Your landscape is the first thing that your visitors and friends see when they come over to your house. However, beginning a landscaping project can be a daunting and tough not only on your wallet but also on confidence and commitment. Even the garden enthusiasts can give up on landscaping when it takes longer to bear fruits.
Before you begin your landscaping project, you should write down your goals and how you plan to achieve them. It is all right to make changes if necessary during the design process, but you should still work towards achieving your objective.
There are some landscaping projects that you can handle yourself, but there are others that are best left to a professional landscape contractor. The resources and effort you put into landscaping and developing your garden will determine the outcome. A perfectly done landscaping can improve your home’s curb appeal, protect your home from dangers such as water runoff and increase your home’s value. But before you implement the project, what factors should you consider before you begin your landscaping project?
1. Use and Purpose
First, consider your intended use and purpose of the space. It should make sense to both you and your landscaping contractor. For instance, gardens are mostly designed for either aesthetic beauty or outdoor activities such as entertainment, swimming, cooking and dining, relaxing, playing and much more. Once you establish a purpose, you can make other choices such as the cost and best materials to use.
2. Climate and the Existing Environment
What are the climatic conditions around your home? The main climatic and environmental conditions you should consider include rainfall, temperature, wind direction, views, water flow and drainage, insolation, shade to light ratio, controls in town, among others. These will help you and your contractor to choose the plants to grow, areas to work on in your garden and ones that will remain untouched, how often trimming should be done, and trees to remove.
3. People & Pets
A garden designed for children is not similar to a semi-wild space intended for birds and insects. For instance, gardens intended for kids should be even with non-thorny flowers, soft grass and minimal steps. Presence or absence of pets also determines the type of plants to grow.
4. Nutrients and Soil Type
The type of your garden’s soil, e.g. clay, rock, or sand, is the primary determinant of the plant varieties that can you can grow. Before you select the plants, ensure your soil has all the required nutrients for them to flourish.
5. Personal Style
Your lawn represents your personality. Consider your home’s interior and exterior style and try to blend these with your landscaping. There are many garden designs you can choose from and don’t be shy to get a little quirky with the designs if it makes you feel relaxed and happy.
6. Asking for Help
This final step ensures that you are on the right track. If you will handle the project independently, will you complete it to your required standards? If you hire a professional contractor, are you sure he/she understands your needs?
Steps To follow to Achieve the Landscape of Your Dreams
We’ve always heard people say that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself. Well, it does not necessarily apply to all jobs. Even if you are hiring someone for the landscaping project, you should have a plan on how you want it to look and how you will use it. What colour combinations do you prefer? Will there be a swimming pool, gazebo, patio, fountain, fence, water feature or other hardscaping in your plan? What is your style? Is safety your concern? Do you like entertaining guests? Your answers to these questions will help outline the elements of your landscape design. It doesn’t matter who draws the plan, your needs and preferences should be the core of the design process.
Some people overlook budgeting before and after the project has begun. How much money have you put aside for the project from design work to completion? Is the amount enough to give you your dream garden or lawn? Like everything else, you only get what you pay for. For instance, you cannot expect a $50,000 worth landscape while you plan to spend $30,000. If you don’t have enough money, cut down the plan or save up more to work on it later and ask your contractor for a rough estimate for the whole project. Do not cut corners; it never pays. Instead, the job will be done carelessly, and at the end, you will fail. You can consider other alternatives such as planting trees or installing the hardscape and complete landscaping later.
A master landscape plan keeps you disciplined and focused while shopping at garden centers and looking for a contractor. Unless you want to execute the entire plan at once, prioritisation is another crucial element of discipline. Prioritise the installation process so that you can finish off small parts of the plan in a manner that makes financial and aesthetic sense.
- Phase 1: install foundation vegetation, sod and colour beds, and a shade tree in the front yard;
- Phase 2: Build a deck and playset with plants at the back of your house;
- Phase 3: install a swimming pool and extend the backyard deck.
It makes a lot of sense to work on the front yard first since it is the most viewed part of your home as well as planting trees early as they take time to grow. A swimming pool is used seasonally, and you can add it added late
The installation process involves: first, putting up hardscapes including fountains, decks, patios, etc., followed by irrigation and lighting, annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and sod. Although issues such as the location of your garden can alter your plans, keeping the process in that order can ensure that the ensuing project does not compromise previously installed materials.
Make sure you constantly communicate with your landscape contractor to stay informed on the progress and ask questions if there are unclear details.
