Monthly Archives: October 2016

All About Backyard Landscaping

Much like a living room is for public entertaining and a bedroom is your quiet and private domain, your front yard and backyard will often serve different purposes of outdoor landscaping. The front of your house is more public. You want passers-by to stop, roll down their windows, and say to themselves, “That’s the house I want.” Your backyard is your personal outdoor oasis.

Backyard Landscaping Installations

You may hear about backyard installations that have better or worse value return. A costly gazebo or storage shed may not have the same installation cost-to-property value ratio as a moderately priced pond or swimming pool. Your first question when deciding what backyard landscaping project to undertake should always be your lifestyle.

If you long for afternoon barbecues, a deck is probably where you should start. If you prefer quiet, evening dining, a patio is probably the better bet. If you’re an avid reader who finds the outdoors relaxing, a pond/waterfall combination may be ideal. A swimming pool can be a good installation that both you and your children can enjoy. Don’t go for projects that seem trendy, unless you’re sure it fits your lifestyle and/or you plan on selling your home in the next few years.

Planning for the future can mean more than just spending more on your installation project or getting the most bang for your buck. A common example of this is an above ground swimming pool installation. If you have children, they may bug you to put in a swimming pool. Spending more on this swimming pool may increase its lifetime by an extra ten years. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but once the kids leave the nest, your priorities may change.

You could invest that extra money and in ten years use that money to replace the swimming pool. An above ground swimming pool is one of the easiest installations to replace. Digging the foundation for the swimming pool is also natural ground preparation for a garden or patio.

Backyard Landscaping Care and Maintenance

General landscaping care and maintenance can be more about getting the most for your money. Planting or removing trees or other plants can provide many options and several of them can save you money and still achieve similar effects. Existing topsoil can often be revitalized in a relatively short amount of time at a significantly cheaper price. The most important thing is to ask a lot of questions before you make any actual plans. Talking to a landscaping professional about what you want for your backyard landscaping can be invaluable for both quality and cost. Be sure to ask what your options are and make sure you can justify each decision to yourself.

When hiring a lawn service company, it’s important to find a reputable company, but it’s also a good idea to get quotes from several companies. To save on operating costs, these companies tend to bundle their services into packages. Different companies may have different packages. Finding the right fit for your specific lawn needs can help you make the best choice.

Learn More About Landscape Design

There was a time when most people thought landscaping was little more than lawn mowing, weeding and planting a few flowers. In recent years, landscaping has taken on a whole new meaning. Good landscape design can add to the value of a home, dramatically increase your living space, and contribute greatly to an improved home lifestyle.

As a trade, landscaping has been divided into three main fields:

Lawn care companies
Landscape maintenance firms
Landscape design firms
Lawn care companies specialize in mowing, raking, edging, seeding and otherwise caring for the grassy areas.

Landscape maintenance firms are primarily concerned with periodic maintenance of shrubs and flowerbeds.

Landscape design firms that handle landscape construction and planting under the direction of a landscape designer or architect. This last group deals with everything from patios to fountains to rock gardens.

Most people have no long-term plans for their landscaping. More often than not, changes in the landscape are triggered by sales on plants at the local nursery or home center. Some of these impulse purchases die before being transplanted and plants that are successfully transplanted end up providing a final look short of expectations. While nearly every household does some landscaping, few achieve the results they seek. In most neighborhoods, truly appealing landscapes are few and far between.

Why do so few people create truly satisfying landscapes? It certainly isn’t for lack of trying. It’s nearly always for lack of attention to the design. A good landscape designer can help you integrate all kinds of practical and aesthetic considerations into an overall plan that achieves the effects that are most important to you. Whether you want to attract birds, impress the neighbors, or create fanciful outdoor recreation areas for grandchildren, landscape designers can help you pull it together so that it really works.

Most people assume that landscape designer means “big expense.” This is not necessarily the case. Designers can help you work within a budget and can help you implement the landscape plan in stages spread over several seasons.

Most homeowners who do their own landscaping end up redoing parts of it time and time again, trying to create the right look without creating a maintenance nightmare. This is not a recipe for saving money. A designer can help you develop an approach that doesn’t waste your time and money.

