Landscaping can add beauty, value and functionality to a home.
However, before you actually start buying plants or digging into
your yard, it is essential you take a look at your yard and think
about what you need to do and what you want to accomplish with your
landscaping. Start out by answering the following questions:
1. Are there problems with the yard, house, etc. that need correcting
- problems such as drainage, erosion, areas where the sun beats
down that need to be shaded, etc.
2. Do you have specific needs and priorities? Are you looking for
a place for a flower bed or a vegetable garden or just a patio sitting
area for relaxing? Other considerations may be if you have children
or pets or if you want to do a lot of outdoor entertaining.
3. Consider the style of your house and the size of your yard. A
small house can be overpowered by using big trees, but a large house
and yard can be empty without them.
4. What do you have existing in the yard? Do the existing trees
provide much needed shade or are they old and in need of pruning
or perhaps even need to be removed? Are there specimen plants you
want to keep? Or do you have large, overgrown shrubs and perennials
that need pruned or even removed?
5. How much light do you have to work with? Certain plants require
almost full sun while others thrive in the shade.
6. What is your budget? Can you do your landscaping over several
seasons or do you have projects that need to be completed all at
7. Are there significant features that need to be emphasized or
hidden - things such as rock outcroppings, phone poles, sheds trash
Garden Design Tips
When a landscape is thoughtfully planned, it does more than beautify
the property: It can provide recreation areas and places to entertain.
Well placed trees and shrubs can cut down on heating and cooling
costs. A good design can also add more living space to your home
in the warm seasons and provide a window to the natural world during
Although the task of actually landscaping might seem overwhelming,
begin by answering the above points and then start by putting together
a site inventory map or sketch of the yard. This will include the
house, lot lines, major features, large trees, fences, sheds, etc.
Also make note of other neighboring influences - noisy neighbors,
dusty roads, and prevailing winds.
Then get ideas. Look around the neighborhood and see what plants
do well, and also make note of plants that appear to be suffering.
Visit neighboring gardens and garden centers, and look at gardening
books at a local bookstore or library.
The next step is to prepare a bubble diagram. The easiest way to
do this is to place tracing paper over your site inventory map and
casually sketch in various areas - garden areas, patio areas, lawn
areas, etc. This helps to make sure that the entire area is unified
into one design, rather than just a scattering of plants.
From the bubble diagram the next step is to get the drawing more
formalized. Add in the specifics in your bubble areas. For garden
or planting beds, draw in circles for plants, for patios, fences,
retaining walls, trellis use squares and lines. Make the drawing
to scale, the general scales used are 1 to 8 or 1 to 10. By drawing
to scale the appropriate number of trees, footage for walls, amount
of mulch, etc. can be determined.
Once your drawings are completed begin estimating your costs. Get
prices from various nurseries for your supplies and start your work!
Remember not to cross your work.
A cubic yard of soil, compost or mulch fills about:
320 square feet to a depth of 1 inch
107 square feet to a depth of 3 inches
160 square feet to a depth of 2 inches
80 square feet to a depth of 4 inches
A ton of ¼ to ¾ inch diameter
rock spread 2 inches deep will cover 110-120 square feet
A ton of sand or pea gravel spread to 2 inches
deep will cover 100-120 square feet
To Save Money
1) Design and plan your landscape before you buy.
2) Shop around and watch for sales. Many nurseries and garden centers
offer the same types of plants and landscape supplies and the prices
can vary tremendously.
3) For trees and shrubs - buy bareroot stock instead of containerized
plants. Many online and mail order nurseries offer bareroot plants.
4) Time your purchases. Save money on trees, perennials, shrubs,
soils and mulch by buying late in the season (if you can). Newly
released plant varieties are often quite expensive. If you can,
wait until the variety of plant variety you want has been out on
the market for a season or two before buying.
5) Buy mulches and soil in bulk quantities. Mulches can generally
be purchases by the yard much cheaper than buying by individual
2-3 cubic foot bags. If you don't have a pickup to transport materials,
ask the nursery or garden center if you can bag up bulk materials
in garbage bags or baskets.
6) Consider buying smaller plants and when possible start perennials
7) Talk to a professional. You may not need a landscape architect
to design your whole project, but a $50 to $100 consultation is
well worth the money it saves you from costly mistakes.
Other practical points to think about:
Trees, benches, planters, bird baths, and sculptures can
be used as focal points.
Outdoor rooms can be created by the use of hedges, borders
and fences which will create "walls" to separate your
Curved paths allow for a garden to gradually reveal itself
Hire a professional landscape architect to help through
problem areas or to provide additional design ideas
If landscaping the entire yard is overwhelming, hire a landscape
contractor to lay in retaining walls, patios or other tough or difficult
hardscaping areas and then do the plantings or easier hardscaping
If necessary, install the landscaping in phases.