Author Topic: Landscaping a backyard  (Read 5338 times)

Khan

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Landscaping a backyard
« on: December 19, 2013, 10:42:38 PM »
Wasn't sure if I should post this in DIY or here, so I'll go with here.

So, I have a backyard that is currently just a pile of dirt. I have an idea of some of what I want to do with it, but it's not complete. I want to do it completely myself, and have a Home Depot ~1 mile down the road to facilitate that, and would enjoy the work, but I want to finish up the ideas before I get to work, and I've never done anything like this before, which makes it hard to even figure out where to start.

So, where do I start? I don't want to hire landscapers to do it for me, but I need to finish the design of what to do(which I'm fine with paying for), figure out some general plants to use(desert landscaping, Arizona), and figure out to turn 12x48 feet of nothing into something...

geekette

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Re: Landscaping a backyard
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2013, 11:03:01 PM »
We went to a local garden shop and asked them to make up a plan for us.  They should be able to point you to plants that will work well in your area and tell you when to plant them. Just make sure you find out about care, like what and when to prune. 

frugaldrummer

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Re: Landscaping a backyard
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2013, 11:46:20 PM »
When planting, think "odd numbers" - groups of three or five plants look much better than 4 or 6.  Don't ask me why, they just do.


dragoncar

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Re: Landscaping a backyard
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2013, 12:05:29 AM »
When planting, think "odd numbers" - groups of three or five plants look much better than 4 or 6.  Don't ask me why, they just do.

Groupings in the fibonacci sequence work best.  Ask me why and I'll tell you:  science!

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Landscaping a backyard
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2013, 05:52:24 AM »
I was a landscaper for a number of years. I don't have any experience with desert plants, but think in terms of layers. Shorter plants in front of taller ones. Depending on how elaborate you're getting, ring the planting beds with bricks or stonework.

If you're mainly after flowers, do your research about bloom time and length. There's a lot of pretty stuff that blooms for only a few weeks. Ideally, get stuff that blooms all season, or plants that bloom at different times, that way there's always something with a little color.

When you have your plants, lay them out while still in pots. Study it. Stand back. Rearrange them as needed. THEN plant them.

Are you doing a patio of any kind? If so, don't use paving sand for the base. See if a local place will deliver Traffic Bond (crushed limestone). It compacts much less than sand, so the patio will stay level. Granted, desert doesn't have freezing and thawing, so it's less of an issue, but IMO still worth it.

Another Reader

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Re: Landscaping a backyard
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2013, 06:38:30 AM »
12 x 48 is not a very big yard.  You don't say if this is a front or back yard or if you have an HOA.  In general, you will want to plant low water use, drought tolerant plants.  A drip irrigation system on a timer is a given.  Since desert plants need to avoid being eaten in their natural habitat, many have thorns, not just cacti.  If you have kids and/or pets, you will need to take that into consideration.  For most plants, there is no benefit in buying the 5 gallon size, the one gallon will be just fine.  Most grow quickly and will overcome the size difference in a year or two at most.  Not many trees are suitable for a small space and you will likely have to prune a tree regularly.  The ficus is a popular small tree, but they are not cold hardy.  Citrus is popular, but they require maintenance and not all varieties do well there.  Cold tolerance can be an issue as well.  Depending on where you are (I'm assuming somewhere in the Phoenix area), overnight temperatures will likely dip into the twenties at least a few times a year.  Avoid plants that are not cold tolerant, or you will replant them every few years.  Soil preparation is important, as the soil is like concrete in most places and has little to no organic material.

Lawns are a high maintenance, expensive hassle.  The grass used there goes dormant in the winter and you have to overseed to keep the lawn green.  HOA's love to ding you for imperfections in your lawn.

Right now, most nurseries have a low inventory of landscape plants.  No one landscapes at Christmas.  The landscaping crews are largely Mexican immigrants, and a lot of those folks go home for Christmas.  Home Depot and Lowes are NOT the cheapest places to get the standard landscaping plants.  I buy one gallon plants at a place in the Dobson Ranch area of Southwest Mesa.  Been there for decades, $2-$3 less for one gallon plants than the big box stores.  Inventory picks up in February to March.