Once your landscape is installed, the hardscapes and plants always have an establishment period. Focus on the watering requirements and year-round needs of the new plants such as fertilisation, pruning, winter appearance, etc. Also, you must monitor the irrigation systems for coverage and leaks while hardscape elements including retaining walls, pavers, decks, etc., should be checked regularly for defects in the first year.
Although the work involved in creating a landscape is tiring and tough, the rewards are many. Following a good master plan, implementation and follow up will ensure that you pay for a landscape that fulfills your needs and preferences as well as stays functional and healthy for many years.
Landscaping Contractor Costs
Landscaping involves improving your home garden to make it appealing. Some homeowners will choose to complete the project themselves, others prefer working with a landscape contractor. A professional landscaper will not only change your lawn into an attractive oasis but also increase your home’s value. But how much will it cost you? For a 1,200 square foot yard, landscape design and installation will mount up to around $13,200.
Factors Impacting Costs
Landscaping costs can vary based on factors such as garden size, the features you want to construct, e.g., fire pit, front walk etc., type of plants and materials required for the job, quality of the soil, access to machinery, the state of the garden and location. Also, if your house is new, you can start with the basics while if you want to improve an existing yard, the total cost will vary on whether you will demolish a pathway or get rid of trees. Removing concrete in a 200 square feet area may cost you around $600.
The main cost factors include:
- Backyard or front yard landscaping
- Landscaping design
- Type of landscaping
- Sod or seeding
- Landscaping process and labour
- Related services including
- Enhancement and improvement costs
|Install seeds||$0.05 per sq.ft.
|Install sod||$0.40-$0.70 per sq.ft.
|Install a pathway||$5-$30 per sq.ft
|Install fencing||$10-$30 per linear ft.
|Install a fire pit||$700 for a 5’x5’ fire pit
|Deliver soil, mulch 6 or rock||$350-$2,000
|Build a water fountain||$1,080 medium-sized tiered concrete fountain
|Build a gazebo||$1,500-$2,500 (9’ octagonal)
|Install an outdoor misting system||$1,800-$4,500
|Install a sprinkler system 7||$2,500-$3,500
|Build a pergola||$3,100?cedar structure 100 sq.ft.
|Install turf||$5,000-$20,000 for a 1,000 sq.ft. yard
|Install a pond||$7,000-$8,500 standard 11’x16’ pond
|Total Installation landscaping||$10,800-$29,200
|Labor ||$45-$75 per hour
|Tree trimming ||$75-$500
|For an 8,000 sq. ft. lawn ||$75-$100 or $45-$75 per hour
|Enhancement and improvement costs||
|Outdoor lighting installing 20 light fixtures||$3,800
|Installing 50 feet long and 8 feet high concrete retaining wall||$13,700
Additional considerations and costs
- If you are landscaping on a small budget, you can break down the project into phases as explained earlier and only focus on those that offer maximum value.
- If you want to construct a natural gas fire pit, you can hire a plumber to connect the gas to the fire pit, which would cost you approximately $200-$500.
- You can install turf or synthetic grass to conserve water since they look real and doesn’t need frequent watering and mowing.
- You can construct a water conservation system to collect rainwater in barrels and use the water in your garden.
- Grow plants that can withstand regional weather conditions and temperature.
- Most plants require a lot of maintenance and care. If you are a beginner in landscaping and not usually at home for the best part of the day, select plants that are resistant to diseases and drought and requires low maintenance.
- If you have pets, you can consider dogscaping or pet-friendly yard to prevent pee stains, crushed plants and torn flower beds.
- You may require city’s approval if your project is big. Most cities have rules and regulations to encourage conservation of energy and water.
- Be creative to cut down costs by recycling old items. For instance, you can use an old tire as a planter.
- Some homeowners only pay attention to the front yard to improve your home’s curb appeal but forget the backyard. If you will sell the house, the sight of an unkempt backyard may put buyers off.
Front Yard vs Backyard Landscaping
Front yard landscaping involves enhancing your home’s curb appeal. It’s usually a combination of grassed area, footpath or driveway and decorative elements such as yard shrines, plastic flamingos and garden gnomes. On the other hand, backyard landscaping involves creating an attractive area for outdoor dining, constructing a fire pit, vegetable garden, fencing around your property for privacy, storage tank, waste container, swimming pool, garden furniture and much more.
