What a change in the weather! Maybe we won’t break into a sweat walking from our front door to our car any more this year. It seems like everyone’s mood is getting better too. With the change in weather, we should start thinking about doing things in the yard again (besides watering). If your yard took a huge hit from the drought, you have a lot to think about.

Planning is everything!

  1. What is the most important thing to do first?  Remove dead trees and shrubs first. Removing the dead, dying and unwanted/hated plants will open up an area, allowing you to see everything in a new light.
  2. Look at magazines and drive through more established neighborhood for ideas (take pictures).
  3. Compile a stack of ideas. Even if it is only one small aspect of another landscape you like, circle it!
  4. Make a list of plants you like and plants you hate. Some people have very strong feelings about plants.
  5. Inventory your sunlight. Do a rough drawing of your yard. Start at 8am, use a highlighter and mark all the sunny spots. Do it again at noon and 4pm, using different highlighter colors. Where all the colors over lap, is the full sun. Where the 8am color is alone, is morning sun. If you want even more information, check it every 2 hours, and be sure to use a different color every time.
  6. Make realistic decisions about how much time and energy you have to  install and/or maintain a landscape. Getting in over your head, on these 2 issues, will only cost you in the long run.
  7. Make a realistic decision about how much you can afford to spend on landscaping. Your yard should be worth, a minimum of, 10% of the value of your home. That excludes a pool, jacuzzi, fancy arbor and any type of play ground equipment. It does include plants, trees and hardscape you are going to keep. Simply put, spending $2000 on landscaping a $200,000 house is worse than no landscaping at all.
  8. Start with a complete plan, one for the whole yard. Pay a landscape designer or landscape architect to draw a plan to scale for you, even if you plan to do the work yourself and to implement it, in affordable stages. A plan will make your finished yard look professional. Just digging holes and sticking in what ever you happen to buy cheaply will look exactly like that.
  9. Interview potential designers/architects. Look at their portfolio and call their references. If you do not feel comfortable with them or their ideas, move on to the next one. You are the customer and should get what you want, not what they want you to have.
  10. Be open to ideas you might not have thought of. Some designers/architects are very creative, others pump out cookie cutter yards.
  11. Give the person designing your yard  a copy of your love/hate list, your sun inventory, your “love this part” pictures, your realistic ideas on how much time you have for maintenance and a realistic budget.
  12. Once you look at the plan, sleep on it. Think it over, does it have the things you wanted? Does it have the plants you love or suitable alternatives? Face it, peonies and fir trees will not grow in Houston. Does it have the plants you hate? Why do designer/architects do that, do they not listen?
  13. If the designer/architect offers installation, does it fit your budget? If your just buying the plan, get bids on installation. Interview the landscapers. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. 6 inches of soil added to a bed is not the same as adding 3 inches. Does the installer offer any guarantee? Ask for references and actually call them.  
  14. Once you sign a contract (and reputable landscapers will give you one), you are on your way. If you feel that something is not going to come out right or are unhappy with what you are seeing, stop the installation and discuss it with them. Some change of work orders, MAY cost you money. If they finish and you hate it, it WILL COST to fix it. If your contractor does not want to fix or change something while the project is in process, you picked the wrong company to work with.
  15. For the do-it-yourselfer, be realistic. You and your in-law/kids/buddies are not going to move as quickly and efficiently as an experienced 4 man crew. Work on one small area at a time. Only buy enough materials to finish that area. Leaving a huge pile of soil in your driveway for weeks, just might bring the wrath of your HOA. Plants that are bought and not planted, have the uncanny ability to make you feel guilt and no one needs that. If you find that you have bitten off more than you can chew, don’t be afraid to admit it and hire help. You are supposed to enjoy your yard, not resent it.