Springtime is the gardener's paradise. Mild temperatures, sunshine, a bag of bulbs and a patch of possibilities—it's the ideal time to improve the look and effectiveness of your home's landscape. This spring, you can reduce your water and electricity consumption and keep more money in your pocket in the short- and long-term by implementing some of the following landscaping tips and techniques.

Consider your microclimate

When planning the layout of a new yard or looking for the right plant for a specific spot, it's important to determine the microclimate in which your home resides. A microclimate is an area where temperature and weather patterns differ from surrounding areas; the type of microclimate you live in affects the types of plants you can grow.

For instance, in a cool region, consisting mostly of the Midwest and Northwest states, you'll want to ensure that winter sun is able to reach south-facing windows, which means you should avoid installing trees that will grow tall and block that side of the house. Or for a home in a hot, arid region like southern Arizona, you might plant low shrubbery to use summer winds to your advantage.

Stay cool with shading

Energy.gov calls shading the most cost-effective method to reduce solar heat gain in your home and cut air conditioning costs. To properly utilize shade, it is recommended that you do some research to learn the size, shape and location of the shadow a tree will cast. Pay special attention to how the tree sheds leaves in winter time, as gaps will allow more sunlight to hit your home's exterior. Whereas deciduous trees go bare at the end of fall, evergreens keep their foliage throughout the year.

Make the most of your water use

Wasting water is one of the quickest ways to rack up an unnecessarily high bill each month. The U.S. Department of Energy provides tips for smartly utilizing water to lower costs, some of which include keeping your lawn height higher in the summer to retain more water, updating mulch to keep plant roots cool and grouping together plants that require similar watering needs.

Block wind for fewer drafts

Similar to shading, blocking the amount of wind that hits your home is another way to minimize the effects natural elements have on your energy bill. According to energy.gov, you can cut fuel consumption by an average of 40 percent by breaking winds that originate from the north, west and east of your home. Some common techniques for doing so include installing a fence or evergreen trees to deflect wind over the roof, planting low shrubbery in areas with high snow rates to keep snow from blowing against walls, and strategically planting trees on either side of your home to funnel cooling summer winds.

For more advice on tactical landscaping, visit your local nursery or garden center.

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