If you want to sell a home more quickly, among other considerations, landscapem! In a recent study by the American Association of Nurserymen, two houses of similar size and quality were shown to real estate brokers and homeowners for appraisal. The one was valued at $39,100; the other at $41,500.
The presence of a few established trees on an otherwise indifferently landscaped property made the difference.
The trend was consistent throughout the study. The property with trees was valued more highly than the treeless estate. Respondents to another questionnaire indicated overwhelmingly that a tree-lined street would positively influence their purchase of a home.
If the presence of a few trees alone boosts property values, a nicely landscaped yard, where trees, lawns, and smaller plantings blend well, has even greater appeal. Good landscaping, according to real estate brokers, can readily increase the value of a home by 20 percent - and often much more.
Moreover, not only is the landscaped home more highly valued, but it also sells more rapidly.
The lesson, then, for the person planning to move is clear: Upgrading the landscaping around the present home can make the move speedier and more profitable.
Just as lending institutions generally figure that a person can buy a home worth up to 21/2 times his or her annual income, the real estate industry sees the expenditure of up to 10 percent of the basic value of a home on landscaping to be a valid rule of thumb. As the landscaping matures it readily moves beyond its 10 percent share of the total value of the property.
If one tree is good for your property's value, and two are better, a whole lot aren't necessarily best. Too many trees can so shade an area that it casts gloom over a home and lights frequently have to burn indoors even at high noon. Such a property does not sell easily, if at all.
Strike a balance between shade and light, between tree- and shrub-filled areas and open lawn. If yours is a small yard, do not let one forest giant so dominate the area that nothing else can grow there. Think in terms of scale: A small tree can do as much for a small yard as a large tree can for a meadow.
Thus, if trees can add much to the value of your home, it pays handsomely to look after them. Fortunately, a mighty tree does not need quite the same tender care as a dainty violet. On the other hand, it needs the same water and nutrients as a flower, but in much greater amounts.
Trees have deep roots, which can search out water in dry periods. These same deep roots also bring up needed nutrients. But the bulk of a tree's roots are located within three feet of the surface of the soil. As a result, most of its water and nutrient intake occurs within the top four feet of the surface.
With heavy spring rains, the rule rather than the exception in much of the country this spring, little thought need be given to irrigating trees at present. But it is worthwhile knowing how to do so, because another season can bring along a dearth of rainfall. Young trees, in particular, need regular irrigating in dry weather.
However you apply water - sprinklers, soakers, drip irrigation, or even a hand-held hose - the most important job is to see that it does not run away from the tree. Confine the water within a foot of the drip line, just below the farthest reach of the tree's branches.
Trees also benefit from regular feeding every season. Nitrogen, the element that makes the leaves bright and green, is particularly important. It is also the most soluble, so that after a long wet period there can be less of it around than your tree might need.
According to the Ortho book, ''All About Trees,'' there is a formula for calculating a tree's nitrogen requirements. First, measure the diameter of the tree trunk. Then, for each inch, use one-tenth of a pound of actual nitrogen.
Simply, if a tree is 10 inches in diameter, use one pound of 10 -percent-nitrogen fertilizer, a fertilizer with 10 as the first of the three figures listed on all fertilizer packets (for example, 10-8-7). If the first figure listed is 5, you double the amount of fertilizer applied, because it would be a 5-percent fertilizer.
It is considered best to apply the fertilizer in two feedings - half just as the tree is beginning to leaf out in the spring and the other half in early summer. Don't apply the fertilizer closer than 6 inches to the trunk.
Much nitrogen is released by decaying organic matter, so trees can be fed by simply spreading an inch-thick layer of blackened leaf mold or compost under the tree.