Horticulture Magazine

How To Landscape A Garden

birds eye drawings on paper of a landscaped garden

Landscaping a garden is, as you can probably imagine, quite a big job.

A full overhaul of your outdoor space is definitely something that requires more than a blog post to bring to fruition; but, there are things we can achieve with a blog post that will help to point you in the right direction.

a construction professional on the phone
How ambitious a project do you have in mind?

Rather than give you a step-by-step guide of the entire landscaping process, we’ll outline the things you’d do best to think about, and link to a few resources that will shed more light on each one. After reading, it’s our hope that you’ll have a clearer understanding of what’s involved in landscaping a garden, along with the information you need to get your landscaping project off the ground.

What to think about when landscaping a garden

As we said, big job. Here’s a top level overview of the individual jobs you might find in your landscaping project, to give you an idea of what you’re up against –

  • Scoping out your garden. The first step is to firmly acquaint yourself with the space you have available.
  • Make some plans. Then, you need to align the space as it currently is with how you want it to be.
  • Decide who’s going to do it. If you want to, you can hire a professional to do every step of the project for you, from planning to planting. Question is, do you want to?
  • Get your garden ready. When you have a plan you need to start removing the bits of your garden that don’t currently fit into it.
  • Get the tools. Lots of landscaping jobs require specialist tools, and you’ll need to source them.
  • Get the materials. As above: depending what you’re planning to do, you may need quite a lot!
  • Do the work. Here we are, just seven steps into the list! This is where the fun begins.
  • Tidy everything up. Just a few final jobs to get your garden ready to go!

Now we’ve given you a little overview, let’s dig a little deeper into the  meat of each step.

Scoping out your garden

Looking out into your garden and seeing what you’re working with is the first step. How much space do you have? How agreeable is the land? Does the raw material lend itself to your fledgling landscaping ideas, or do you need to reign in your ideas a bit?

If you’re looking to do something fairly simple like build a new patio or redo the surface of a path, your plans are probably just fine.

If you see your garden as a blank canvas and you find yourself fantasising about utopian garden ideas, however, you may need to pay more attention to what is realistically achievable.

Planning your landscaping project

The planning stage is where you marry up your visions with what the reality of your space allows. Spending a lot of time on this stage is advisable, as it puts you in the best stead for achieving success later on.

Good planning involves –

  • Taking measurements, so you have a good idea of the space you’re working with.
  • Figuring out who owns what: especially important in preventing you cutting down a neighbour’s tree or accidentally building a shed on their land.
  • Calculating accurately what you’ll need: this refers to materials and time. Having a clear idea of how much material you need and how long things will take will help you to establish clear targets.
  • Sequencing things properly: it may sound obvious not to build your patio before you’ve levelled the land, but with smaller jobs it can be easy to plan them in the wrong order then finding yourself having to redo work you’ve already done.

There’s no shame in asking for help at this stage, whether it’s a professional landscaper or a friend with a particularly good bank of expertise. Drafting in the right help can save a ton of hassle further down the line, and starting out with a solid plan greatly increases the odds of success.

Decide who’s going to do the work

If you’re feeling handy, you may decide to do everything yourself. This is definitely the most rewarding option, and it’ll almost certainly cost less, but remember the enormous amounts of time and effort involved.

man holding DIY tools looking confused
Don’t bite off more than you can chew

How viable it is to do the work yourself depends largely on three things –

  • The scale of your plans
  • Your current skill set
  • The amount of time you have

If you’re working on a small landscaping project and you know how to do it, you’re probably fine doing it alone. Same if you’ve got ambitious plans and no end date in mind, and see this as a gradual project to chip away at over the years.

If you want an all-new garden for next summer, however, and you’ve got very little in the way of landscaping expertise, then you may need to draft in extra help.

Prepare your garden

Depending on the current state of your garden, quite a few things may need doing before you can get started on the actual project.

Do you have a lot of weeds, for example? If so, these will need to go. (If you’ve got time, you can lay thick carpet over a weedy area to kill them all off ahead of the next spring).

Are there any trees or shrubs that don’t factor into your new vision? If so, these will need to go as well. It may be possible to remove bushes and shrubs yourself, but often removing a tree (especially a big one) will require specialist work.

Clear away any extra garden furniture or rubbish, too. Garden furniture can go back out once the project is done, of course. If you have any structures in your garden that aren’t in the new version, they’ll need to go to.

Get the tools

As with the previous points, the exact tools you need will depend on the job(s) at hand. Laying a new patio requires a different set of tools to removing a big shrub or dismantling a shed, so we can’t give much in the way of specifics here.

When it comes to sourcing tools you have to decide whether to buy, rent, or borrow them –

  • Buying tools is expensive but you own them forever. Great for future projects.
  • Renting tools is less cost-efficient but probably cheaper overall.
  • Borrowing is great if you have handy friends who have the tools on standby.

Obviously if you’ve decided to go with a specialist for some or your entire landscaping project, they’ll have their own tools.

Get the materials

Again, the exact materials you need depends on the job at hand. You may need to source wood, gravel, stone, bulbs, seeds, electric wire, or almost anything else.

Thankfully, in our consumerist age it’s very easy to find whatever you need, whether online or in a physical store. Shopping around for the materials you need will often let you get a better price, and considering how landscaping projects can quickly swell in size, saving money wherever you can will probably be a welcome prospect.

(Just make sure not to cut corners: cheap doesn’t necessarily mean good value for money, and if you buy shoddy materials that are only going to last a year or two, you’ll end up paying more in the long run).

Do the work

As well as being an age of consumerism, ours in an age of unprecedented technological development and access to information. You can find tutorials for pretty much any job you can imagine on YouTube, making it much easier to learn the skills required for effective landscaping than it would have been in previous decades.

multiple people laying rolls of garden lawn
Lure in a few friends to help out with offers of snacks and lemonade

When planning your landscaping project, all the way back in step 2, we mentioned prioritising the order of jobs to make things more efficient. You’ll need to level your ground before building a patio, for example, and you’ll need to establish your flower beds before planting anything out.

Make sure to stick to your plans to make sure you don’t catch yourself short.

Tidy up

Landscaping has a knack of creating a surprising amount of mess, so make sure to factor tidying up into your plans. Whether you load up your car and take stuff to the dump, or hire a skip to be dealt with professionally, it’s up to you. Just give yourself the time required to get things looking ship shape ahead of your official garden reveal.

There you have it…

It’s tricky to condense a landscaping project down into a blog post because of the sheer enormity of possibilities available to you. The space you have to work with, the size of your imagination, your skill set, your budget, the amount of time you have available: all of these factors will determine what your landscaping project will look like. It’s our hope that the information in this guide is broad enough to span all manner of projects, while being useful enough to provide value to everyone reading.

So, whatever your landscaping vision ends up looking like, we wish you the best. There’s nothing quite like putting your own stamp on an outdoor space, and having a newly-landscaped garden will rejuvenate your relationship with the space.

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