A lot goes into moving into a new home. It can be an exciting, exhaustive, and sometimes scary process for not only the new first timer, or for the well-seasoned owner who’s moved more than a few times in their lives. The amount of energy, money, and time spent moving and eventually establishing yourself into your home and your community are well worth the effort- and that includes how you change and establish your outdoor landscape and garden areas.
The property the house sits on deserves the same attention as the house itself, and for many, a lot of pride is taken into making their landscapes and gardens not only their own, but also well-kept and attractive. But starting from nothing or something unattractive, overgrown, or simply something that doesn’t work can be a daunting task.
Here are some basic landscape and garden design tips for the new homeowner and even some execution ideas for the sake of organization.
Please note: Before you begin any changes in your landscape, make sure you’re aware of existing HOA bylaws or covenants in your neighborhood.
Start Living the Space First
I always recommend that new homeowners simply live in their homes for several months before they start making changes. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, plant some containers- but don’t remove beds, add plant material, add new beds, create paths, or construct living spaces until you know how you’ll use your property.
You’ll begin to notice that there are some things about your new landscape that concern you above others. Maybe prevailing winds are cooling your home too much in the winter and you could use a windbreak to help. Maybe you need some shade somewhere on your property where your family likes to play the most.
You’ll learn about where the most used pathways exist around your property, where established areas for certain jobs are naturally occurring (like where you like to play, where you visualize your vegetable garden in the sunniest spot next to the best water spigot, where you tend to want to put yard waste, and where you think a tool shed would work well).
Privacy screen needs, windbreaks, steep slopes that are hard to mow- these are all things you’ll discover need immediate attention. Establish the few pressing needs you find yourself wanting first, and start your landscape plan from there.
Establish the Budget
The best way to approach setting ideas into action with landscape changes revolves around one simple thing – how much money can you spend on your projects? If you have the money, you could hire a landscape architect who you will work with to establish all your needs at once, and then hire a landscaping firm help to get it done.
But, if you’re like most homeowners, you might need to think about which projects should come first, and if you should go Do-It-Yourself or not. One common mistake a lot of new homeowners have is they underestimate how much money landscaping actually costs, so projects often go partially unfinished. Be sure to do a lot of research before you buy anything and take on only what you can comfortably afford. For some, this may mean small weekend projects until the budget loosens. If this is the case, start with the most pressing needs first such as repair needs and projects that simply make the landscape livable.
Get your Plans on Paper!
Before you buy one brick or toss your spade into the lawn, make sure you have an established plan, written down and drawn out, step by step, so that you have a beginning and a goal in mind for one specific project. A designer can do this for you and work with an installation team, but if you’re going DIY landscaping, you can easily write and draw down plans yourself. Decide on a solid plan and stick to it, so you don’t get ahead of yourself.
If you’re using hardscape materials, make sure you calculate how much you’ll need accurately. If you need help, you can contact a professional or the company that makes the material you’ll want to use and they can help guide you through an estimation process so that you don’t buy too much, or too little of a product. Make sure you have all the tools needed to install the product properly.
If you’re going to be planting materials, check your states invasive species list to avoid planting possible pests into your landscape. Make sure your choices of plants are well suited for the application you want them for and if you can provide the care they’ll need so that they stay looking healthy and happy for years to come. Create a plant list and work with a reputable nursery that offers a guarantee on their plant stock.
Get Ready for Hard Work.
Ahh, the joys of DIY and homeownership on a budget! And, if you hire all your help, the stress from working with others on plans for your own home, and having to deal with installers you don’t really know and construction issues aren’t easy either. Whether you’re laying the foundation for a new patio yourself or living through weeks of endless noise from jackhammers and bobcats, you’re about to have your work cut out for you.
Set aside plenty of time to get your work done, or simply do what you can in the time you have and don’t stress about it. Sometimes things go well during installation of a project, and sometimes they don’t. Expect blisters, maybe a twisted ankle, dirty nails and clothes, and maybe even sunburn if you’re installing yourself. If not, expect a messy house and strangers wanting to use your bathroom and the lack of privacy can get to some too. This is another reason I always highly recommend one simple job at a time to get it finished quickly before too much damage happens and you regret the whole experience before it’s even finished.