Author Topic: Landscaping Advice  (Read 3533 times)

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Landscaping Advice
« on: January 23, 2017, 02:58:46 PM »
Hello MMM World,

We bought a house in the fall and have spent the winter renovating it. Now in the spring, we have a bunch of landscaping work to do.

Everything is overgrown and a mess. It's an old house and nothing has been done with the landscaping in years. We have a good idea about what we are going to do, but I am looking for advice on how to do it the best (and cheapest).

We are going to be removing a bunch of large bushes, removing parts of a fence, repairing other parts of the fence, installing a new privacy fence, planting some (maybe up to 5-6) trees, planting shrubs, etc.

- If we hired out some of the work, any advice on finding quality landscapers? Or which work is the cheapest to hire out vs. more expensive to hire out? What are the most expensive job to hire, that I could likely do myself?

- Where do you find the best prices on trees, bushes, fencing, mulch, etc? Are the big box stores like Lowes the best? Or would a nursery be better?

Thanks for your help!

MsPeacock

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Re: Landscaping Advice
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2017, 03:33:00 PM »
Lowes is usually cheaper than a nursery. However, they will have a smaller selection and may not have plants that are best for your climate. The people at a local nursery can give more expert advise. You might also ask on freecycle or Craigslist, or ask neighbors, for plant divisions. IME lowes has a better garden department than Home Depot.

My rule for hiring is to hire people to do the things I can't physically do. E.g. Cut down the 22 ton 120' tulip poplar. I will otherwise tear out, trim, plant, spread mulch, etc myself. I love yard work though. You probably have at least several years worth of work to do. On year one focus on tear out and a few repairs. Year two big plants go in. When you plant trees it is important to water daily for three months. Don't worry about buying huge plants and trees. Save money by getting the small ones and starting them welll. They will transplant better when small and in a few years they catch up with the large trees anyhow. For instance, get the four foot tree in a five gal bucket instead of the six or eight foot tree in a 15 gal bucket.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2017, 02:25:57 PM by MsPeacock »

slb59

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Re: Landscaping Advice
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2017, 05:30:03 AM »
If you know someone with an established garden, sometimes you can get cuttings from them to help fill things out. My MIL had a couple of Roses of Sharon that recreate prolifically, so she gave us three branches that turned into three gorgeous shrubs. I've even heard of someone casually snipping a clipping from a neighbor's hydrangea bush while on a walk through the neighborhood. There are a few bushes like that you can get to grow from cuttings (lavender is the other one that comes to mind, but I know there are more) for free.

My husband has done some basic fence repair himself - really straightforward things like nailing a replacement slat to the cross-beams or pushing up a leaning post and adding in some reinforcement to the hole. We've never tried doing the full fencing ourselves, but we'll probably google it like crazy and give it a try when our fence finally is beyond patching.

Digging up shrubs is fairly simple but a lot of manual labor and can take awhile. Cut down the main branches from the bush to make it easier to deal with. Dig up the roots as far as you reasonable can go. Cut it out by the roots and remove. Make sure you get enough of the roots that the bush doesn't stand a chance at coming back. Spraying roundup all over the bush a week or so before you dig it up will help make sure it doesn't grow back.


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Re: Landscaping Advice
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2017, 08:41:05 AM »
Lowes is usually cheaper than a nursery. However, they will have a smaller selection and may not have plants that are best for your climate. The people at a local nursery can give more expert advise. You might also ask on freecycle or Craigslist, or ask neighbors, for plant divisions. IME lowes has a better garden department than Home Depot.

My rule for hiring is to hire people's to do the things I cant physically do. E.g. Cut down the 22 ton 120' tulip poplar. I will other wise tear out, trim, plant, spread much, etc myself. I love yard work though. You probably have at least several years worth of work to do. On year one focus on tear out and a few repairs. Year two big plants go in. When you plant trees it is important to water daily for three months. Don't worry about buying huge plants and trees. Save money by getting the small ones and staring well. They will transplant. Egged and in a few years they catch up with the large trees anyhow. For instance, get the four foot tree ina five gal bucket instead of the six or eight foot tree ina 15 gal bucket.

Thanks for the help.

Have you noticed a significantly higher success rate with 4 ft trees as opposed to 6-8 ft? I don't really know how much of a green thumb i have. Would hate to kill it!

I didn't really want to hear that we have a couple years ahead of us. But unfortunately that might be true.


MsPeacock

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Re: Landscaping Advice
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2017, 09:00:27 AM »
Lowes is usually cheaper than a nursery. However, they will have a smaller selection and may not have plants that are best for your climate. The people at a local nursery can give more expert advise. You might also ask on freecycle or Craigslist, or ask neighbors, for plant divisions. IME lowes has a better garden department than Home Depot.

My rule for hiring is to hire people's to do the things I cant physically do. E.g. Cut down the 22 ton 120' tulip poplar. I will other wise tear out, trim, plant, spread much, etc myself. I love yard work though. You probably have at least several years worth of work to do. On year one focus on tear out and a few repairs. Year two big plants go in. When you plant trees it is important to water daily for three months. Don't worry about buying huge plants and trees. Save money by getting the small ones and staring well. They will transplant. Egged and in a few years they catch up with the large trees anyhow. For instance, get the four foot tree ina five gal bucket instead of the six or eight foot tree ina 15 gal bucket.

Thanks for the help.

Have you noticed a significantly higher success rate with 4 ft trees as opposed to 6-8 ft? I don't really know how much of a green thumb i have. Would hate to kill it!

I didn't really want to hear that we have a couple years ahead of us. But unfortunately that might be true.

