Curb Your Enthusiasm

The right garden adds big bucks to value

By Dan Vierria
April 2021

Spring is more than the Easter Bunny and cherry blossoms. As Earth rotates around the sun to fetch spring, there is a strange gravitational impulse to launch landscaping projects. Excavators, backhoe loaders and trenchers descend upon Sacramento neighborhoods to deliver the desired result: curb appeal.

Whether you are selling or staying, curb appeal adds value to homes and pride in home ownership. Consider how many people pass your home by walking, running, cycling or driving, compared to those invited inside. First impression is a lasting one.

In Sacramento’s sizzling real estate market, a stunning front yard will sell any home faster than one down the street with weeds, overgrown shrubs and worn paint. According to a study conducted by the National Association of Realtors and another by Michigan State University, a beautiful front yard will add 5 percent to 11 percent to home value.

“Picture a charming brick cottage with freshly painted shutters and front door, manicured lawn with flower-lined walk leading to a welcoming front porch with potted flowers and comfortable chairs,” says Julie Reardon, executive associate for Lyon Real Estate. “Contrast it with a picture in your mind of poorly kept front lawn, faded front door with old hardware and blank cement porch. Which home do you want to see? I know where I want to go!”

Simply pruning overgrown shrubs that block window light, adding a fresh layer of bark mulch, and power washing walkways and the driveway will improve visual appeal.

Exterior lighting, an attractive mailbox and a window box of flowers are easy upgrades.

Those considering tearing it all out may want to consider a modern landscape suited to today’s challenges.

Curb appeal once embraced big, bright green areas of lawn, but the shift has been to eco-friendly or sustainable landscapes. Millennials are especially wired to eco-friendly as they migrate to single-family homes. If properly done, a landscape that reduces water usage, chemical pesticides and maintenance is desirable and saves money.

A smaller patch of lawn for children and pets may be the right plan for your family. Others are discarding all the lawn and converting sprinklers to drip irrigation systems. Paying the mow-and-blow gardeners monthly is one reminder of the cost of large areas of lawn.

Another is the water bill. Lawns require an abundance of maintenance and water. Drought is a constant threat in the West, prompting city and county watering restrictions and water district rate hikes.

Sacramento landscape designer Roberta Walker of Roberta Walker Landscape Design specializes in sustainable, low-maintenance and water-efficient gardens.

“Although getting rid of your lawn to create a water-wise landscape is a great idea, don’t take out all of the plants and blanket the entire area with crushed rock,” Walker says. “Do remove the plants that are unhealthy, try adding a dry cobble stream or new flagstone pathway to create a flow. Add a few boulders and remember to put down a weed barrier before using any type of rock as a top dressing.”

Water features should not be in the middle of the yard, but close to the house by the entry, Walker advises. Sacramento’s summer heat can quickly evaporate water, so placing a water feature in an area that receives plenty of shade is a good idea.

“Hot sun exposure will not only evaporate the water quickly, but sun, plus water, equals algae,” Walker says.
All successful landscaping projects require planning. Choose plants wisely for a front yard that will elicit compliments from neighbors.

“Don’t buy a bunch of plants and plant them helter-skelter,” Walker says. “Do ask about the plants that you are buying and take note of how big they will get. Plant the larger growing shrubs on the perimeter and graduate the sizes of the plants down as you come to walkways. Also, do not plant annuals. Put those in pots by your front door.”

Walker’s favorite water-efficient plants can be found at For plant choices and landscaping information, visit

Good luck and remember: Your home’s appeal begins at the curb.

Dan Vierria is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener for Sacramento County. He can be reached at For answers to gardening questions, contact the UCCE Master Gardeners at (916) 876-5338, email or visit Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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