beautiful color to the yard and keep plants hydrated. Inorganic mulch options, like stones or pebbles, will last longer but can be harder to spread due to their weight. Both options will help prevent weeds from popping up. Investing an afternoon spreading mulch can also save you a lot of maintenance time later on.

Make It Private

There will be areas of your yard that you will want to enjoy without the glances from neighbors walking by. Have fun with it and start some outdoor projects by planting a row of boxwoods for some semi-private areas or even hang some lattice on one side of the patio. Windscreens and vertical gardens are other ways that you can use the vertical space in the yard to add privacy. Adding a shade canopy or large umbrella can create a sense of privacy for homes with two-story neighbors.

Find A Favorite Spot

Outdoor seating is an integral part of landscaping a backyard. You can easily incorporate room amid plants and garden beds. Place a metal café table near your favorite rose bushes or even hang a hammock between two mature shade trees. Finding a spot in the yard that you can enjoy daily, while also being comfortable, will help you use your outdoor space more often.

Light it Up

A string of patio lights or outdoor solar lights will make the yard safer in the dark and allow you to use your yard well after dark. Go a step further and add a fire pit to the patio (either a permanent or less expensive portable one). The extra light will add a certain ambiance to your yard and encourage your family to get outdoors more often.

Add Some Stepping Stones

Many backyards have gates or side entry points that allow you to enter the yard without going through the house. These areas are often forgotten and usually, don’t include any kind of walkway or path. Consider adding stepping stones from the gate to the back patio to help encourage the use of the pathway without bringing dirt into your new home. Installing just a few stones will also help keep shoes out of the mud and provide a stable area that’s safe to use.

Updating your landscaping will help you increase the usable square footage of your home. You’ll now have more areas to relax and entertain guests.


Meredith Hale is a gardening and landscape writer, and design addict. She has coordinated the design on many house flipping projects, admitting that her favorite part is creating inspired outdoor spaces.




Sam is the Marketing Coordinator for Coldwell Banker Real Estate. He is Jersey born and bred, and currently resides in Roseland, NJ. He is an avid reader, loves Games of Thrones and is a New York Yankees die-hard.

You can follow him on Twitter @World_Shalom

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Summer Lawn Care

by Scott Zeller

6 Tips for Summer Lawn Care





Don’t you hate it when the grass is greener at your next door neighbor’s place? Follow these tips to manifest the lawn of your life.






Don’t you hate it when the grass is greener at your next door neighbor’s place? This summer you could have the lawn that turns everyone’s eyes green with envy and admiration, but you’ve got to get on it right now! Follow these tips to manifest the lawn of your life.


1. Inspect

Inspect your lawn and note any spots that need special attention. If you notice brown patches, you need to act quickly to identify the disease so you can treat it. If the entire lawn is somewhat flattened from winter weather, call in an aeration service. Those little holes in the lawn will last just long enough to loosen up the soil and allow better water and nutrient absorption.

2. Rake

Rake any dead spots and reseed using a variety of grass seed to match the rest of your lawn. For larger areas that may have been damaged by snow plows, for example, you can remove entire sections and replace with sod. If you notice areas where there has been a lot of soil erosion, mulch beds are a good way to shore up future runoffs.

3. Fertilize

Apply a slow-release fertilizer to feed the grass over weeks. Pick a day that’s not windy and check to make sure there’s no rain in the immediate forecast to keep the fertilizer where you want it. Dispose of any leftover fertilizer appropriately, as you would household chemicals like paint.


4. Water

Make sure to water deeply, not daily. Deep watering will encourage a healthy root system. Whether you drag the hose out in the morning or have an automatic sprinkler system, set a watering schedule. Your lawn needs an inch to an inch and a half of water a week.

5. Lawnmower Maintenace

Keep mower blades sharp and balanced for clean cuts, and change the pattern every time you mow so grass blades will stand up straight. Remember to let your grass clippings fall where they may, and remain there. “Grasscycling” returns nutrients to the soil, allowing them to fertilize the lawn.

Proper lawn care prevents the most common lawn problems from getting out of control. Keeping the grass at the right length will help keep it healthy and keep weeds at bay.


6. Rake & Weed

When autumn arrives, and the leaves begin to fall, don’t wait for large amounts to pile up. Remove leaves often, so they don’t get a chance to become wet and sticky. Blankets of wet leaves can create a fungal problem that will plague your lawn long after the last snow falls.

Set yourself up for another lovely lawn the following spring and summer by doing some weed control now, and an application of fertilizer for nutrients to feed your grass throughout the cold season.

