Updated: Mar 6, 2019
NOTE: REPOST FROM PREVIOUS WEBSITE
Whether you have moved into a new house and you're starting from scratch or you've been in the same house for several years and have decided you want to change the existing landscape, there are a few things you need to consider before putting shovel to ground. It's better to do a little investigating and planning now before the work and expense begins than have to alter your plans during or after you're done. So here are my top 8 things to do or consider before you start.
1. Get a hold of your real property report. If you have been in your house for some time, there are no doubt been additions to your yard that aren't on the report but It's nice to have a to scale drawing of the yard that will help you with a size and scale perspective in what you want. If you do not have one, you should be able to go to your local government administration office and request one. There will more than likely be an expense but well worth it in my opinion.
2. Get a hold of a few good informational books about plants, flowers and trees that are published for your area. You want books that give you good information about the optimal growing conditions, plant characteristics, and plant care. My go to choices for here in Central Alberta are any of the Lois Holes books - the lady knows her stuff, and Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development has published a book called Alberta Yards & Gardens. This is my bible, my only complaint about this book is that they don't provide you with a picture of the plant you are looking up, but all the other information is valuable and up to date.
3. Don't be in a hurry to get started, especially if you have just moved into a new house with a blank slate to create on. If you are the first house built on the block in a new subdivision I suggest you wait until all the other houses immediately around you are built before you start any serious or expensive landscaping as wind patterns, sun , rain, drainage, and sight lines to neighbour windows, which are all important to creating the ideal growing environment won't be known until those houses are up. Even then I would wait a year before putting in anything permanent. I suggest new home owners put down grass the first year only and then spend the next year watching and documenting what happens in their yard.
4. On that note - all homeowners should spend a year documenting the environmental conditions in their yards before starting or doing any major changes. If you don't know what you're working with or against you can't plan accordingly. Homeowners should take notes throughout the year and keep that info in a book on things such as, where do the sun and shade patterns fall throughout the different seasons of the year? When it rains, where does the water go - are their any drainage problems? How does the wind travel through your yard, this is not only important in the summer but also the winter, where do the snow drifts accumulate? Where are the neighbours sight lines, is your neighbour's bedroom looking directly down onto your deck? This collection of information will provide you with vital insight in creating and functional and practical landscape plan.
5. Get a soil test done. So many of the new subdivisions are created on filled in swamp land, farm land, or gravel pits and you can imagine that in each of those situations the composition of the soil would be different. What once was a common practice of putting a good thick layer of quality top soil around houses rarely exists now and most new yards are just backfilled with the clay and dirt from the basement excavation and 2-4 inches of poor quality top soil is added for a cosmetic uplift. If you're in an established yard, it's still good to get a soil test done especially if you plan on growing anything edible. You can get kits from garden centres, but I would pay for a company to come and do it. There is less likelihood of wrong readings or misinterpretation of data. The companies can also give you more specific and in depth info than just the do it yourself kits.
6. Plan for 5-10 years down the road. Yes your kids are young now but they won't always be, so make sure your plans include flexibility for growth and change as your families needs change. A smart plan is a flexible plan, so spend some time discussing what you want the yard to do for you now and in the future.
7. Be realistic in your expectation of effort and expense. Even though you really like the look of a zen garden with immaculately trimmed shrubs and trees, are you willing to spend the time maintaining it? Understand that low maintenance does not mean no maintenance and if you have a yard you have work. Knowing how much time and money you're willing to invest in the yard is important. You can always add but it's very difficult to take away once things are in place. So start small and build from there.
8. It's ok to ask for help. There are a lot of inexpensive or free resources for DIY out there but there is a lot of wrong or misleading information floating around. If you're overwhelmed and not sure or confident in your choices, asking for help from a professional could and will likely save you money, time and a sore back. If you're looking for help, ask friends and neighbours, or check with local gardening groups for their suggestions and make sure that if you do hire someone that you check references, meet with them so that you are comfortable with their plans and speak up if it's not in line with your vision. Remember bigger doesn't always mean better and more expensive doesn't always equal satisfaction.
So take your time, gather your resources, learn about your property, and ask questions before you start your project and you'll get the results you need and desire.
Here are some of the services The Wheelbarrow Gardener can provide to help you with your gardening needs.
- Small project design and implementation.A design plan and the help to get it accomplished.
- Consultations on plants, who, what where and when
- Coaching, we'll put our boots on and join you in the garden to teach you the skills you need to be successful.
- Garden Maintenance, weed, water, deadhead, transplanting perennials and general upkeep of your garden spaces.
- Container gardening for home or office, creative designs that transition well from one season to the next giving you the biggest value for your investment.