When I started buying rentals, I looked at model homes for ideas.  After landscaping the first new home, I changed my thinking.  I started looking at street and freeway landscaping and HOA common areas.  Think tough and low maintenance plants that are still attractive. 

You can do a vegetable garden, but raised beds work better.  Squash and melons do well.  Water is very expensive, and food crops use a lot of water.

Shade is critical to being outdoors April through October.  If you don't have a covered patio, you will need something that provides complete shade.  Lot orientation is a factor in landscape design.  North/South orientation is preferred.  East/West means you will have to block the sun on the west side of the house in some way.

Any other questions, just ask.

Insanity

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Re: Landscaping a backyard
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2013, 07:00:11 AM »
When planting, think "odd numbers" - groups of three or five plants look much better than 4 or 6.  Don't ask me why, they just do.

Groupings in the fibonacci sequence work best.  Ask me why and I'll tell you:  science!

That works best for solar arrays apparently as well :)

Frankies Girl

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Re: Landscaping a backyard
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2013, 09:07:22 AM »
Research the look of what you like and what types of plants will do the best in your zone, and the full width/heights of mature plants to help figure out placement. Collect lots of photos and data on plants and any type of foundation items (pea gravel? stones? raised beds?) and get a feel for the cost of these options.

Also commit to doing the upkeep after the plants are in the ground. Watering and weeding as plants are being established is important to maintain them, and make sure you understand what sort of time/resources commitment they'll need once they are established. If you're planting everything yourself, make sure you review the best practices for what each plant needs on hole size and depth and soil type.

Research local nurseries. The stuff you'll get from the big box stores won't be as hardy, and sometimes not even a good plant selection for your zone. Local nurseries also have the possibility of giving cash discounts. Talk to the owners or head gardeners of said nurseries and see if they do landscape planning or can give you some free tips for your area - mine does design for all sorts of different rates (all the way up to full on design and implementation). You can also check out landscaping books from your local library.


Jamesqf

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Re: Landscaping a backyard
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2013, 12:18:04 PM »
Second the advice about not seeking plants at Home Depot et al.  They apparently have a "one size fits all" bulk buying policy, and so carry plants suited to rainfall amounts found east of the Mississippi.  Look for local specialty nurseries that do xeriscaping.  One good on-line source is High Country Gardens.

aj_yooper

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Re: Landscaping a backyard
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2013, 02:49:42 PM »
Congratulations on wanting to DIY your backyard!  Gardening is a very satisfying activity and will save you bundles of $.  I would stay away from big box stores and be very selective about what you install.  Inquire about a plan from a native plant designer to lay out a scheme; then go slow and fill it in as you can.  See if you have a state agricultural extension adviser (I recall you are in the southwest--http://extension.arizona.edu) who could help you with ideas and connect you to resources for your project.  That way you will see what works in your backyard.  Go native!  Native plants can withstand your local climate and increase the likelihood of your seeing interesting birds, butterflies, and insects indigenous to your area.  Here are some sites on plants native to your area.

Texas wild flower site:  http://www.wildflower.org/plants/

Arizona:  http://uswildflowers.com/stateref.php?State=AZ

totoro

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Re: Landscaping a backyard
« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2013, 02:58:52 PM »
I'm faced with exactly the same task, but a very different climate zone.  I have drawn up a plan and used the same tactic suggested by Another Reader  -  I copied urban landscaping in an area near Vancouver called Burnaby which I drive through frequently for part of it. The city and commercial landscaping in one area in particular looks nice year round and it is low maintenance.

What I am having difficulty with is an irrigation and lighting plan.  I want to DIY as much as possible, but need to pick the right system for irrigation.  I also want the garden to have pathway lighting and electrical outlets for seasonal displays.  It is outside my area of expertise and complicated by the fact that we will build a sunroom at some point in the future.   I frustrate myself with my lack of ability to make decisions on some of it.  I wouldn't mind hiring someone to draw up the final plan.

Instead of a quilting bee, I'd like a landscaping one.