Lessons learned: New landscape install

By Shaun Moser, Conservation Garden Park

Conservation Garden Park has been teaching homeowners how to have water efficient landscapes for almost twenty years now. In 2016 we refined our approach and started teaching Localscapes, an easy to follow, 5-step process that leads to a Utah-friendly landscape. Last summer my family moved into a new house with a blank, nothing-but-dirt landscape. As we planned for our own Localscape we learned some good lessons along the way.

Lesson 1: Start with a design

In our last house we didn’t start with a design on paper. As a landscape designer, I had most of the design in my head. This was a bad approach. Because we didn’t have an actual design, some of the landscape ended up being a mish-mash of different plants that I found on sale at big box stores. With our new house I took the time to sit down and draw out a plan on paper. This will lead to a better outcome because there will be a good backbone of trees and shrubs that were planned out on paper first. So even if I make a few impulse plant purchases, they won’t look unplanned or out of place.

Lesson 2: Know your budget

Most experts say 10%-20% of your home value should be spent on your landscape. Many new homeowners are shocked by these numbers, especially after spending so much on their new house. This shock is usually followed by another one when they are told that their front yard must be installed within 6 months. With these constraints it is best to have a general budget in mind and a plan for what needs to be done within the first 6-12 months.

Lesson 3: Phased installation

One of the best approaches to dealing with budget and time constraints is to phase the installation.

Here is the order in which we installed our landscape project:

1) Sprinkler system – We rented a trencher from a big box store and dug all our trenches with this machine. This saved a ton of time and minimized the backbreaking labor for this portion of the job. We then installed the main sprinkler lines, valves, and sprinkler heads for the lawn. For the planting bed areas, we installed the valves and underground lines and stubbed them up out of the ground. For us, surface drip irrigation was added in step three.

2) Lawn – We installed the lawn next. Because we were installing a Localscape, this only included two central open shapes, or areas of lawn. One for the front yard and one for the back yard. We ended up installing around 1,500 square feet in total.

3) Mulch and plants – Lastly, we put a few plants in the front yard (we will add more later as budget and time allow). We then mulched all the areas that didn’t have lawn with arborist wood chips. This makes for a cleaner look until you install your gathering areas and activity zones.

To get ideas for your own Localscape, sign up for classes at conservationgardenpark.org.