America spends nearly $40 billion a year growing a "crop" it can't eat, wear, export, or, well, smoke.

That's because more than 8 in 10 Americans say this vegetation offers a different kind of yield.

It's grass. The other green money.

Watching it grow is a bore, helping it grow is a chore, but grass -- as a well-manicured lawn -- is the crown jewel of curb appeal.

A survey of 1,000 adults conducted for outdoor power equipment engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton Corp. of Wauwatosa, WI, by Market Facts found that 82 percent of Americans believe a lawn's appearance plays an important role in a home purchase decision.

In a Gallup survey indicating the value people place on landscaping, 44.1 percent of U.S. homeowners surveyed said an increased real estate market value was the most important benefit of well-maintained landscaping.

While cost-vs-value statistics aren't tracked for landscaping, the National Gardening Association says if your home's landscaping is on par with your neighbors, you could be looking at as much as a 15 percent increase in the value of your home.

It's no wonder consumers last year spent $39.6 billion lawns and gardens last year, according to the the association.

"While the increase has been fueled by a maturing baby boomer population and a spike in home buying, people are also clueing in to the fact that it can add dollars to their home's value," said Rose Getch, the association's spokeswoman who has an unforgettable email address -- "".

Experts say well-manicured lawns and landscaping helps frame other elements of curb appeal involved with renewing and upgrading the exterior of your home, provided the landscaping is tidy, simple, healthy and installed in proportion with your home.

The Briggs & Stratton survey also revealed that prospective home buyers' are turned off by yard trash, bare patches, overgrown grass, weeds and lawn ornaments -- gnomes and pink flamingos.

Well-manicured landscaping is a value-added feature to homes because it helps create a positive first impression and when home buyers have limited time to look at a home, first impressions can be the basis for a decision to go inside to see what else is in store. Once inside, there's a greater chance a buyer will make the home his or her own.

"Improving curb appeal allows you to leverage each dollar into an increased multiple of the amount spent," said Stephen Richard Levine, of Franzel Mortgage Consultants in Westlake Village, CA.

From a practical view, the plants and trees also provide shade and passive cooling as they control erosion, cut down on pollution and emit oxygen.

The original "green" approach to home improvements, landscaping provides the best return for your money when you practice sound gardening techniques. Briggs & Stratton's Yard Doctor, Trey Rogers, Ph.D., is a turfgrass expert who offers the following advice to keep you lawn in the green.

  • Never cut more than one-third of the grass blade during a mowing. The remaining two-thirds will develop deep roots and spread out, eventually creating a dense, healthy turf. Fore!
  • Change the pattern when mowing the lawn. Start at the 12 o'clock position and mow to the 6 o'clock position. Next time, begin at the 9 o'clock position and mow to the 3 o'clock position. This prevents turf and soil compacting and wheel patterns from forming in your lawn and gives it a nice stadium look.
  • Don't rake. Leave grass clippings on the lawn for added nutrients
  • Water early in the day to maintain moist grass.
  • Control weeds early. Apply herbicide to grassy weeds, such as crabgrass, in the spring, and to broadleaf weeds, like dandelions, in the fall.
  • Avoid a fertilizer overdose. Too much of a good thing can be harmful.
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