Spring is here, so start planning landscape improvements! Here are tips to plan your project for year-round enjoyment.
What’s the Plan?
Every successful project begins with a plan. Iowa State University offers a comprehensive home landscape planning document, but to get started, consider these starter steps.
- Define the space to improve. Start broad by choosing the part of the property you’ll focus on and then define it. Do you want to transform your entire backyard or just give the patio an update?
- Jump to the conclusion. Determine the benefits you want from your landscape renovation once it’s complete. For example, “Replacing the backyard patio will provide our family with more space to entertain.”
- Get inspired. Keeping your defined space in mind, visit local landscape dealers for ideas. Websites such as Pinterest and Houzz are great sources for project ideas and even offer ways to save and organize the pictures and products you like for future reference.
A landscape renovation is sure to improve the appearance of your yard, but consider the practical benefits you’ll receive from enhancements and products.
- Planting trees around the home reduces the sun’s effect on the temperature of the outer walls and lowers the associated costs of energy for heating and cooling.
- Concrete retaining walls can turn a steep, hard-to-mow slope into a flat planting space or serve as a foundation for a low-maintenance raised patio to replace a worn wooden deck.
- Consider maximizing the use of plants and flowers. A study by Texas A&M found that natural aesthetics, plants and flowers are soothing and help lower stress and anxiety. Chose perennial plants for lower maintenance.
Softscapes and Hardscapes
The most pleasing landscape designs often incorporate both softscape and hardscape elements.
Softscapes are the live plant materials used in the landscape. Before buying plants, you’ll need to know your planting zone to learn which plants will grow and thrive in your area. You should also track the amount of sun and shade your yard receives throughout the morning and afternoon so that you choose plants that grow in sunny, shady or mixed lighting conditions.
Hardscapes is the term used for landscape construction materials, or the non-plant materials. Hardscape materials include products such as concrete pavers used for patios and driveways and segmental retaining wall blocks. The term also refers to materials such as gravel, stone, wood and even outdoor furniture.
DIY or DIFM?
Deciding how to construct your landscape improvement is an important decision. A do-it-yourself (DIY) project means you’ll do the buying and installation of the landscape by yourself. A do-it-for-me (DIFM) project requires hiring a landscape contractor to do the work for you. Decide what’s best for you.
For a DIY landscape project, you’ll need to
- allot time and resources for removing old materials and installing new materials;
- calculate landscape product quantities (check out our resources on how to install paver patios and walkways and how to install retaining walls); and
- have products delivered, or have access to a vehicle that can carry heavy loads of soil, plants or hardscape products.
For a DIFM landscape project, you’ll need to
- hire a contractor. Ask neighbors or friends for landscape contractor referrals and plan on securing three bids. This option might be more expensive, but a good plan even so – after all, proper installation of materials could save you money in the long run.