The Q&A Archives: Where do i begin?

Question: I am buying a new house. We close next week. we have a nice sized yard I want to make beautiful. What are some helpful tips to begin to make this happen.

Answer: Starting from scratch may seem like a daunting task, but if you think things out carefully, you'll be rewarded with a wonderful new yard that will bring you pleasure for many years to come.

Begin by collecting ideas from gardening magazines and other gardens you've seen that you really like. Include major plants you'd like in your landscape, water features such as a pond or dry creek bed, and structural additions such as decks and patios and also built-in barbecue, fences or retaining walls.

Obtain a plan of your existing property that includes the property lines and the location of the house, main windows, doors and paths. This plan may be a part of your ownership deed, or available from your city or county building or planning department.

Tape tracing paper over your plan to make sketches and notes on. Note key features and accents of your house that you may want to repeat in the landscape. Indicate the garden's shady, sunny, cool, hot, wet and dry spots.

Choose key plants, trees and shrubs and finalize your plan, enlisting the help of a professional designer if necessary. Compromise your wish list according to the various limiting factors, whether it's space, time, know-how or budget.

Prepare the site by first removing all unwanted elements, leaving only what is part of the final plan. If heavy equipment will be involved, protect remaining trees and shrubs with barricades around their root zones.

Complete any necessary grade changes, resolving any existing or potential water drainage problems in the process.

8Lay out the primary features of your new landscape, such as a deck or a pond. Then lay out utility lines (including electrical conduit), gas lines and irrigation main lines. Install large-diameter sleeve pipes to accommodate future pipe or wire under or around new permanent structures.

Build and complete any new permanent features and plant any large-specimen trees. This is the time you're most likely to need professional help, specialized tools or both.

Establish the final grade with a rake or shovel. This is most critical for lawns, or where planting areas join a driveway or path. If planting a sod lawn, set grade 2 inches lower to allow for thickness of sod. Finish the irrigation once all the construction and grading is complete. Test utilities and sprinklers before filling trenches.

Plant remaining trees, shrubs and ground cover. Last, plant the lawn, either seed or sod. Once planting is complete, fine-tune the lawn sprinklers and drip system if needed.

There are many, many landscaping books available at your library or local garden center for ideas on how to plan flower beds.

Hope this information is helpful. Best wishes with your new yard!

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