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When you’re about to put your house on the market, it’s easy to forget the yard. The all-too-common results? A scattering of bark dust. Sad pansies drooping along the front walk. Awkward!

The garden plays an oversize role in first impressions. Can you put a price tag on landscaping? Not exactly. But pros say these things do make a difference. “If the outside is untended, it can hint at deferred maintenance elsewhere in the home,” says Colleen Malone, principal broker for Portland’s Moxie Realty. “A cared-for landscape indicates pride of ownership that extends to the entire property.”

Get a head start of at least a month before putting the house on the market, so the final effect isn’t slapdash—and you haven’t yet killed your stuff-to-do-before-I-sell budget. Of course, you could always start years ahead and enjoy your yard before you sell. But whichever way, consider:

1. Big Picture

Take a step back—maybe across the street, or from a passing car—and look at your yard as a prospective homeowner would. It’s a good way to catch obvious problems like overgrown shrubs, leaning trees, or broken walls or sidewalks.

2. Period & Style

Even if the house is not a definitive example of a particular architectural style—maybe it is a simple ’80s box—you can still play up its best qualities with materials, colors, or types of plants.

3. Point of Entry

Add a suitably scaled container, coordinated with the door or house. For sleek, upscale style, try a substantial, simple evergreen plant with an elegant ground cover or stone mulch. Or plant several things in a lively, seasonally appropriate mixed container.

4. Don’t Go Nuts

Avoid permanent design changes that could be deal breakers. This isn’t the time to add a glamorous outdoor kitchen, or to take all the recycled marble slabs from your basement to create a funky patio. Focus on tidying and simplifying what’s already there.

5. Trees

Large trees can close a sale or break a deal, depending on their condition and their relation to the house. If you have a large tree, hire a licensed arborist to look it over, including removing “widow-makers” and any branches jeopardizing the roof or siding.

6. Make It Easy

Big gardens might be valued by fellow gardeners but viewed as a drawback by others. If you’re an avid gardener, clean up and edge the beds, weed, mulch, and prune shrubs and perennials so they look manageable. Consider preparing a plant map with monthly care instructions.

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