Where to Start
Now you are ready to get down to the work. The beauty of having a plan is that you know where you are going. Even if it takes years to get there, all of your work and expense will be taking you in the right direction. Relax and enjoy the process.
Common sense will dictate some of the work schedule you now should add to your notebook. Most work in most climates will be seasonal, with major planting in spring and fall. Here are some guidelines.
If landscape destruction is involved, do that first. Clear the site.
Do rough grading and the installation of a swimming pool, drainage system, and all underground utilities next. Prepare any large areas of soil while you have the equipment there.
If possible, build structures next. If they are on the waiting list, keep their areas and equipment needs in mind as you plant.
Trees Take Time
All the money in the world cannot buy the years it takes to grow a large tree. Protect any existing choice trees. You may want to keep less-choice trees for the time being or plant temporary, fast-growing trees until better kinds grow large enough. You may also want to move existing plants that are small enough to withstand transplanting (you can circle the fingers of one hand around their trunks).
When buying those vital trees for framing and shade, get the largest you can afford as soon as you can. They can settle in and grow while you are doing the other work.
In distant spots, start smaller trees and put mulch, ground covers, flowers, or vegetables around them until they spread.
You probably have been gauging costs instinctively during the planning stages. Now it is time to work up specific figures.
Real-estate agents consider it reasonable to spend 10 to 15 percent of the cost of the house and lot on landscaping, not including such large improvements as pools and patio roofs.
If you keep your landscaping costs in this range, most of the expense is likely to boost the value of your property. Some of the work, too, will immediately or eventually reduce the costs of heating and cooling. And all will make an appreciable difference in your quality of life, comfort, and health.
Most plans will call for some work that is beyond the capability, time, or desire of the homeowner to do personally. Begin talking to contractors or doing some comparison shopping for materials.
To get a realistic picture of costs, generally you're best off doubling any number you come up with initially. Figure you can save about half of the hired cost if you do a job yourself, if you can. Stinting on such things as erosion control, walls, utilities, and such could cost you more in the long run or jeopardize your family's safety.
Work in Stages
Whether you do your landscaping work over a series of weekends or years, breaking large jobs into small segments makes your goals attainable. Personal priorities can prevail. Ask yourself these questions:
- What existing conditions can I live with longest? In a new home, a lawn will reduce glare, summer temperatures, erosion, and tracking into the house. An old lawn, however weedy, may do until the patio and walks are in place.
- Which improvements will contribute most to my use and enjoyment of my yard? You will need a service area right away.
- Will a new entryway that visitors and passersby see every day mean more, or should I build the deck that will expand my house and outdoor living? The most satisfaction and success usually comes from concentrating on one area at a time. Then let your enjoyment of that area spur you on to and through the next stage.