A comprehensive approach with careful landscaping design and planning are the key elements to a beautiful landscape. That’s why a lot of people prefer working with landscape contractors to get the their desired landscape they planned a budget for. Although some may decide to do it themselves, they may need an expert to avoid mistakes that will consume more money and time in the long run. For instance, planting shrubs near the base of the house or planting vegetation that needs more sunlight in shady areas.
There are various traditional landscaping designs to choose from, or if you like creativity, you can combine elements from different styles to come up with your design.
Mediterranean design is a very popular design in general. It is characterised by terracotta pots, tiered fountains and statuary to provide structure, texture and colour.
Under the influence of Shinto, Taoist and Buddhist philosophies, Japanese garden themes are not common in the U.S. It contains elements such as ornaments, rocks, plants to create a spiritual and peaceful surrounding.
This theme combines plants such as Italian cypress, lavender and rosemary with natural stones, terracotta and bright colours including orange, red and yellow.
Initially, they were designed to grow food crops and few flowers. However, over time, the design has taken a new appearance and functionality. It has become of a flower garden with elements such as charming birdhouses, arbours, wheelbarrows and traditional plants including foxgloves, peonies, roses, cosmos, and pansies.
These themes have simple and orderly geometric designs, straight edges, symmetrical patterns, classic urns, long sightlines, well-pruned plants, and materials considered traditional.
It is characterised by flower beds with curved edges arranged in random patterns. It is a good choice if you have small children.
Butterfly gardens contain plants and flowers that attract butterflies and birds. Such plants provide food to the species while still protecting them from the wind.
Although Xeriscaping is a landscaping method, it is also a theme mostly associated with Santa Fe, South West, Arizona, and Desert landscape designs. It involves designs that can reduce water evaporation with low-water flowers and plants.
With the increased awareness of the adverse effect of chemicals used to grow plants, most homeowners have embraced organic gardens. This means that instead of using chemical sprays and fertilisers, they use natural methods of fertilisation and pest control.
Southwest landscape design
This is a popular design that incorporates both Native American and Spanish details. It is characterised by colourful hardscapes and native plants. It is mostly used in arid areas like New Mexico and Arizona.
Hardscaping, softscaping vs xeriscaping. What’s the difference?
It involves solid and hard elements that give structure to your landscaping design. It includes features such as paver patios, rocks, walkways, vertical walls, benches, water features, decks, outdoor kitchens and driveways. Hardscaping elements keep water from being absorbed and protect soil from loosening and erosion. Without hardscapes, your yard would feel disorganised the same way it would feel empty without softscapes.
It is easy and cheap to maintain unlike softscaping
Ineffective drainage can cause water accumulation
Unlike hardscapes, sofscapes do not have permanent quality. Softscaping elements including turf, vines, vegetables, flowers, trees and shrubs are designed to beautify and complement your hardscapes.
Easy to install
Requires regular maintenance
Xeriscaping is a landscaping method intended for areas that are prone to drought or where people practice water conservation. This design requires fewer grass lawns, which use a lot of water. You can use native plants that are used to your area’s climate and need less water.
Reduces water consumption
Requires regular maintenance at the initial stages
Seeding VS Sod
When trying to plant natural grass, you can choose between seed and sod. If you select sod, a professional will plant and grow it for you until it matures. Since it comes in rolls that looks like a rug, you still need an expert to lay it down for you. It consists soil and mature grass. On the other hand, seeding involves growing your grass from seed, which you can do it yourself or hire a professional. However, both sod and seed have pros and cons based on cost, lifespan and quality.
It is the most expensive choice because it involves paying someone to buy materials and grow the grass for you. You also pay for the time used. However, if you have no money problems, then it is the best choice.
Financially, growing your grass from seeds is the ideal choice because even the cost of the best seed mix is cheaper than sod. Also, you should consider the time factor- time and effort used to grow and cultivate a lawn in addition to the season you should plant it.
If you need an instant lawn, then sod is your perfect choice. Spring and fall are the ideal seasons to lay sod although you can still lay it at any other time of the year if you have enough water. Roots grow faster than seeds.
High initial expense
It takes more time to grow than sod. If you have time to nurture the lawn and can wait for the right growing season, then seeding is worth considering. Early fall is the ideal time because weeds are likely to sprout in spring. It also needs more time, attention and watering.
