How to hide, camouflage and
add the finishing touch

In a perfect world, you would have the time, energy and budget to create your dream yard. It would have everything that matters most to you. Maybe more privacy, less watering or more year-round color. It might be larger, smaller, flatter, greener, sunnier or lower maintenance. It’s good to dream. And it’s good to have a long-range plan that you can tackle over time, too.

In the meantime, we like to make the most of the yards we live in. And there are plenty of ways to do this in an imperfect world.

What’s a Curb Appeal Project? 

Curb appeal projects focus on small and/or highly visible areas that can be transformed in a weekend, even a day if you’re feeling invincible. These are projects that will get noticed from the curb (surprising, right?) but will be appreciated just as much from the patio or front porch. In other words, you’ll enjoy the results as much, if not more than your neighbors and guests.

Curb appeal projects can be part of your long-term landscape plan or they can be small but beautiful ways to help you enjoy your yard right now. We’ve pulled together three that we think pass the ‘time, energy and budget’ barriers

hide-air-conditioner-with-landscaping1) Hide Your Utilities

Obviously these boxes have important functions. But we’re still a little confused why power companies need to place ugly electrical transformer boxes in such visible areas. So our goal is to bring a little form to the function.

Soft-scaping these areas with plants will refocus attention and add visual interest to otherwise ignored areas of your yard. A blessing in disguise? We think so. There are plenty of beautiful ways to transform the area, but there are a few important things to remember.

  • Never conceal a fire hydrant. 
  • Always, always call before you dig (Call 811)
  • Take advantage of some tips and shortcuts: 
    • Use a garden hose to outline your desired bed shape.
    • Use a soil knife, spade or gas or electric-powered edger to cut around the hose being careful to observe the utility markings
    • Cut down 4-6 inches with your spade
    • Remove sod around edges and over entire bed by hand or remove around the edges and lay cardboard or newspaper over the majority of the bed. The cardboard and newspaper will help prevent weeds and the organic material will break down over time.
    • Add pre-emergent weed prevention if you do not use a layer of cardboard or newspaper. You can also do both.
    • We recommend choosing fast-growing perennials with a full, bushy habit for the best camouflage and colorful or textural annuals for seasonal interest.
    • See our Step-by-Step Planting Guide

Things you’ll need: 

  • shovel
  • spade, soil knife and/or gas or electric-powered edger
  • cardboard or newspaper
  • fast-growing perennials and shrubs (ask us for recommendations)
  • soil amendment
  • mulch

hide-mailbox-with-landscaping2) Camouflage the Area Around Your Lamp and Mailbox Posts

These areas are notorious time wasters when you’re mowing and edging (and touching up the paint on your mailbox post…over and over again) and normally lacking personality. It’s often easy to create a small bed (sometimes butting up to your driveway) where you can camouflage the post and soften the edges a little.

These areas are already focal points because of their size and placement. But now the view will be worth the attention. Follow some of the same guidelines as you used for hiding utilities:

  • Always, always call before you dig (Call 811)
  • Take advantage of some tips and shortcuts: 
    • Use a garden hose to outline your desired bed shape.
    • Use a soil knife, spade or gas or electric-powered edger to cut around the hose being careful to observe any utility markings
    • Cut down 4-6 inches with your spade
    • Remove sod around edges and over entire bed by hand or remove around the edges and lay cardboard or newspaper over the majority of the bed. The cardboard and newspaper will help prevent weeds and the organic material will break down over time.
    • Add pre-emergent weed prevention if you do not use a layer of cardboard or newspaper. You can also do both.
    • See our Step-by-Step Planting Guide
    • We have plenty of ideas and all the gorgeous plants you’ll need, but we still love to find inspiration on Pinterest here and Houzz here and here as much as the next person. See if something calls your name and let us know if you need help making it happen.

Things you’ll need: 

  • shovel
  • spade, soil knife and/or gas or electric-powered edger
  • cardboard or newspaper
  • plant material (ask us for recommendations)
  • soil amendment
  • mulch

edge-and-mulch-DIY-Weekend-Project3) Edge and Mulch
(or just mulch)

One of the ultimate curb-appeal projects. Your time commitment will be shaped largely by how focused you are on the details. For established beds with existing mulch, you may be able to get away with spreading a fresh 1-2 inches of mulch (especially near the edges) and call it a day.

For new beds and ones that have weathered a rough winter, wet spring or a lot of foot traffic, you will need to define/redefine the edges. Here’s how to make it happen:

  • Outline your desired bed shape with a garden hose. Some people use spray paint, but the hose allows you to readjust easily. 
  • Use a soil knife for small areas or a sharp spade or round-blade edger on wheels to create a sharp and distinct edge around the hose. 
  • Use your spade to cut to a depth of 4-6 inches to loosen and remove the sod by hand. Trim the edge of the grass vertically with hand pruning sheers for an even cleaner line. 
  • Add 2-3 inches of quality, hardwood mulch that will nourish the soil as it decomposes. Mound the mulch and slope down toward the clean edge. 

Things you’ll need: 

  • good sharp spade, soil knife or gas or electric powered edger (recommended for smooth curves)
  • hand pruning sheers
  • cardboard, newspaper and/or pre-emergent weed inhibitor
  • fertilizer (10-10-10 or organic Chickity Doo Doo)
  • hardwood mulch (figure out how much you need)

For help choosing your plant material, visit the garden center and ask an expert. For more personalized suggestions and plant recommendations, snap a photo of your area and schedule a Snapshot Gardening appointment with a landscape designer. It’s always a great place to start.