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Where to save and where to splurge on your landscaping project

Last Updated Jan 7, 2016 · Written by Rob Schneider


One thing you know: your landscape needs improvement. You're not sure how much improvement it needs and don't know how much it's going to cost. This brief guide will help you decide where to save and where to splurge on your landscaping project.

Step One: Plan Ahead

You probably have a lot of ideas, but have you organised them all? Let's say you've decided you want a water feature in your garden. If you just install the water feature without taking the surrounding area into account, the expensive feature can be a complete waste of money.

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Planning ahead gives you a complete picture of your landscaping project before you begin working. A garden designer would look at your available space and divide it into two components: hardscaping and softscaping. Hardscaping includes things like driveways, paths, paving, retaining walls, pergolas and other "hard" features. Softscaping includes your flowers, shrubs, lawn and other natural features. Hardscaping and softscaping should combine to create a pleasing garden environment.

Planning ahead will help you in a number of ways. It will:

  • Help you avoid making costly mistakes
  • Allow you to budget your project
  • Help you divide your project into DIY and professional services
  • Give you a timeframe to work with

Step Two: Establishing Your Budget

Once you have a complete picture, you can get quotes for all the components of your landscaping project. Be realistic when you get quotes and be sure you can legally carry out the DIY aspects of the project. For example, if you need a retaining wall, do you need to hire a professional? Your local council will tell you if your retaining wall requires the services of a structural engineer.

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If you're over-budget, you still have options. Do you need that retaining wall or can you do without it? Do you really need those expensive pavers? Do you need a gazebo or will a less expensive garden arch give you the shade you need? If you've itemised everything, you can find ways to trim your budget without compromising on the look of your project, but don't compromise too much. You may need to splurge on something important and put something else on hold until you have saved enough to pay for it.

Step Three: Getting Started

Start with the big things. For example, you may need to hire an excavator to sculpt your soil and have a retaining wall built to create a terraced effect. If yours is a major landscaping project, these can be your biggest expenses.

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If you do not require major work, you will probably want to start by laying out your garden. Do you:

  • Need edging for your garden?
  • Want a winding garden path?
  • Want to install a gazebo or pergola?
  • Need a paved area for relaxing?
  • Have a garden feature you want to take centre-stage in your garden?

These are necessary hardscaping jobs. Some of them you may need to do before you start planting. Others might need to wait until after you've started planting, but you'll need to lay out your boundaries ahead of time.

Step Four: Finishing Your Landscaping Project

Don't expect to finish your landscaping project on any given date. In fact, most landscapes are ongoing projects. You will add plants, move plants and perhaps make other changes as time goes on. Don't forget, too, that plants continue growing after you've planted them. Any landscaping project is an ongoing project unless you have an unlimited budget and can splurge on mature plants and hire gardening experts to plant and maintain your garden.

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The first step, planning, is the key to a successful landscaping project. Have a look at our Garden Design Ideas pages for inspiration, but keep in mind that many of the gardens are mature gardens. Your garden may not look like one of those immediately, but if you nurture it, in time it will be picture-perfect.

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