Image of water-conserving shrubs and flowers in a rental home garden.

Landscaping Tips

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

As regions across the US experience periods of drought, cities are calling on landlords and homeowners to conserve water or face stiff fines. Take a look at these helpful tips to convert your lawn into an eco-friendly garden that saves water and beautifies your property.

Keeping monthly costs down on rental property can be a real challenge. One way to combat these expenses is to make a small investment into changes that will result in long-term savings. If you’re watering your lawn daily or a few times a week to keep your real estate investment looking great, you may be throwing your hard-earned money down the drain. But with a few key tweaks, you can drastically decrease your water consumption without sacrificing curb appeal.

As an increasing number of communities across the US are experiencing extended periods of drought, municipalities are enacting water restrictions as a result. By swapping out your lawn with water-conserving plants, you’ll be more likely to avoid the fines these areas have charged real estate owners for overuse. Take a look at these landscaping tips that conserve water, and save money by converting your lawn to eco-friendly plants and shrubs.

The Reasons Why Landscaping Is Important to Tenants

There are many great reasons to consider landscaping as an investment that will pay off in many ways. Firstly, it’s important to tenants to see that the place is well-kept. It tells them that the landlord or property management company has invested in the real estate, and that translates into a positive first impression. And reliable tenants may be seeking a home where some opportunity to garden exists.

There are the financial benefits that come with a water-conserving garden. You’ll be keeping the water bills down and potentially improving your property’s real estate value with attractive flowers, plants and shrubs.

If you find a good tenant that’s willing to sign but has reservations about gardening, give them the option to outsource the work. By including an optional landscaping fee into the lease agreement, you may be able meet in the middle. Your property benefits from the improvement, and your tenant gets to enjoy the upgrade.

Choose Plants Native to Your Area

To preserve water, landlords are changing the landscape of their property. They’re swapping out thirsty vegetation with water-conserving native plants. And in doing so — they’re surprised to find that the savings can be substantial. If you’ve got a green thumb and want to save some cash on your utility bills, getting your hands dirty and planting a garden may be a great way to spend a few weekend afternoons.

Save by Ordering Drought-tolerant Plants and Seeds Online

A great way to keep costs down is to get seedlings sprouting before spring has sprung. Seedlings should be hearty and ready for transplanting into your garden once the evening temps climb well above freezing. Groups like Seed Savers or Burpee Seeds and Plants have a wide variety of perennial vegetation that you can grow from the seed up. The benefit of selecting perennial varieties is that they’ll come back bigger and more beautiful next year.

You can always pick up seedlings at your local gardening center if you’re pressed for time, but they may cost you more. Some mail order groups will send young plants online which can be a cost effective option.

Pull Up the Lawn

If you’re thinking this is going to be a big job to take on, you’re right. It may be best to outsource this project to a professional landscape group. Because you’ll have the old lawn to haul away, you’re wise to get on the calendar of a local landscaper that can get the removal job for you done quickly. Keep in mind that the money you spend upfront will likely be returned in utility savings later.

Put Down a Botanical Garden

Once the lawn’s up, plant those perennial flowers that need less water. Sourcing tall prairie grasses and other dense vegetation can help beautify and add dimension to your new garden. Black-eyed Susans and lupine are a few examples of colorful flowers that won’t require a lot of watering in order to look great.

Install Rain Barrels and Have an Overflow Plan

By hooking rain barrels into your existing waste water downspouts, you’ll be able to conserve even more water. But be aware — this project may be a bit more complicated than it first appears. If you’re not that handy, get a professional to install your rain barrels for a number of important reasons:

Rain barrels, when full, are really heavy. A 55-gallon drum topped-off with water can weigh as much as 460 pounds. Depending on the location of the downspout, you may have to dig out and pour a small concrete pad to act as a foundation for the barrel.

Rain barrels need to be elevated. Usually, a series of cinder blocks can be used to elevate the rain barrel. Again, a rain barrel professional should be hired to get the job done so the platform is stable and safe.

Overflow management is key. Because the barrel will likely need to reside close to the exterior wall of your property, it’s really important to have a plan for dealing with overflow after the barrel is full. Your go-to installers are able to outfit the rain barrel with reliable outflow ports, helping to ensure that the water is sent away from your foundation and kept out of your basement.

Use Organic Mulch to Reduce Evaporation

Organic matter, when added to your soil, can really help save water. And it’s a great weed inhibitor as well. If you’re collecting leaves and grass clippings and have a compost bin on your property, spread that material over the topsoil to help trap moisture. Compost also benefits your plants because it improves soil health and can reduce the likelihood of fungal disease that can kill plants and vegetables.

Pebbles, Pavers and Limestone Keep Garden Walkways Porous

Create permanent and visually attractive pathways through your garden with the addition of pebbles, bricks and limestone slabs. Store-bought, water-porous pavers can be used as well, offering the benefit of water flow directly through the brick into the soil below. But, be aware all of these will retain heat in direct sunlight and can accelerate evaporation in nearby soil.

Group Plants by Their Water Appetite

Mindfully design your garden so that you’ll know where — and how much — to water in each region. Plants that demand more water are best grouped near one another so you’ll only have to soak limited areas. Focusing these areas within reach of a rain barrel will also help you to use that source first.

By dedicating a small patch of space for growing vegetables in this high water zone, your tenants can get involved in tending the plot, if they’re up for it. They benefit from getting their hands dirty and you’ll find they’re more invested in treating your rental as their own.

Install Drip Irrigation Systems

These watering systems feed your plants economically and can be connected into an existing irrigation and sprinkler systems. Low-pressure water flows through PVC and the water gets distributed through “spaghetti” drip tubes with pinpoint accuracy. Your garden will flourish and it won’t be overwatered.

Who is Responsible for Landscaping Upkeep

Lastly, be sure your lease assigns the tenant as the responsible entity that will be obligated to maintain the garden and cut the grass. Remember to include terms discussing fines or penalties for non-compliance as well. This way, if they neglect their responsibilities, you’ll have the option to seek funds to remedy the situation. And if your tenant has opted to pay for that service, verify that the whole of the lease is updated.

And just like that, you’re done. Your rental looks great, and you’ve got an opportunity to showcase your work with updated marketing photos that can set your place apart from the competition!

As you’re getting organized and working on your plan to reduce water consumption, get in touch with your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab). Discuss upcoming improvement plans and remember to spend some time revisiting your landlord insurance. Your agent can help you make the most of your insurance and knows great ways to save through bundling your products and applying discounts that really can make a big difference to your bottom line.

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