Keep in mind, if you plan to sell your home, having a nice lawn is crucial. But the homes that show the best have more than just end-to-end grass. According to a recent survey in Turf Magazine, the landscapes that have the best value are those with “a sophisticated design with large deciduous, evergreen and annual color plants and colored hardscape.” The right shade trees will also protect your lawn and keep your house cooler this summer.

Notice summer lawn care doesn’t just cover June through September. By preparing your lawn well in advance of the summer heat, you’ll have a yard that will withstand the stress of summer and thrive through the fall.


Meredith Hale is a gardening and landscape writer, and design addict. She has coordinated the design on many house flipping projects, admitting that her favorite part is creating inspired outdoor spaces.





Sam is the Marketing Coordinator for Coldwell Banker Real Estate. He is Jersey born and bred, and currently resides in Roseland, NJ. He is an avid reader, loves Games of Thrones and is a New York Yankees die-hard.

You can follow him on Twitter @World_Shalom

Winter Lawn Care

by Scott Zeller



Winter Lawn Care Tips


Check out these winter lawn care tips to keep your lawn healthy in the cold.

Guest post by Henry Walsh

Caring for your lawn during the winter can look different from other homeowners depending on your location. Unless you live in the extreme Southern areas of the country, most grass types will go dormant during the cold winter months. However, just because winter isn’t the primary growing season doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to still do. Check out these winter lawn care tips to keep your lawn healthy.

Apply Fertilizer

Choosing to add fertilizer to your lawn before the snow falls is a great way to give your grass a boost of energy to stay alive during the winter months. Use a slow-release fertilizer when you want to give your lawn root systems a slow and steady stream of energy over a more extended period. Make sure to follow directions and refrain from applying too much fertilizer in one area of the lawn which could cause burning due to too much nitrogen.

Let It Breathe

Aerating your lawn once every couple of years is a great way to make sure that your lawn is receiving essential nutrients at a deeper level. Aerating will allow sunshine, water, and energy to penetrate deep into the soil which will make the lawn healthier and stronger come spring. Renting an aerator is an excellent choice for many homeowners or consider your local winter lawn care professional that can do the job for you. Aerate your lawn before any winter weather, like snow or ice, fall on the grass this winter.

Consider Overseeding

For those homeowners in the South looking for a way to keep their warm-season grass lawns green all year, consider overseeding with the opposing season grass type as part of your winter lawn care, once the lawn goes dormant. The cool-season grass will love the colder temperatures that winter brings while the warm-season grasses take a much-deserved nap. Unfortunately, homeowners in the northern parts of the country will have to accept dormant lawns in frigid temperatures or snow-covered lawns in other winter areas.

Mulch Fallen Leaves

Many parts of the country will see the addition of fallen leaves onto lawns in the early parts of winter. Instead of raking up the leaves and bagging them up for removal, consider using this free source of energy to create a stronger lawn. Mulch the leaves with a leaf mulcher, or by merely using your lawn mower, to cut the leaves into smaller more manageable parts. Dead leaves provide a natural source of nitrogen to the lawn making it a welcome addition for future growth.

Apply Compost

Compost is one of those items that every homeowner needs to keep a healthy lawn. Compost can be created at home in a compost pile or is available for purchase from a local garden center. Compost is helpful to add to a lawn before winter arrives to provide a natural energy source for underlying roots. The compost will be gradually worked into the soil by microorganisms making it a great option to cure many lawn issues.

There are plenty of ways to care for your lawn even if winter temperatures have already arrived in your area. Race against Mother Nature before the arrival of snow and ice to provide your yard with essential added nutrients like compost, fertilizer, and fallen leaves. Aerating and overseeding your lawn are other ways to make sure that your lawn looks great year round. Consider all of these winter lawn care tips this year for a beautiful lawn.


Henry Walsh is a gardening writer and eco-conscious living advocate. He recently began his homesteading journey after many years of incorporating the principles into his urban lifestyle.



Sam is the Marketing Coordinator for Coldwell Banker Real Estate. He is Jersey born and bred, and currently resides in Roseland, NJ. He is an avid reader, loves Games of Thrones and is a New York Yankees die-hard.

You can follow him on Twitter @World_Shalom

Subscribe to Blue Matter and get the latest updates


Winter Prep your garden

by Scott Zeller

How to Prepare Your Lawn and Garden for Winter


It may be depressing to think about it, but winter is creeping up. That means it's time to prepare your lawn and garden for the cold season. Taking a few steps to prepare for the first frost and the cold months to follow can lead to a healthier yard and garden, with thriving plant life and pops of greenery and color later. Winterizing can also reduce your workload in the spring, so you can spend more time simply enjoying Mother Nature. Follow these steps to properly prepare your lawn for the winter season.