I am not sure what the actual rates are. The larger trees costs more and will be more vulnerable to problems with settling in after transplant. With either size it incredibly important that you water them frequently (daily is preferable) for several months, and if it is dry continue to water them. The water has played a bigger role in my trees and new plants settling in than anything else.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2017, 02:26:52 PM by MsPeacock »

Grosgrain

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Re: Landscaping Advice
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2017, 01:50:34 PM »
I could write a book in response to your questions.  We are embarking on year 6 in our house, and the last of the big yard projects (patio cover and new exterior French door) will be completed this year.  How long it takes is a function of how big a space you have and how ambitious your plans are.  We have about a quarter acre and had very complicated plans - including a vegetable garden, blueberries, a grape arbor, chicken coop, compost bins, gas fire pit, raised beds, gravel paths, 3 water features, 14 trees, hundreds (literally) of ornamental plants, trellising, hops arbor, etc. 

For your project, I would recommend thinking about what your goals are and also your appetite for ongoing maintenance.  Do you need outdoor entertaining space?  Do you want a neat and simple front yard that matches the neighborhood - or something more complex or eye-catching?  Do you need to hide any eyesores or add screening for privacy?  Once you really dig into what you want to achieve from the space, you can develop a plan.  The plan can then be divided into phases - depending on your time and budget.  For example, if you need a new front walk to your front door, you may want to prioritize that first over buying new plants since plants and lawn would likely be damaged when installing new hardscaping. 

A couple other thoughts:

When cleaning up, don't get too crazy - especially since you've only lived in the house since the fall.  You might find that the tree you removed would have been great for shading the living room window in the summer or had really pretty spring flowers.  I would advise trying to keep any healthy, well-sited mature trees currently on the property.  They do wonders for making a house feel part of the landscape, and young trees seem to take forever to get big.  We didn't have any mature trees on our property other than a rotten apple tree that had to be removed.  It has been a serious bummer waiting for the new trees to get big enough to cast a little shade in the summer. 

In your shoes, I would start with the clean-up and fence repairs.  Digging out old shrubs is hard manual work but not something I would hire out.  Just make sure the ground is moist and you have a Pulaski for hacking out the root ball.  You should be able to learn everything you need to know about fence building and repairs with some googling. 

For plants, I always recommend buying from a local nursery.  The plants are going to be in better shape and the staff far more knowledgeable about what will work in your area.  They're not necessarily going to be the cheapest, but I think it's worth the premium.  For cheap plants, a lot of garden clubs and other garden-related groups (e.g. Master Gardeners, etc.) have plant sales in the spring.  They can be a great way to get cool plants for great prices.  For mulch, compost, and gravel, we buy from a local landscape supply yard.  Hands down cheaper than buying individual bags at the home center. 

Well, that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Keep asking questions and reading.  You might just find yourself with a new hobby.

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Re: Landscaping Advice
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2017, 07:03:29 AM »
Thanks for the detailed responses team.

Let me add a few more details:

- We have a decent plan for landscaping already in place. I have a buddy who is a landscape architect, so he helped us develop a good plan.

- It is a rental duplex. We currently live in one half, but within the next 12-15 months we will be moving out and both sides will be rented out.

- We are looking for very low maintenance landscape. I don't trust the tenants to take care of lots of landscaping. For that reason, I really want to get the young trees in the ground this spring, so I can keep a close eye on them while they are young. Any advice on low maintenance shrubs and/or trees (probably flowering?

- Had to google what a Pulaski was. I will make sure to wear sleeveless flannel while wielding such a device.

- We already have several mature trees on the property - no plans to remove them. We have about an acre and most of the yard and trees we won't touch. Most of the work is surrounding the house. Below is a picture of broken down fence and bushes (note this picture is from 8 months ago. Bushes are worse now!).


Monkey Uncle

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Re: Landscaping Advice
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2017, 04:43:47 AM »
I replaced a similar rotting rail fence a few years ago.  It's relatively straightforward since you likely will be re-using the same post holes.  They will still have to be dug out again, but you won't have to fiddle with getting them in a straight line.  Do check the spacing, though, as your replacement rails may not be exactly the same length as the old ones.

Here's a tip for easy removal of the old posts: Stick one of the old rails in the bottom hole in the post and use the rail as a lever to pull the post out.  Use a saw horse or something of similar height as a fulcrum.  Unless the posts are set in concrete, they should pop right out of the ground, no digging required.

Be sure the replacement posts are treated, or made from a wood that doesn't rot easily (e.g., black locust or the heartwood of eastern red cedar).

Rail fence replacement definitely is hard work, but if you're up for the physical labor and you have the time, you can save a good bit of money vs. paying someone to do it.

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Re: Landscaping Advice
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2017, 10:32:19 AM »
At least in our market, a repainted rail fence would be fine for a rental. You could get a harbor freight paint sprayer, probably useful for when you repaint the house as well, and just spray the fence white, and replace the broken rails. For the backyard, I would save some time and rent a cat, and just scoop out the bushes and shrubs. Since you won't live there really, I would just take out as much of the yard as you can, mulch most of it, build some raised beds out of 2x10's filled with the leftover dirt from your caterpillar scrapings, and create a little grass area with terrace board staked around it. That gives some garden beds for tenants to contain themselves to, minimal watering, and a little grass area for them to go barefoot on. Plus if you don't make a bomb-proof fence they won't have a dog and that's 4 less feet messing up your property.

I agree with previous posters that if you want to make it really designed and thoughtful, that will take several years and planting seasons. Don't overestimate what your tenants will need in the way of a backyard, as any effort they don't appreciate is time and money you divert from other ventures.