Alex’s Lawn and Turf Blog

Lawn care tips from the experts

Long-Term Landscape Plan for Homeowner Associations

August 16th, 2012

Over grown shrubs, tree branches hanging so low that the grass is dead underneath, lifeless and sparse bushes scattering the property, and rock beds infested with weeds- these are common problems faced by associations who have not done proper planning for their landscape needs. The solution to this problem is deeper than daily maintenance and upkeep – it requires developing a long-term plan. The long-term plan starts with a vision of how the community will look in the future and assists in developing a budget in order to ensure that funds are available when needed.

Every homeowner association needs to ask themselves this question – what is our vision for the property in the long term? The key here is forward planning – not only for one year down the road, but 15 and 30 years as well. The initial landscape plan laid the foundation, large trees and slower growing plants, shrubs and ornamentals. The original design was put in place to make sure the property looked good for the first couple years to attract buyers, but was not designed for ten years down the road. The yearly installation of flowering annuals, re-mulching, and a knowledgeable horticulture-based grounds maintenance provider, continually adds to the success of the long-term beautification plan. However these weekly and yearly efforts will have limited success if a long-term plan is not in place.

In addition to developing your vision, a good long-term landscape plan will assist in developing a timeline and budget for major replacements of hardscape (roads, patios) and softscape (plants and rock). Some necessary considerations in developing your landscape plan are the life of your retaining walls, concrete, asphalt and landscape rock. Retaining walls last about 25 years; after this time they may no longer be able to perform their function, and may begin to look less than desirable. Concrete driveways last for 20 years, where as asphalt lasts for approximately 15 years. Landscape rock beds and ornamental shrubs last about 15 years, where structural shrubbery can last up to 50 years. This type of information needs to be kept in mind when making your initial landscape investment and planning for future budgeting purposes. As a rule of thumb your landscape will need major overhauls every 15-20 years.

Establishing a long-range landscape plan starts with communication of the individual property’s landscape needs to all residence, a willing board to look long-term and a knowledgeable landscape company or horticulture consultant. This can be the most difficult part to getting the plan started, everyone realizing the need for planning before things are out of control and the budget is being spent patching day to day issues and gaining no ground.

With the original landscape plan growing and aging, it is time to take control of your community or to modify your existing long-term landscape plan. The most important part of long-term planning is to rely on good people. A professional landscape expert or company who understands the needs of homeowner associations and your particular landscape needs. Working with a professional to identify the areas of the landscape that will need maintenance or replacement and in what time frame those projects will need to be funded and budgeted for. As well as clearly laying out the long-term vision and enhancements to the community so the goal of enhancing the property is not lost by the day to day fires.

You must plan for the unexpected, trees hitting the roof, shrubs are growing too rapidly or not growing at all, something has eaten all the flowers off the roses, not to mention that low area that always stays wet, and as the season change snow is piling up and extra hauling is required, and the site is not safe do to all the ice, and additional salt needs to be applied. Many of these day to day issues will be minimized by your long term plan but when working with Mother Nature there will always be unpredictable issues, as well as landscape beds that will always need adjusting to keep up with the growing plants and trees. At a minimum, properties less than 15 years old should reserve 20% of the landscape budget and properties greater than 15 years should reserve 30% for extra yearly services above and beyond weekly grounds maintenance contract so the property is maintained properly and the forecasted service life of the landscape is met or exceeded.

Think of a long-term landscape plan as a beautification plan; a way to beautify each home and the community as a whole for now and many years to come. First impressions count and the beauty of a community is showcased by well-planned and well maintained landscaping in the common areas. Choose a lawn care/landscape company who will work closely with your homeowner association board and managers to create a multi-year, environmentally sustainable landscaping plan that works within your budget. Your landscaping must reflect your goals, the beauty of your community and stay beautiful throughout changing seasons.

For professional planning and consulting Alex Shuda, President Alex’s Lawn and Turf,LLC (651) 247-1444Alex's Lawn & Turf

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