Step 1 - Rake

This quintessential fall activity is an important task for lawn and garden winter preparation. Removing fallen leaves and other debris from your yard allows sunlight and moisture to reach grass roots and keep them healthy. If you leave piles of leaves on the lawn, it can kill the grass and leave unsightly brown spots.

Step 2 - Don’t Prune

Many people mistakenly assume that hard pruning should be done in the fall. Pruning is actually an activity that promotes plant growth, so there’s no reason to prune when the dormant season is approaching. If you do need to prune, go easy on it, or consult a local greenhouse or garden center first to find out if a particular plant needs to be cut back.

Step 3 - Cut Back Perennials

Now is the time to cut back and clean out perennials. These plants frequently have dead areas, so remove them to improve appearance and reduce unwanted moisture. After the first frost, you can cut back perennials to the soil for a tidier look.

Step 4 - Toss Annuals

You loved them all summer, but now is the time to get rid of your annual plants. These include any annuals you have planted in pots, hanging baskets, or flowerbeds. Unless you plan on bringing them indoors, these plants won’t survive the winter, so clear them out now before they become an eyesore or start harboring diseases.

Step 5 - Mulch

Grab some mulch and use it to cover vulnerable areas like flowerbeds, gardens, and the bases of young trees. The mulch will act as a protectant which insulates the soil and protects the plants within reach. When you’re mulching around trees, be sure to mound it away from the trunk. Shape it like a doughnut instead of a volcano.

Step 6 - Cover Tender Plants

Mulch isn’t the only option for protecting plants. If you have plants that are especially tender, consider covering them with a burlap sack for added protection.

Step 7 - Plant Spring Bulbs

Even though it’s turning cold, you can still look forward to spring by planting a variety of bulbs, such as colorful daffodils and tulips. It’s best to plant bulbs about six weeks before the first hard frost so that they can form roots and properly establish.


Step 8 - Aerate and Winterize the Grass

Aerating your lawn will open up the soil, which will in turn allow more oxygen and water to access the roots. You will have much healthier grass doing this. After aerating, you should also add a high quality winterizing lawn food that will provide root strengthening nutrients during the cold months.

Step 9 - Compost

Composting is not only good for the planet, but it is also good for your garden and flower bed. You can compost just about any organic material. Use the raked leaves, cut perennials, and uprooted annuals you’ve just accumulated, for example. If you have a shredder, put them through it first for more manageable compost. It’s okay if you don’t; just mix it together for use later as soil conditioner.

Step 10 - Tend the Garden

Get your garden ready for winter by pulling up harvested plants and removing debris like weeds, sticks, and rocks. Till the soil and add amendments such as compost, grass clippings, or cut leaves. Cover with hay or plant a crop cover, such as winter rye or crimson clover, to protect the soil and provide more nutrients in preparation for the next planting season.


Water Efficient Gardening

by Scott Zeller



Ditch the Sprinkler with These Water-Efficient Landscaping Ideas


From efficient plants to water-smart landscaping, your lawn can certainly do its part to improve water efficiency.

Ready for a shock? The average US household guzzles down 320 gallons of water a day—that’s about nine full bath tubs’ worth of liquid! And about 30 percent of that gets dumped out straight on the lawn. Conventional water sprinklers are so inefficient that about half of all the water they use is totally wasted.

No wonder we’re witnessing record-level droughts. Though a lot of the US has recovered from the catastrophic drought conditions we saw a few years ago, globally, we’re not in the clear. According to the NOAA, almost every continent on the US has been impacted by dry conditions this year. Kenya, in particular, is suffering right now from a record-setting drought, which has been devastating to local farmers and wildlife alike. That’s a pretty big issue to be up against, but fortunately, we can all play a small part in conserving water—right in our own backyards. From efficient plants to water-smart landscaping, your lawn can certainly do its part to keep waste at bay. Read on to find out how.

Mulch the Eco-friendly Way

Mulching bed around the house and bushes, wheelbarrel along with a showel.

