Author Topic: DIY Landscaping for a Newbie  (Read 1077 times)

mountains_o_mustaches

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DIY Landscaping for a Newbie
« on: March 13, 2017, 05:59:29 PM »
My SO and I recently bought our first home!  The backyard has been neglected for a long while and we want to put in some sweat equity to spruce things up; however, neither of us know the first thing about landscaping.  We're looking for references (books, websites, planning tools, blogs, etc.) so that we can get up to speed enough to redo the backyard ourselves.  A few details: 1) we live in the desert southwest 2) we want our yard to be low maintenance (neither of us have green thumbs), 3) we want to create a space we can entertain in (cookouts, sitting outside w/ a beer shooting the shit), 4) our yard is atypically shaped (we're on a pie-shaped lot, so our backyard is more of a trapezoid than a rectangle and 5) it's important to use to be frugal and environmentally conscious.

We're doing some reading on xeriscaping, but most of the books we've picked up are very focused on gardening and plant varietals.  While we do plan on planting some stuff, it's not likely to be the focus of our yard and we'd like some input on other aspects of planning a useable backyard space.  Thanks in advance for your recommendations!

Frugal Lizard

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Re: DIY Landscaping for a Newbie
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2017, 09:51:32 AM »
I get the sense that you are less interested in gardening and more interested in the spaces part of your backyard. As a more architecty landscape architect, I would suggest you look into books that talk more about outdoor living.  Just as if you were building a house, first you layout the rooms and then you pick out the finishes and materials to decorate, you approach your garden the same way.  Figure out the program (activities that you want to accommodate in the outdoors).  Next figure out the space and type of infrastructure required to make that type of room.  Dining - a large patio, reading - a shaded nook.  The difficulty/challenge with doing this outdoor architecture is the climate variable - so you need to also consider the sun/wind/precipitation and seasons. 

While it might seem very un-mustachian, consulting an experienced person with some expertise may be worth it for you. I can give a lot of advice in a two hour consult and save a person a lot of money on judicious use of space and materials to make really livable outdoor rooms.  If you have a really defined program, a whole bunch of photos from pinterest or print media that focus on the type of space you want to create and a firm budget, I am sure you can get a quick sketch plan on the spot that will make the best use of your space for not a huge fee.

I have saved many friends, family and some complete strangers from making bad landscape decisions and not charged a fortune.  I would suggest an older practitioner would be more practical than a recent grad, not to be ageist, but I am way wiser than I was at 24.  I also know how things wear better.  I am always happy to make a quick cash deal on a consult that doesn't involve a whole lot of drawing, measuring, contracts and free advice.  I also am not too interested in helping pick a few plants to beautify a really stupidly laid out patio - no matter how fancy the stone pavers are. 

You can DIY a phenomenal back yard if you have a really good design.  You can get away with really cheap materials if the spaces are really functional and comfortable. Plants grow well if they are the right types of plants that have the soil volume and moisture requirement met.
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pbkmaine

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thebattlewalrus

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Re: DIY Landscaping for a Newbie
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2017, 08:07:23 AM »
I agree with pbk and look at a local garden club. Community colleges sometimes have cheap classes that can give you a base to jump off from as well. Better Homes and Gardens has free garden software, I have not used it much at all and when I did it wasn't to my liking. Also if a local college has classes where people are becoming certified in landscape design or something similar they many times have to do projects as part of their portfolio. Maybe you can be a test of sorts for cheap (or free)!

Goldielocks

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Re: DIY Landscaping for a Newbie
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2017, 12:19:09 PM »
The comments about figuring out how you want to use the space are very good.

I imagine that shade will be a large feature in your plan.   While you are mulling it over, I recommend getting a 10x10 or larger popup / gazebo style sunshade and some second-hand (free?) furniture, and start using your space a bit more.   Once you start using it, you will realize things like the kitchen is too far, or the step into the home doesn't work, or the sun hits too hard on the area you want to spend time in, etc.

One element that is nice to choose early is to plant a tree.   Ask at your local garden club, nurseries for recommendations.   If you plant the (young) tree (right type, right location) this year, it will give you a jump start for landscaping efforts in future.

Good Luck! and enjoy the process.

buchanaj

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Re: DIY Landscaping for a Newbie
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2017, 07:42:08 AM »
This may be a non-mustachian recommendation but has ended up saving us a lot of money and frustration in the long run.  DH and I just finished building our new home (acted as our own GC).  When it came time to do the landscaping, I decided to hire a landscape designer to put together a plan for us . . . . to scale.  Best $185 I have ever spent.  I specified that I wanted to work with native plants that wouldn't break the bank and he came back with a beautiful plan that DH and I were able to implement.  We ending up spending maybe 1/4 of what we would have by doing all the planting ourselves.

