by Bas Kers
Garden and Landscaping Tips – Making Things Easier For the First Time Home Owner
Does this sound familiar? You have been dreaming of being a home owner and have just moved into your house. You look outside at your backyard and suddenly realize there are no trees, there is no lawn and there is nothing but a lot of dirt. It’s not the wonderful backyard you grew up with and you feel pressured to have the same or better than what your parents or grandparents had accomplished. For many this is the first hint that something called work is involved. If it isn’t handled properly, this can lead to some serious long term relationship issues in your household. Here are some valuable tips to make your dirt pile into your personal retreat.
1. Survey your turf
Walk around your lot as a family. Look at how the road looks or the rest of the houses look from different vantage points. This also means that if you can see these things, you also can be seen from those places back into your yard. Note which way the wind usually blows around your house and yard. You will get a sense of what is a sheltered or exposed part of your yard. Note where the sun rises and sets in your yard. This gives you a sense of where you have a lot of sun and where you have a lot of shade. Repeat this procedure several times, even over several weeks if you need to.
2. Visualize your activities
Once you have made these notes (mental or written) you now have a sense of what you can do with your space. Start to think where you intend to have the garden party, where the swing set will be, where you want to put your flower bed, vegetable garden, compost bin, pond, patio and or hot tub. Since you have already a sense of the effect of the elements in your yard you now know where these activities can be located. Take time to experiment and discuss as a family, the possible options of how these objects and activities interact.
3. Do some research and compare notes
Understand the growing conditions in your community. Do you have lots of rain? Are the temperatures variable? How long is the growing season? What is the ground soil really like? See what people are doing in established neighborhoods. Go to the library, the garden center, or on a horticultural tour. Ask owners about their yards, what they think turned out and if they had to do it again what would they change.
4. Create a long term plan
Think of this as a two to three year plan. Generally, people build a house with the idea that they are going to stay there until their nestlings have left. The happy fantasy ends because many times the homeowners get overwhelmed and panic because the yard isn’t all done within a planned long weekend or two week vacation. So many beautiful sunny days of spring and summer rapidly become war zones as artificial deadlines and expectations are not met, the financial stress and of course physical stress of moving materials and digging dirt further frays the nerves of what was once a happy family unit. By creating a long term plan, divided into smaller tasks the gardening and landscaping experience becomes less stressful and much more satisfying.
5. Divide the plan into smaller projects
Smaller projects mean smaller cash outlays and more doable projects. Since you have a long term plan, you already know where things are going to go. Now you can divide the plan into smaller projects. You can say as an example; a) plant the trees, b) put in the grass on the front yard only, c) get the back patio done, and then d) build a fire pit. I suggested planting the trees first because they benefit from a longer growing season and once you have fences up, it’s harder to get a larger tree into your back yard. Grass installation was suggested next since it helps to keeps the weeds away, the dust level around your house down and when children or pets are running in the mud, grass makes a good cleaning barrier. Putting in grass is a rather big project so do it in smaller portions, especially when installing sod by yourself. It is better to purchase smaller quantities since rolled up sod doesn’t store well after 24 hours. When you do things as smaller projects, it gives you the satisfaction that you accomplished what you set out to do and you still have some time and energy to be a family.
6. There are no mistakes
The greatest fear of many homeowners and gardening newcomers is that they might do things wrong. Gardening and landscaping is never about perfection. It is about trying new things, creativity, experimentation, optimism and evolution. You are dealing with Nature. Your task is to make an area your special place. You can learn to work with plants, soil, drainage, watering and fertilizing basics but many things are simply out of your control. You can’t help it if there is a hail storm or early winter frost. Sometimes the stone path you made shifts. You simply use it as a reason to be outside and in your yard. The first season can be the most daunting, but as the years go by, the garden will take on a wonderful lived in quality. Stay focused and remember why you wanted a yard in the first place. Be gentle with yourself and your family and you all will be able to enjoy that yard before you know it.