Starting to Develop a New Home Garden

A little planning can save you heaps of time and money. Understand costs and options, then set priorities.

 
PLAN A LONG-TERM BUDGET
An average quarter-acre home garden can eventually cost $10,000 to $20,000.
You often don’t notice the cost though, because it is spent in a haphazard way.
If you plan a budget from the beginning, you can prioritise your spending and perhaps even reduce your overall cost.
 
 
 
MISTAKES TO AVOID
With no overall plan or concept, many new home owners set about simply making their property presentable within a limited budget.
Here are some common mistakes you should try to avoid:
  • Laying down lawn over most of the property. Later you may realise some lawn areas are in the wrong place, and need to be pulled up (which costs) and replaced with something else (which costs more).
  • Not cleaning out the builders’ rubbish before starting. It may be tempting to hide discarded bricks, small pieces of metal or other building debris under a layer of top soil, but this rarely works. They will very likely impede plant growth, and when you dig the soil later, you may damage your tools or hurt yourself on sharp half-buried objects.
  • Inadequate preparation of gardens and lawns. All too often new plantings fail to thrive because the plants are growing in poor quality soil. As a result, a lot of money is spent on fertiliser and replanting. Eventually you may end up buying new soil and redoing the whole area. Planting the wrong types of plants for your garden. Always ask your local nursery for advice on suitable plants. Be especially careful when choosing and planting trees – large trees in small gardens, planted too close together or too close to buildings, power lines, etc are not only potentially dangerous, they can be expensive and difficult to remove. Before you plant, find out how large the tree is likely to grow in your area.
 
 
TAKE IT STEP BY STEP
Write down what you want to use the garden for.
  1. Draw your property on a sheet of paper.
  2. Mark where you want to eventually locate different “uses”. For example, you may want an outdoor living area, an area for the rubbish bins, washing line and garden shed, play areas for kids, garden beds, parking, driveway, carport, and perhaps a pool.
  3. Now put the plan up on a board/fridge for a week where everyone in the household can look at it. Think about the pros and cons of where things are, and where they might be changed to.
  4. After a week, have a family conference and redraw the plan. Reach a consensus, and stick to it.
  5. Now work out the cost of developing each area properly. Get quotes if need be from a landscaper, pool builder, concreter etc.
  6. Now prioritise…work out a schedule of the order in which you will develop different areas.
 
 
WHAT TYPE OF GARDEN DO YOU WANT?
You probably can’t have everything you want, so will you need to decide what your priorities are:
  • A functional garden, ie. a garden that is used a lot – perhaps for outdoor play for kids, for growing vegies and fruit, or for entertaining.
  • A very attractive garden – this is likely to cost more to set up and maintain, and will almost certainly require a high degree of maintenance.
  • A low maintenance garden – this needs a lot of forethought; do it right and you’ll reap the benefits for years to come.
  • A low cost garden – bargain plants can often be found at weekend markets; also look for discounted stock at nurseries. Inexpensive landscaping materials can be found at demolition yards, tip shops and in the classifieds of your local paper.
  • What type of garden is most important to you? To achieve any one of these things will usually mean compromising the others.
Also decide on the style of the garden. Do you want a formal or informal garden? Do you have a preference for a particular theme, eg. Oriental, Mediterranean, Bush garden, Alpine garden, Xerophytic garden, etc? How will it suit the style of your house, and how much will it cost to set up and maintain?
 
 
 
Tips
 
  • Plan ahead…before you enclose your garden with solid walls and fences decide whether or not you will need access for trucks or machinery at a later date
  • What type of garden do you want? An exotic eastern garden can look beautiful in the right setting but it is not everyone’s cup of tea.
  • If you wish to install a rockery don’t leave it till last. Carry out major construction before you establish delicate plants.
  • Plan for privacy if it is a concern. Decide where to plant screening bushes and hedges and check their suitability to the conditions
  • Don’t go overboard with planting grass. The subsoil, light and drainage conditions may not be conducive to having a lawn everywhere.
  • Plants take time to establish themselves and mature. Begin with small plants and give them time to grow, not only will this save money but it will allow you to judge which plants are most suitable.
  • Choose which areas to pave or build on with caution. It is difficult and expensive to change your mind later on. Set out the positions of underground cables and drains in the planning stage.
  • If you wish to install trees in your new garden don’t position them too close to your property. Your local council should be able to advise you as to what the recommended planting distances are for large trees or those with invasive root systems.