To get help with your landscape design, there are many ways to gather ideas:

Landscaping and gardening books
Home and gardening magazines
Computer-based landscape design tools
Flower shows and home shows
Home centers and nurseries
For the most comprehensive design help, use a landscape architect or someone with equivalent training. These people have studied landscaping from every angle over a long period of time and are in the best position to help you juggle thousands of variables to end up with the ideal plan for you. Even if you decide to formulate a plan on your own, have a landscape design professional review your ideas before you start moving dirt around or buying expensive plants.

Tips To Working with Landscapers

Landscapers are a little different than the typical home improvement contractor in that they will not only be outside of your home, but they also won’t even be touching your home. The good thing about this relationship is that a landscaping project will not upset the daily flow of your home. What’s difficult is knowing exactly how to go about a working relationship with contractors who never enter your home. While landscape service professionals are not going to come into contact with the members of your household as much as kitchen remodeling crews or flooring installers, there is still good reason to make sure the contact you do have with your landscaping crew is amiable.

What Landscape Service Professionals Expect from You

An unwritten rule of home improvement projects is that if contractors are working outside, they don’t typically come in the home. If they are working inside, then it is proper etiquette to offer them use of your facilities. However, landscape service professionals are doing a pretty tough job, and a few indoor amenities can go a long way in keeping the contractor/homeowner relationship (as well as the project in general) flowing smoothly.

Landscape service professionals are going to need a few basic things to do their job. A source of water, a few electrical outlets, and some parking spots on or near their work site are things you should point out on day one. In some cases, landscaping companies will bring a port-a-john along to the jobsite, but if they do not, offering the use of your bathroom is a gesture that will pay off. Sure, landscaping is dirty work, and coming into the house during this kind of job could lead to a few foot prints on your floor. However, since a few dollars spent on carpet remnants will eliminate the risk of stains, having your crew use the closest bathroom available is going to keep productivity rolling and, in the end, reduce total labor hours.

What You Should Expect from Landscape Service Professionals

The contractor/homeowner relationship goes two ways, and if you are courteous to your crew, you should expect courtesy in return. On the first day of the job, have a talk with the crew leader to set up ground rules. If you smoking or swearing make you uncomfortable, let your crew leader know up front. If you have pets on your property, establish any boundaries your crew should observe early. While you might feel like you’re being a little demanding, your crew will often appreciate you taking the time to inform them of any actions that could have led to friction.

It’s a good idea to set up meetings with your crew leader to discuss how the project is going. On projects that are only going to take a week to finish, consider daily meetings; for very lengthy projects, a weekly meeting may be enough. These meetings will be your time to ask questions about the project, voice any concerns you have, and give credit where credit is due. If your crew of landscape service professionals is behaving less than professionally, you’ll have a designated time to air your grievances without offending anyone; on the other hand, if you’re completely pleased with how the project is going, you can use this time to let your crew leader know you recognize his or her efforts as well as those of the rest of the crew.

Pampering Landscape Service Professionals

We’ve heard stories of homeowners providing crews with pizza on Fridays or even taking their workers out for a cold one at the end of a project. While this can definitely solidify a strong contractor/homeowner relationship, landscape service professionals are not expecting to be pampered. If you feel like buying a pizza on Fridays, go for it, but for most crews the following courtesies will be more than enough to keep the good vibes circulating:

If your garage is not full of items or vehicles, the garage is a great place to offer landscapers an escape from the sun. Landscaping projects are hot and difficult work, and the cool concrete floor of the garage and shade from the sun is a nice bonus.
Usually, landscapers will feel free to tap into your outdoor water source, but if they do not assume the use of it, this is something you could offer. If they are installing a sprinkler system, then most likely they are already doing this.
If the day is particularly hot, you might offer your crew a jug of water, some lemonade, or something cold to drink. Landscapers are used to the heat and used to being hot, so they most likely will bring along a water jug or some cold soda. However, happy landscapers do spectacular work, and if a little lemonade can help get your crew pumped on a hot day, the benefits often go both ways.