It is a comforting, time-honored tradition for those who love gardening to snuggle in over the long winter months with a steaming drink and catalogs (or your laptop) full of the stuff of landscape dreams. What do I want my outdoor space to look like this year?
Now is the time to plan your landscape!
The first step is to give your imagination free rein. It’s a lovely summer afternoon. A few friends come over. We step out the back door onto an artistically crafted New Mexico buff sandstone patio and into the cool inviting shadow of a spreading shade tree. We are welcomed by the soft percolating gurgles of the natural boulder water feature in the corner, and the scent of the wisteria that cascade gracefully over the arching trellis.
See? Fun, no? Perhaps your imagination runs more toward outdoor recreation for the family, such as a sand volleyball court, an attractive natural play area for the younger members, or a fire pit for telling stories around on mild summer evenings. If you can dream it, chances are you can create it. And as we all adjust to current economic realities, a place to gather at home for outdoor activities or socialization with friends and family becomes even more important.
The second step is to plan a budget for your landscape improvements. You know what you want, you’ve gotten an idea of price from the catalogs and websites, so what do you do first? Make a list of all materials and their projected costs. Check this against your budget. If you are close or under, great! If it makes you gulp, simply find a way to make it work by planning your job in phases throughout the year, checking for less expensive recycled hardscape materials, or taking advantage of sales. If you see a neighbor thinning their perennial bed, ask them for their extras!
Once you have a plan and your materials, you can begin to implement your landscape improvements. Here are a few suggestions:
- Decide if you will do the job yourself or hire a landscape contractor. (Call contractors now to plan and schedule as their calendars fill early.)
- If you hire a contractor, let them know your budget and if you want the work done in phases throughout the year. They will create a landscape design and then work with you to install plant materials and hardscaping in the logical order to suit your payment needs.
- If you are doing it yourself, draw up a plan. Be sure you measure accurately and check to see if you have all the right tools for the job. Look through “how-to” books and websites for tips, then begin to shop for your materials. Hint: shop for the best price, but don’t cut corners. Your landscaping has to withstand the elements and time, so do it right the first time!
- Look for the logical steps to improving your landscape. In general, do your excavation and drainage work first (call your utility companies to have them mark for cables and pipes). Then install or repair your irrigation system. If you are planning a water feature, install the hoses or pipes to the proper location. Next, lay any stonework such as pathways, patios or retaining walls and create the water feature. You can now plant your trees, shrubs and perennial and annual flowers.
- Set a schedule for maintaining your new landscape, watering, pruning, mowing, etc. Check to be sure the irrigation reaches all plant materials and covers the lawn area. Decide when you want to fertilize your new plantings. There are plenty of good services around if you don’t want to do landscape maintenance yourself.
You can now enjoy years of outdoor living in your new landscape!