For most people, looking neat, attractive and well-groomed ranks high on their list of priorities.  They have the same expectations for where they live – in fact, according to a recent industry survey, over 70% of homebuyers consider curb appeal an important factor when choosing a community.  

Some community common area elements, like sidewalks and roads, can depreciate in value over time, but well maintained landscaping, trees and foliage can actually enhance property values – and residents’ sense of pride.  So it’s no surprise that many community associations take steps to protect these important assets with an effective and well-executed landscape maintenance plan.  Not sure where to start?  We’ve got the dirt!  Here are five guidelines to help your association rake in the rewards of good landscaping maintenance.  

1. Your mower or mine?

If your community is small, you may be able to perform the necessary landscaping maintenance tasks in-house.  But for most HOAs, professional landscaping companies are the way to go.  If you live in a managed community, your property manager will work with your Board or grounds maintenance committee to select and oversee the right landscaping firm, arborist, tree-care company and other trusted service providers to meet your needs.  If your community is self-managed, a good property management company can point you toward quality contractors.

2. Whack those weeds.

Weeds detract from the beauty of your lawn and landscaping, so show them who’s boss.  You can go low-tech by pulling them manually, treat them with chemical weed killers or use natural ingredients, like hot water, soap or vinegar.  Weigh your needs and the consequences – for example, chemical methods work quickly and efficiently, but may harm the environment, while natural methods take longer to work and are more labor-intensive. Here’s another suggestion – plant more!  All growing things compete for resources like water, sunlight and nutrients, so if you plant more flowers, bushes and shrubbery and maintain a lush, healthy lawn, they’ll naturally keep the weeds at bay.

3. Life’s a garden, so dig it.

What should you plant?  Start with the grass, tree and plant species known to thrive in your area – everything from local climate and rainfall, to your community’s soil conditions, maintenance budget and resources should be taken into account.  Once you have a list, it’s a good idea for your association or an outside contractor to create a landscaping design plan to ensure all your choices have enough sunlight, water and space for their roots to grow.  After you plant, be sure to perform all necessary maintenance on an ongoing basis, like enriching poor soil, mowing grass to its optimal height, watering regularly and fertilizing as needed to help your garden grow healthy and strong.  

4. Save the trees.

Trees not only provide shade, majesty and beauty to your community, but they’re also a tangible asset.  Keeping your community’s trees remain well trimmed, pruned, fertilized and mulched will help protect their value by keeping them healthy and disease-free, so be sure they receive regular TLC from association staff or tree-care professionals.  Insider tip: maintaining your community’s other landscape elements, like grass or plants, may have unintended consequences for your trees.  For example, in arid regions like Arizona, even occasional lawn and turf watering can harm adjacent trees that have adapted to dry soil conditions.  A good property management company can clue you in to the details you need to consider to keep all of your landscaping happy and healthy.  

5. Get smarter.

Information, please. Plant the seeds of learning by educating yourself about grass, shrubs, trees and grounds maintenance – it will go a long way to helping your association fulfill its fiduciary duty to protect your community’s assets.  Fertile sources of info about landscaping and grounds maintenance include professional landscaping service providers, community association management companies, nearby universities and colleges, the local Cooperative Extension Services and the Internet.

Taking proactive steps to maintain your trees and landscaping can rake in numerous benefits for your association, like increasing curb appeal, supporting community growth, and enhancing the quality of life for you and your neighbors.  For more grounds maintenance and landscaping tips and insights, contact FirstService Residential today. 

Friday March 27, 2015