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Landscape design for beginners?

Backyard landscaping
A simple yet beautiful garden landscape with rocks, edging and lawn

We often think that landscaping is an expensive undertaking that is only affordable to the rich. Such is the prevalence of this misconception that we tend to banish the thought of landscaping without researching the idea properly and determining if it is necessary to hire a landscaper, a landscape architect or a landscape designer. The truth is that we do not always need the services of these landscape consultants to have a beautiful garden landscape. Landscaping can be done on a budget and the cheapest route to a landscaped garden can be simply consulting books, websites, and magazines for landscaping ideas. The best and cheapest, however, is to elicit some landscaping ideas from a friend or family member who may have some practical garden knowledge or creative talent; you may even ask around at your local garden center.

Since this website is dedicated to the novice and do-it-yourself gardener, we will make an assumption that we are gardening on a shoestring budget. A budget friendly garden landscape can be created by anyone who is dedicated to the task, and can be achieved by following these steps:

Create a good design plan

The tighter your budget, the more important a good landscaping design plan becomes since a well laid out plan will help you to avoid making costly mistakes. In cases where a good design plan is lacking, you may end up with wasted labor and needless rearrangement and even uprooting of plants or trees that might have been planted on the wrong spots, or a landscape garden that you're not entirely happy with. Thus, a good, systematic, methodical, chronologically planned landscaping design for both your front yard and your backyard will save you not only money, but also the frustration of starting over.

Even in cases where you can only afford to work in stages, you should try to do your planning and design in one go. A good systematic landscape design plan will allow you to be methodical in each stage of creating your garden landscape. You will be able to calculate and adjust costs as well as work out budgets and savings plans for possible expensive hard landscaping jobs that you may want to implement. Furthermore, sticking to a plan will help you avoid the temptation of buying unnecessary plants and garden décor, such as garden gnomes, garden statues, garden décor, garden furniture and the like. It is easy to fall prey to good marketing ploys, especially when the exhibits looks like it could work in your garden.

Good systematic, methodical landscaping plans for both the front yard landscaping and backyard landscaping should be drawn to scale, and should show all relevant existing and envisaged areas of the landscaping. Your landscaping plans should also enable you to work out maintenance costs, equipment costs, compost, humus, fertilizer costs and even water and irrigation system costs. On our practical start to landscape design page there are instructions on how you can draw up your own landscape design and would be a good place to start.

Be patient

Do not fall prey to the temptation of creating an instant garden. Work section by section in accordance to your front and backyard landscaping design plans. By working methodically on one area or one part of the project at a time, you will be afforded the opportunity, not only to work within your budget, but also in accordance with your landscape plans. By fully planting and establishing your garden in sections you can also check your ability to cope with the required maintenance work before you move on to the next section. This will allow you to revise your design plan without having gone too far.

Working in sections and establishing your garden in sections also has savings as a consequence. You can save money on plants as you can make use of cuttings and root slips from the established sections of your garden to propagate in the new garden beds. You will also find that the maintenance requirements decrease as the beds and plants mature.

Create a time frame

You should plan your front yard landscaping as well as your backyard landscaping according to the time (in years or seasons) that you intend to live on a specific property. In a case where you know that your stay at a specific property is limited, avoid overspending on expensive items or slow growing trees and shrubs, swimming pools, barbeque areas and the like. Although it might add value to your property, you should carefully calculate whether the costs will be justified.

If you intend staying on a property for more than a decade or two you can justify the costs of having expensive items such as swimming pools, paving and even checkerboard paving, special plants, slow growing trees and slow growing evergreen shrubs. If your intention of staying at a property is not so long, then budget for a short-stay garden. Make use of fast-growing plants, perennials, annuals, groundcovers, fast growing shrubs and flowering shrubs that grows quick. Planting trees will certainly not benefit you; you should rather go for alternatives such as a large umbrella, portable gazebos or even overhead trelliswork if you require shading that would have been provided by a tree.