Less expensive initially
You must plant the particular grass during its peak growth season
Initially, sod may appear weed-free, although it’s not guaranteed. It is an ideal choice for sloppy and erosion-prone areas where seeds would hardly survive. However, there are specific types of grass used for sodding, so your choice is limited. If you want a specific grass for a particular environment, seeding would be the best way to go. Sod cannot tolerate shade, can shrink leaving spaces that would allow growth of weeds, and it is the cleanest choice with little mud or dust.
Although it takes longer to attain a dense lawn, seed beats sod on quality. There is a wide variety of grass to choose from. The likelihood of developing a stronger root system can guarantee a stronger and healthier yard over time. Also, there will be no transplants problems and sensitivities. However, seeding can be annoying because you might need to reseed, some seed might be washed away, and it is messy with a lot of mud and dust at first.
DIY vs Hiring a Professional for Your Landscaping Project
Depending on your landscaping project, you will know whether to hire a landscaping contractor or do it yourself. Before making your final decision ask questions such as: are you motivated and qualified to complete the job? Do you have enough time and money for the project? Hiring a qualified contractor can help in keeping your project on the right track while doing some independently can be fun. We will help you understand the projects that require a contractor and ones that you can handle yourself.
When you need a landscape contractor
Planning and designing your landscape
If you never had a landscaping project before, consider talking to an expert before you begin the project. A landscaping contractor knows about landscaping, architecture or design and can advise you on creating a plan, the best materials and services required, laws that require permits for particular projects. Also, he/she can give you ideas based on soil quality, water usage, climate, and maintenance, developing pet-friendly yards and how to avoid water overflow in areas prone to soil erosion. Based on the scope and size of your project, you may need heavy equipment and machinery that should be used under the supervision of a professional.
Installing a patio, porch, or deck
Constructing a deck in your backyard is a time consuming and expensive task. It requires costly building materials and a clear understanding of construction codes. A landscape contractor can help you to design, install a foundation and finish the project on time. Also, he/she can buy materials at a lower cost and has the right skills and tools required to complete the project.
Are you looking forward to adding an outdoor lighting? Hiring a professional contractor is the best way to go. First, he/she will help you determine the right place to fix the lighting and also choosing the ideal lighting option such as spacing and fixtures. If you want environmental-friendly lighting, the contractor can research it for you, saving your time.
Also, you should consider wiring because indoor wiring is not similar to outdoor wiring. You can hire an electrician since they understand the electrical systems and requirements. Most importantly, outdoor lighting requires extensive knowledge on humidity, pets, bugs, and temperature changes to ensure they last longer.
Underground pools and spas
You must hire a professional if you want to add a spa or pool in your yard. Even for small jobs such as installing a spa above ground, you need a technician’s approval. A landscaping contractor will help you in planning and designing, acquiring permits, materials and equipment, and ensure both your family and properties are safe.
Building a stone fireplace
Constructing a stone fireplace outside is more complicated than erecting a normal metal fire pit; an expert must build it since he/she is familiar with fireplaces, safe building practices, understands regulations of the city and has masonry experience.
If you want to build an outdoor kitchen with grill fueled with propane without water pipes, you can handle it yourself. However, for a complex outdoor kitchen with features such as water, electricity and natural gas lines, you may need a professional. He/she understands safety regulations, building codes and plumbing costs.
When to Do It Yourself (DIY)
There are outdoor DIY projects that can transform the look and feel of your outdoor space while maintaining to your planned budget. DIY projects are intended to save money; depending on your design, you can even save up to 50% of the estimated cost. They are enjoyable, rewarding and highly impacts your yard. Some of the hands-on projects include:
Build a trellis or pergola
Adding a trellis, gazebo, or pergola can transform your garden since it only requires basic knowledge in construction. With the right planning and research, you can easily access the tools and materials needed for the project. Also, if you have enough time and motivation, you can save up more money.
Planting a herb garden or flower bed
Establishing a herb garden or flower bed is as simple as planting on a ground level. It is easy and fun with long-term benefits.
Building a stone pathway
When creating a stone pathway, you will require minimal materials, tools and time. With inspiration and resources, you are good to start the project.
Constructing an outdoor fire pit
An outdoor fire pit is ideal for late summer evenings. It adds value to your yard and does not need the help of a contractor. The job is timely, suitable for beginners and simple.
Natural side tables
If you want to add a unique element to your yard, then this could be a great idea. You can use an old whiskey barrel and top it with a table glass. You can also use tree stumps for a natural look. Using natural materials can save on costs and are easily accessible if they are in your yard.