Many new gardeners assume that mulching is just for appearances—but did you know it does a lot more for your beds than covering up the dirt? Mulch not only roots out troublesome weeds, it conserves moisture in the soil. A layer of it around plants more closely mirrors natural conditions, since forested areas are typically topped with nutrient-rich plant debris. Inside this mixture of twigs, bark, and leaves are beneficial microbes that subsist off the decaying matter. As these organisms break down organic material, transforming it into soil, they give off a sticky, almost glue-like substance that holds the topsoil together so that it has a crumbly texture. Soil with this texture holds in water much more effectively than other consistencies. Mulching with organic materials like leaves or pine needles kicks off this natural process, so that the soil is less likely to dry out—and it also forms a protective layer that keeps water from evaporating as fast.

Forget the Landscaping—Go for Hardscaping

A professional landscaping job with stone path and stone steps.

Turf is overrated, at least where water conservation is concerned. Hardscaping, the collective name for stone features used to landscape a garden or exterior area, gets points for being drought-tolerant—and when used properly, can really add some modern verve to your lawn. A terraced backyard, for instance, uses stone boundary walls to create multiple tiers—which can then be topped by native plants or beds of pebbles.

Other options? If you have a smaller lawn, try extending your paved patio out further from the back door. Leave openings for attractive beds that provide a peak of color, without being too hard on your water profile. Or add a “dry creek bed” finished with appealing native stones and pebbles—as a bonus, permeable paving like this helps collect rainfall and return it to the soil. Curved paths, steps, and stacked retaining walls all offer notes of interest in the hardscaped yard. And the best part? You’ll never forget to water them!

Spruce Up Your Beds with Ornamental Grasses and Succulents

Cortaderia selloana Grass in the Park Citadel in Barcelona, Spain. The Park is also called Ciutadella Park. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia

Most lawns are pretty thirsty—experts recommend giving your grass about one to two inches of water a week, which is about two-thirds of a gallon for every square foot. That means that if you’ve got quite a bit of turf on your hands, your lawn could be practically guzzling water!

The alternatives take a little more planning—and a designer’s eye—but they’re definitely worth it when you weigh your water footprint. In particular, native ornamental grasses make for a pretty stunning display. Try pairing two species at varying heights for a more polished look. These work well along a fence or border wall, or in place of less drought-tolerant shrubs against your house or beside an entryway. You should try to pick varieties that are native to your area. If you need help with that, the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder can help you identify some that will work.

Succulent gardens also make a nice addition to the water-efficient home. There are a number of desert-hailing plants, such as Yucca, Agave, Sempervivum, Delosperma, Opuntia, and Sedum, that can survive extremely low temps. These species require very little water—in fact, if you live in a rainier part of the country, you may want to cover them occasionally to prevent overwatering. Likewise, you may need to mix coarse sand or pumice to give them the consistency they like. According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, xeriscaped areas in Las Vegas saved the city 39 percent of its annual summer water consumption, so these kinds of improvements definitely have a lasting effect.

When You Do Water, Do It Wisely

Detail of a working lawn sprinkler head watering colorful flower in the garden.

No matter how hardy the plant, most species need a little supplemental watering every once and awhile, especially during the driest parts of the year. Certain techniques definitely are more water-efficient than others, however. For instance, never water your garden during the hottest part of the day. Not only will the water evaporate more quickly, meaning your plants don’t get the good soak they deserve, if the sunlight is very intense, the reflection from the water droplets could damage the leaves.

Likewise, you can adopt practices that will minimize runoff as well. For instance, a short watering—say one to four minutes—three to four times in a day is much more efficient than a long soak. If you must have the sprinkler, turn it off after a rain or in the winter, when most plants are dormant.  Investigate a water-saving smart irrigation system. Using your input, such as your soil type, area, and sun exposure, these WiFi-connected sprinkler controllers are able to create a customized watering schedule that delivers just the right amount of irrigation— no more, no less. Many can even access weather reports to automatically cancel watering if it’s just rained. And the EPA estimates that products labeled with its WaterSense efficiency rating save an average 9,000 gallons of water per household annually. That’s a lot of water for one little change! With updates like these, the future of our water table is right in your hands.

About the Writer

Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner.  She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for Modernize, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.

Alexandra is the Manager of Social Media & Content for Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC. She lives in Hoboken, NJ and loves taking advantage of the many local perks (read: dogs EVERYWHERE) and proximity to Manhattan. Her idea of relaxing is perusing the aisles of Sephora and proofreading copy. No, really.

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Displaying blog entries 1-5 of 5

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The Scott Zeller Team
Coldwell Banker Snow and Wall
1980 Old Fort Parkway
Murfreesboro TN 37129
Mobile: 615-479-4776
Business: 615-893-1130
Fax: 615-893-3246

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