The cost savings?  Well, this being our 3rd new construction home, DH and I are no stranger to landscaping from scratch.  However, what would typically happen is we would landscape a section at a time and, at the end, nothing really looked cohesive.  Also, not being well versed in plant sizes at maturity, we would invariably plant stuff we thought would look nice, only to have it come in and be too big or too small for the area . . . hence leading to a lot of replanting or . . . worse . . . losing plants all together because they weren't getting the proper amount of sun/water.  This time, we made a little investment up front but we have a "one and done" set up this time.  On top of that, we have a beautiful yard that flows and is balanced . . . something that we struggled with when we did the landscaping in sections.

Just something to consider.

mountains_o_mustaches

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Re: DIY Landscaping for a Newbie
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2017, 07:10:01 PM »
This may be a non-mustachian recommendation but has ended up saving us a lot of money and frustration in the long run.  DH and I just finished building our new home (acted as our own GC).  When it came time to do the landscaping, I decided to hire a landscape designer to put together a plan for us . . . . to scale.  Best $185 I have ever spent.  I specified that I wanted to work with native plants that wouldn't break the bank and he came back with a beautiful plan that DH and I were able to implement.  We ending up spending maybe 1/4 of what we would have by doing all the planting ourselves.

The cost savings?  Well, this being our 3rd new construction home, DH and I are no stranger to landscaping from scratch.  However, what would typically happen is we would landscape a section at a time and, at the end, nothing really looked cohesive.  Also, not being well versed in plant sizes at maturity, we would invariably plant stuff we thought would look nice, only to have it come in and be too big or too small for the area . . . hence leading to a lot of replanting or . . . worse . . . losing plants all together because they weren't getting the proper amount of sun/water.  This time, we made a little investment up front but we have a "one and done" set up this time.  On top of that, we have a beautiful yard that flows and is balanced . . . something that we struggled with when we did the landscaping in sections.

Just something to consider.

Thanks for this advice - I see it as being in between what most folks do - hire someone to plan and implement all the landscaping, and what might be the "most mustachian" - doing it all myself.  I recently moved to a completely new climate, so I'm very unfamiliar with the plants that grow well here.  I like the idea of having someone plan it out and then my SO and I putting in the sweat equity to make it a reality.

buchanaj

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Re: DIY Landscaping for a Newbie
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2017, 07:03:09 AM »
This may be a non-mustachian recommendation but has ended up saving us a lot of money and frustration in the long run.  DH and I just finished building our new home (acted as our own GC).  When it came time to do the landscaping, I decided to hire a landscape designer to put together a plan for us . . . . to scale.  Best $185 I have ever spent.  I specified that I wanted to work with native plants that wouldn't break the bank and he came back with a beautiful plan that DH and I were able to implement.  We ending up spending maybe 1/4 of what we would have by doing all the planting ourselves.

The cost savings?  Well, this being our 3rd new construction home, DH and I are no stranger to landscaping from scratch.  However, what would typically happen is we would landscape a section at a time and, at the end, nothing really looked cohesive.  Also, not being well versed in plant sizes at maturity, we would invariably plant stuff we thought would look nice, only to have it come in and be too big or too small for the area . . . hence leading to a lot of replanting or . . . worse . . . losing plants all together because they weren't getting the proper amount of sun/water.  This time, we made a little investment up front but we have a "one and done" set up this time.  On top of that, we have a beautiful yard that flows and is balanced . . . something that we struggled with when we did the landscaping in sections.

Just something to consider.

Thanks for this advice - I see it as being in between what most folks do - hire someone to plan and implement all the landscaping, and what might be the "most mustachian" - doing it all myself.  I recently moved to a completely new climate, so I'm very unfamiliar with the plants that grow well here.  I like the idea of having someone plan it out and then my SO and I putting in the sweat equity to make it a reality.

This really did save us a ton and our yard looks like it was professionally landscaped.  It's really the design that gives it that custom look . . .  doesn't matter who does the planting as long as you prepare the soil properly.  In fact, our landscape designer gave us all the instructions for proper soil prep and planting and was available to answer any questions we had that came up.  I found the guy we used through using Thumbtack.com .