I don’t know how it got started. Maybe it was from magazines or from the process of shopping for a house. Possibly it was the desire for shade and privacy. It might have been because of trying to control weeds or soften stark structural lines. But somehow, it has become an American tradition to plant right up next to the house. In actuality, the view of the house from the street is not the one most often observed by the resident. Shade is best obtained from trees that grow away from the house. Any garden or lawn has to be watered, thus stimulating weed growth, too.
Ah, yes. Water next to the house. That is the number one reason I have for wanting to move my growing landscaping away from the house. Let me list a few ways that water next to the house is a problem:
- Hard water stains on windows and siding
- Misaligned or broken sprinklers often result in flooding or leakage
- Plants under the eaves are deprived of water from precipitation during the winter or rainy weather, when the sprinklers are not run for the rest of the yard
- If water does collect around the house, there are limited ways for it to drain away, leading to smelly bogs
Other good reasons to move plants away from the house are:
- Plants are a habitat and a highway for insects
- It limits access to the house for maintenance and repair
- Views through the windows get blocked as plants grow
This doesn’t mean that the house has to be left somber and bare. However, I suggest that anywhere under the eaves and within at least 5 feet from the house should be some sort of walkway or patio. Our current house came with a cement sidewalk around about a fourth of it, but I don’t like this. It limits access to the house for adjusting electrical or plumbing issues.
Building pathways with pavers and pea gravel is a good option that I have used for other areas of my garden. Any sort of rock that is conducive to walking should work. It wouldn’t be so impossible to remove and put back. Such a pathway would make everything from window cleaning to gutter maintenance so much easier.
If you want a border of lower growing plants, it could be designed outside of this path. Using drip irrigation for such a border will keep the spraying sprinklers even further from the house. I find that the plants I have under the eaves tend to reach out for the sunlight anyway.
I have a couple of planters that were built attached to the brick of the house. I think I will turn these into benches. They could also be platforms for inanimate yard art. Once you get past thinking only of plants, there are lots of non-water options, which also keep down the weeds!
So, go to your window and take a look at the yard. Think about how your landscaping will look to you:
- During the winter, when the greenery is dormant and you want to put up Christmas decorations and want to use extension cords from outdoor electrical outlets
- During the spring, when you are enjoying the warm sunny view from the window and notice it needs to be washed
- Durring the summer, when you are relaxing in your air conditioning and admiring the heat tolerant annuals through the windows, but the insects can’t get to you
- During the fall, when the leaves are collecting everywhere and you will be making trips to the roof to clean the gutters