DIY garden makeover projects can be a practical way to save money, if you know what you’re doing.
I’ve found that the most common landscape mistakes committed by do it yourselfers fall in the following categories:
- Budget Oversights
- Preparation/Demo Mistakes
- Design Mistakes/Plant Selection
Let’s get started with the most important aspect of your project: the landscaping budget!
Do you have a list of landscaping expenses?
Garden decor and furniture budget?
Landscape Budget Mistakes
You’re ecstatic about the deal you found on Craig’s List for a specimen Sago palm but did you allocate funds for some of these less “sexy” expenses?
1. No budget for trash and debris hauling
One of the most often overlooked expenses in a landscape project is not accounting for demolition and yard debris haul away!
From a small 6-yard bin to a 40-yard trailer, most refuse companies charge per week and impose a penalty charge for bins that weigh more than the maximum weight.
Earmark some of your budget for trash bins depending on your volume of trash and the kind of trash you have.
You are not allowed to mix bricks and concrete pieces with compostable yard materials.
It’s going to cost extra!
Better yet, instead of disposing concrete pieces from an old driveway or patio, repurpose them as “flagstone” for an informal walkway or to build raised garden beds!
2.No budget for portable toilet rental for construction site
If you contract a landscaping crew for more than a couple of days, you’ll need to provide a portable toilet.
The thought of workers walking through your house when nature calls is probably not part of your vision for your new landscape.
Portable toilets are available at weekly or monthly rates.
3. No budget for delivery charges for plant and landscape materials
If you don’t own a truck or mind driving back and forth with a full car, you will need to pay for plant deliveries.
Bulk materials like sand, gravel and soils are available by the cubic yard.
Find out what the delivery charge is from your landscape center and how many trips you will need to make for different phases of your project.
4. No budget for equipment rental.
Don’t expect to remove a large tree with rose pruners!
Assess each project for tool and equipment needs.
You may need to rent a bobcat, a power saw, stump grinder or all the above!
Heavy equipment like a bobcat should be driven by an experienced person or hire a professional.
5. No budget for “Invisible Items”
A DIY’er who knows their way around a landscaping project is aware that they need to budget for materials and labor that are virtually invisible!
Underground work like electrical, irrigation, and drain pipes are the infrastructure of a viable landscape.
Don’t forget this “dirty” work is essential and needs to be in place before construction or plants are installed.
Your landscape project will look ugly before it EVER looks pretty.
This phase will cost you some money.
6. No budget for building permits
Building permits, fall under the “invisible” category for those of you who aren’t aware that you may need them to build certain structures.
Overhangs, attached patios, spas, outdoor kitchens, pools, poured cement are all projects that may require permits.
Always check with your city building department and include building permits in your budget!
There are many line items that should be included in your landscape budget, these are some of the most common missed ones.
The WORST design mistake is not having a landscape design plan!
A landscape drawing doesn’t have to be perfect or look like a pro made it, you can work with a scaled “concept” design.
It’s important to see on paper how the different areas of the yard relate to each other.
Walkways, patios, and garden areas should flow into each other and be functional size.
With a design plan, you have an overview of the yard and may catch “traffic flow” problems or notice that a patio is too small for your needs BEFORE you build.
Start by ordering a plot map of your property from the county assessor’s office.
Plot maps have site markers and yard measurements which you will need for your drawing.
If you’re comfortable with computer programs, I recommend the Visionscape.com online design program.
It’s simple and straightforward and you can generate a 3-D video file of your design.
If design is intimidating to you and you aren’t interested in researching how wide an entrance walkway should be, hire a landscape designer!
Professional help is money well invested.
Shortsighted Vision of Your Yard
Another mistake related to design, is having a shortsighted vision of your yard.
This includes installing trees and plants with no regard to how large they will become in maturity.
“In the first year, a plant sleeps. The second year, it creeps, and in the third year, it leaps!”
Read plant labels, observe mature plants at a local botanical garden and you will notice that little plants grow up to be BIG plants.
Select your plants with future growth in mind.
Related to “shortsightedness” is a failure to design a yard that is accessible and functional as you age or experience an injury.
Steps leading to the front entry should be shorter, rather than taller whenever possible.
There is no greater “welcome” sign to a home, than an entrance that’s easy to navigate.
Older dogs will thank you as well.
Building raised garden beds is another example of planning for the future when gardening on ground level may become difficult to do.
Kids, older adults and people who are temporarily using crutches or a wheelchair will appreciate a built in ramp.
Placed behind a beautiful olive tree, you can’t see the ramp from the curb.
If this article incites feelings of insecurity, I hope you will consider hiring a professional.
Hire a Landscape Consultant
DIY’ers, if you are committed to overseeing your landscape project from start to finish, consider hiring a landscape consultant, like me!
Landscape consultants will assist you in executing your design plan within your budget constraints.
In Los Angeles, landscaping consultants may charge anywhere from $100 to over $200 per hour and is worth the investment.
I urge you to create a budget that includes the above expenses and make sure to check it twice!
Once you account for all these “trashy” expenses, you’ll be able to move on to the more fun parts of your landscape project.
Read about it here.
Read how Shirley Bovshow started her career as a nationally known landscape designer while her children slept in “About Shirley Bovshow.”