What Has Two Thumbs, Neither of Which Are Green?

I bought a bonsai tree last winter for my office. Two weeks later, all that remained were the branches. Today, it holds a lone Christmas ornament that I’ve decided to display year-round.

I don’t have what you would call a ‘green thumb.’

My inability to care for plants and trees is especially upsetting to my father, who, when he isn’t molding young minds as a middle school English teacher, spends his summers running a landscaping business. He doesn’t seem to understand why I can’t do the bare minimum—such as water my plants. 

Your guess is as good as mine, Pops. 

Fortunately, I’m not responsible for the landscaping at large at my apartment community. Unfortunately, hiring someone far more skilled and responsible than I am can be costly.

Landscape budgets at multifamily housing communities can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars annually when taking into account all the planting, mulching, mowing, fertilizing, pruning and other onsite work needed to maintain a safe and attractive living space.

But regardless the size of your community—or the budget—there are many ways to save on your landscape costs without sacrificing value.

1. Mulch responsibly. 

Mulch, both in planting beds and tree wells, is most effective at a depth of two inches to three inches. Proper mulch depth helps regulate soil temperature, retain the right amount of moisture and suppress weed growth. Laying mulch any deeper can stifle oxygen supply to a plant’s roots and hold too much moisture, which promotes fungal growth and can eventually rot a plant stem or tree trunk.

Heed said advice. I’m all too intimate with the intricacies of fungal growth.

2. Mow strategically.

I mowed my parents’ lawn one time, and one time only. I managed to run over a very large tree stump while struggling to control the mower, which destroyed the blade and got me out of ever having to mow the lawn again. 

Nailed it!

But even for the majority of the population who can successfully mow a lawn, mowing large areas far from the main entrance or common areas consumes a lot of fuel, time and manpower, all of which are reflected in an invoice.

Review the property and determine if a grassy area is used for athletics, aesthetics or not at all. Lawns that aren’t used but mowed regularly might be converted into wildlife meadows for butterflies and other natural insects with infrequent mowing.

3. Convert annuals to perennials.

Although annuals can provide a ‘wow’ factor, they’re also labor- and maintenance-intensive—which comes with a hefty price tag. 

Sort of like beauty queens.

For more tips, check out ‘7 Easy Ways to Trim Your Landscaping Bill’ in the August issue of units Magazine, which mailed Aug. 10. There's even an infographic for this article. Check it out.

Lauren Boston is NAA’s Staff Writer and Manager of Public Relations. Unsurprisingly, she writes a lot—most often for units Magazine and as a weekly blogger for APTly Spoken. She enjoys making people laugh, sharing embarrassing childhood stories and being the (self-proclaimed) Voice of the Apartment Industry. She welcomes feedback, unless it’s negative (in which case, please keep it to yourself).