Landscaping Tips — August 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm

6 DIY Landscaping Tips and Random Advice


One of the best things about working on your own landscaping is the ability to try different things, create unique looks and tinker with it until it’s just right. However, there are some general tips and guidelines that can help save some stress down the road and let you spend more of your time creating new ideas, rather than going back to fix old ones.

1. Make sure everything slopes away from your house.

The last thing you want is a giant lake forming at the base of your house because your brand new patio you so proudly build yourself is sloping back towards your house. Whether your installing a new patio, building a deck or leveling the yard for a new lawn, make sure it gently slopes away from the house.  This can easily be done with a couple stakes, a string line and a bubble level.  All of these are available at your local hardware store and are very inexpensive, but well worth it.  To help you keep those string lines nice and tight, here’s a simple video that shows one great way to do it.


container-gardening2. Pick appropriate sized trees for your available space.

No matter how much you love the look of that liquid amber tree, planting it too close to your home or driveway can cause major issues as it grows to it’s full size. Tree roots can cause havoc to your freshly laid sod or disturb your home’s foundation. Likewise, planting a massive tree towards the back of your yard can provide some great privacy from your neighbors.  However, it may start to cause damage to your fence as the roots grow out and will need to be trimmed from time to time to keep it from going over to far into your neighbors yard.

For smaller spaces, consider planting dwarf trees in containers. Not only do you get the benefit of fruit or colorful leaves without the hassle of larger trees, but by putting the container on a small furniture dolly you can easily move them around the yard to take advantage of where the sun hits throughout the seasons.


3. Variety is the key to a beautiful yard.

If you plant too much of the same thing, what happens when those trees or flowers aren’t in bloom?  Likewise, planting all deciduous trees may look beautiful in the fall, but it can make your landscape look extremely bare in the winter.  When choosing your landscape flora, make sure you pay attention to the time of year it blooms and plant a variety to ensure wonderful colors all year long!

Planting a variety is not only important for blooming and color, but also for sizes and shape. Give your planting beds some dimension by planting in layers. Start with the taller growing plants in the back and work your way forward until you get down to the low-growing showy plants in the front. You’ll not only have more depth to your planting bed but it will be a lot easier to access your smaller annuals that will need to be replanted from year to year.


4. In hot regions, shade is king.

Consider planting a large shade tree on the southeast, southwest and western areas of your house if you live in regions that get hot summers. A big, healthy shade tree can provide roughly the cooling potential of 10 room-sized air conditioner units running for as much as 20 hours per day.  Just make sure you plant them a safe distance away from your home’s foundation.


5. Pick plants that flourish in your area.

When I moved into my first home, all I wanted was a big, red maple tree out front that would light up my yard with the vibrant colors of fall. However, after doing a little research, I learned that no matter how much I wanted it, a maple tree wouldn’t do well in my hot, dry desert climate.  From ornamental plants to fruit producing trees, your life will be much easier if you use plants that are suited for your climate, soil type, surrounding plants and local animals. A little time spend researching what works best in your area can save a lot of heartache down the road.

To start, visit local nurseries and talk to them about what grows best in your area. Although many will give you valuable advice, keep in mind that if you tell them you want a particular type of plant, they may tell you it will grow fine just to make a sale.  You can also visit many online resources such as the National Gardening Association, Better Homes and Gardens or the many blogs out there by people like you and me.  Another option is to visit local university horticulture departments if there is one in your area. Not only will they be a wealth of advice but many offer free soil testing.


6. Buy in bulk. Save some money.

Most landscapes require more dirt or soil amendments than is available in the average yard. While many new home owners will just head down to the local home improvement warehouse to buy bags of soil or mulch, more often than not they end up going back for more and more once they realize those big bags in the store don’t really go that far.  Instead of paying a premium for nicely packaged bags, visit your local building materials supplier and buy in bulk. If you have a large project, they will actually deliver it right to your house.  For smaller projects, borrow a friends pick up truck and have them empty a scoop or two in the the back of the truck.  By buying in bulk, you’ll save money in the long run and often have more options than what’s available at the local store.  This same logic applies to many landscaping materials such as sand, gravel, straw, wood chips and various types of mulch.

(hint: if you’re getting material delivered to your house, put a large tarp down on the driveway before they deliver. It will make clean up much easier!!)