Landscaping for Less Many Cost-Cutting Measures are Available

The current economic climate has associations looking under every rock for cost savings, including their landscaping budgets.

Landscaping expenses vary greatly depending on the location, size and terrain of the community property. However, one commonality prevails among all communities: landscaping and property value will always maintain an interconnected balance. “You can easily devalue your property by letting the landscaping go.” states Gary Chase, maintenance operations manager for Valley Crest Landscape Development in Brighton, Massachusetts. “It is important to keep that balance in check.”

Are there strategies that communities can put in place that work to lower their overall landscaping budget without lowering the value of property? The quick answer: Yes! There are a number of strategies that associations can adopt and successfully maintain a professional landscaping “look” while cutting costs.

Lawn care

Communities should examine first one of the biggest landscaping cash sinkers: Lawn care. When attempting to lower landscaping costs, one of the first solutions turned to by associations is reducing lawn care visits per season. This solution is a viable one considering lawn maintenance is one of the most costly endeavors in an association’s landscaping budget — but it should be thought out and reviewed carefully. “There are a lot of problems with cutting down on lawn care visits. Grass will get too long and then be cut too short. It harms the grass and in the long run will cost money,” cautions Chase. Dramatic cuts may be unwise, but even a slight revision in the lawn care schedule can yield noticeable budget savings. On average, communities will contract for 26 to 28 visits (per season) which include cutting and fertilizing. Chase estimates that by lowering or eliminating as few as three visits per season, associations could find a 10% savings without seeing a huge loss in looks –savings reaped not only in service charges, but also in fertilizer costs.

Communities may find that a simple review of the lawn sprinkler system will bear savings, too. Timed sprinkler systems are a pet peeve of Suzanne Greco, a retired gardening consultant in Pepperell, Massachusetts. Greco believes that condos “should regulate their timed sprinkler systems more closely.” Sprinklers that come on automatically during a rainstorm are wasting both water and electricity, she says.

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2 Comments

  • Betsy Carbo - Horticulturist on Monday, January 4, 2010 10:24 AM
    Please learn your plant material. All of your suggestions for groundcovers are considered invasives in most regions
  • Although the ground covers mentioned -- vinca, ivy and pachysandra – can be considered mildly invasive, depending on the local region, the good news is they can be easily controlled and are good solutions for many properties. Harvard and Yale have had good luck controlling their ivy while it has contributed to their signature looks. Vinca major (periwinkle) is beloved for its ability to spruce up properties around the region. Pachysandra is also available in a non-invasive variety, pachysandra terminalis. The best answer to the appropriateness of planting these types of ground cover at any New England community association would come from a local landscape or garden consultant who is familiar with the property.