10 Questions to Ask Your Landscape Contractor
Designing and installing your yard can be an uphill task, but hiring a landscape contractor doesn’t have to be. Before you reach out to an expert, write down all the things you want to be included in your garden, how you want it done, and identify your priorities and budget. With all these, you are clear of what you are looking for in a contractor. What questions should you ask to find the best fit for your project?
1. What services do you offer?
First, you should know the services a landscaping contractor offers to determine if he/she is the best for your project. Depending on the scope of your project, will the contractor design and build? There are two types of landscaping contractors:
Designer: They specialise in the design process only, which involves site analysis, understanding client’s needs and preferences, preliminary design, adjustments based on your response and a final master plan. Then the designer hands over the plan to you or your contractor to continue from there.
Designer-builder: This type offers design services as well as installation and planting. They carry out permitting, professional hardscaping and softscaping installation.
2. Have you handled a project like mine before?
Look at the contractor’s style and design in relation to the type of yard you want. If you want a cottage-style garden, does he/she have the plant knowledge? If you’re looking for a formal garden, has he/she designed and installed any before?
Alternatively, if the contractor’s portfolio doesn’t include a specific style you are looking for, examine the credentials for training proof. Degrees from accredited landscaping colleges and memberships in landscaping organisations are good indicators.
3. Do you offer consultation services on gardening?
Some contractors offer garden consultations for one to two hours. He/she will visit your home, walk around the garden, listen to all your needs and brainstorm ideas to achieve your dream lawn. However, don’t expect the consultation to be free. The meeting is an opportunity for you to know if the contractor is your best fit, and for the contractor to determine if you are the right client to work with. As a client, it is crucial to determine your role. For instance, are you ready for a collaboration with the contractor, do you defer with the contractor’s ideas or do you have a ready design for your garden, and you just want someone to implement it?
4. Are you insured and what’s your guarantee?
A contractor should guarantee his/her installation for two years in writing while the plants should have a one year written warranty.
Also, ensure your contractor has a proof of both liability insurance and workman’s compensation. Workman’s compensation protects you in an event where an employee is injured while on your project. On the other hand, liability insurance protects your assets in case an accident like fire occurs. The insurance policy should have an aggregate limit of $1,000,000. Never assume the insurance covers because without them you are legally accountable for any accidents that may happen during your project, which may result in lawsuits, hospital bills and much more. An insurance claim may also be filed against you, the homeowner, which could be risking your assets.
5. What is your estimated cost?
Communication concerning your budget and the project’s estimated cost is essential. Ask the contractor for the approximate cost of both design and installation. Most contractors obtain installation estimates based on cost per square foot for the hardscape outlined in the plan.
Also, don’t forget to ask how the contractor will handle changes in scope during the project. Change is inevitable, so you should know before commencing the project if the contractor would charge additional fees for the time it would take to change the plan or installation.
6. How can we lower the costs?
You can talk with your contractor during the initial planning process on ways to reduce the total cost without compromising style and quality of materials. Planted gardens are cheaper than patios, pathways, decks and retaining walls, so the more hardscape you have in your design, the more you will pay. Also, the cost of hardscape materials will vary for both the installation and materials; installing concrete paver with plants in between is cheaper than complete solid paving. Also, you ask the contractor for more ideas on how to cut down costs and the elements that are worth spending on. Or you can do the planting yourself.
7. How long will the project take?
Time taken to finish a project depends on various factors including the size and scope of your work, contractor’s availability and schedules, weather, delay of supplies, and other unexpected obstructions such as patches of poor soil. Ask your contractor for the estimated time to complete the project instead of a fixed date.
Although you may be eager to experience your new yard, patience is key; careful planting and professional hardscape installation take time.
8. How much maintenance is required?
Different garden designs require different level of maintenance. Be open with your contractor on the maintenance and care you are ready to commit either at your own time or hiring a gardener. After investing in a contractor, designing and installation, you still need to keep your yard alive in future. Some contractors can offer maintenance, but at a fee, so you can benefit from continuous services from workers who are familiar with your landscape. However, if he/she does not offer maintenance services, you can ask for recommended maintenance specialists.
9. Are you in the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP)?
If you choose a landscaping contractor who is a member of NALP, you are guaranteed of more than just landscaping services. NALP members are known for their professional and high standard services. They also have access to the latest and innovative landscape methods and ideas in the industry.
10. How can we combine existing elements with the new materials?
If you are an established homeowner, you might already have elements such as patio or trees that would like to retain. Make sure your contractor take these features into account during the design process.