Down the Garden Path

Having completely renovated the inside of our home last year, my wife and I had gotten somewhat used to forking out for some hefty contractor bills. But we were in for a shock when we first started getting quotes for how much landscaping the outside would cost. One quote was just shy of $80,000. Yes, our jaws dropped when we read that too. And, no, we weren’t talking about adding statues, fountains, and an in-ground pool to acres of space. This was for what we thought was a fairly basic, city-sized project. So we pared back a bit on what we wanted, shopped around for a few more quotes, and eventually settled on a price that was less than a quarter of what that over-the-top bill would have been. But regardless of what you pay, is landscaping, and adding a garden in particular, money well spent?

Dollars and sense

Some home renovations, like an upgraded kitchen or bathroom, are often a good investment for boosting the resale value of a home (and marketed as such by contractors). But the Appraisal Institute of Canada estimates that you’ll only see a 25 to 50 percent return on your investment for landscaping. (The AIC has a handy tool on their website called Renova, that helps owners calculate the approximate ROI for 25 common reno projects)

And the things that are going to command a higher return are the eye-catching elements in a yard, like a beautiful flagstone patio or, items like in-ground sprinklers or even plastic lawns, that will appeal to those who want to minimize the amount of yard work they do.

But what about a patch of garden? There’s likely to be some appeal for first-time owners or condo dwellers looking forward to spending time working in the outdoors at their own place. On the other hand, a serious buyer who has no time for or interest in gardening should be able to recognize that it’s relatively cheap and easy to pull out a garden and replace it with turf, or whatever else they envision for that spot.

So, in the end, it comes down to what you want to do.

Enjoy it while you’ve got it

As with most home-related expenses, the ultimate decision comes down to lifestyle and how long you expect to be around to enjoy them. If your home is just a transitional one, and you know you’ll be upsizing, downsizing, or otherwise relocating within a couple of years, it probably doesn’t make sense to invest the time and effort in starting a garden.

Likewise, if you’re lucky enough to own a cottage, or don’t consider the summer complete without a two- or three-week vacation away from home, investing heavily in a garden may not be ideal for you. After all, if you can’t find an enthusiastic and knowledgeable green-thumb to tend to it while you’re away, you’re likely to find your lush patch of paradise has turned into a brown, withered mess in your absence.

But there are definitely advantages to being able to grow your own produce, not least of which is the fact you can’t get any more local than the field out back. And, rather than paying a premium for organics at the market, you can just raise your own.

If you’re a bit intimated by the thought of it, start small. Even a couple planter boxes with some fresh herbs can be enough to inspire you to continue greening your thumb. There are also a number of plant species that will grow with almost no maintenance, including annuals (meaning you plant them once and they come back year after year) like rhubarb, green onions, and herbs like mint or parsley.

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