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Plan next year’s garden now

TAMMY PRICE

The dreary months of winter, while we wait for a chance to get back to our gardens, can be put to good use with planning and design. It’s too early to order seeds and plants, but it’s a perfect time to take a step back and really look at how space is being used in your landscape. You may have a beautiful vista that you’d like to frame. Perhaps you need a screen from traffic noise. Maybe you’re ready to cut back some of your turf and create an ecological rock or theme garden. These projects can be done more efficiently and economically with a little early planning. One of the first things to do is plan a budget for your spring project. Real Estate experts recommend that owners spend about 10% of the value of the home or building on landscaping. This budget should include irrigation costs, materials, features like waterfalls or statuary, lighting, and plants. By planning now, you can take advantage of sales and avoid last minute, impulse buying.The planning process begins with looking at how space is being used now, then imagining what your ideal for that space could be. Grab a piece of paper and begin making notes. What are the high traffic areas, such as paths to driveways or entrances into the home or building? Can pathways be moved for efficiency or are they permanent features that you must design around? Where are trees, fences, and walls located? Are there shady areas? Will high winds, especially winter winds, determine what types of plants, shrubs, and trees you choose? For very large or extensive projects, it is a good idea to take your notes to a landscape architect or designer. This expert will be familiar with local laws, codes, and other planning considerations. They will have the knowledge to apply the homeowner’s needs to the conditions of the site with regard to materials, climate, and local codes while producing a well-designed, finished product. An expert will also give you advice about the types of plants, shrubs, and trees that do well in our extreme climate.If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, know your property lines before you begin any project. Additionally, do some research on landscape laws and ordinances for your area. Taking the time now to understand the rules will save you lots of grief from HOA’s or accidental violations of development ordinances. If you’re planning a large renovation of your landscape, you’ll also need to know where utility lines and pipes are located. By calling locator services now, you’ll be at the top of the list when the spring rush for these services hits. If you can get hold of the site plan from the builder or architect of your home, you’ll have a good start to planning your project. If you can’t, plan to spend some time with a tape measure. Knowing the measurements you have to work with will help you decide the proportions of your landscape features and plant materials. You’ll want to take into consideration the size of the house or building you’re landscaping around. A ten-foot decorative wall may be fine for a very large home, but will overshadow a medium or smaller-sized home. A good landscape plan is a process, starting with how you will use your space and going all the way down to the details like grade changes, drainage, and the natural and man-made features of the area to be landscaped. Will the area be used primarily by pets or children? Would you like to create a visual masterpiece? Will you want seating areas for relaxing in the quiet of your own yard? The project should lend itself to the way you want to use it and should take into consideration existing features. After you’ve spent several weeks contemplating what your space could be, it’s time to start sketching out the features. Before thinking about plants, shrubs, and trees, decide if and where you want to add outdoor seating areas, noise screens, fences, walkways, drainage areas, irrigation, statues, or lighting. When spring gets closer, you’ll be ready to make decisions about the specifics: what size and shape a patio or barbeque will be, what type of furniture you’ll have, the length of fencing. Once these features are in place, you’ll be ready to look at plants, shrubs, and trees that complement your new space with grace, unity, and proportion. There are plenty of things to keep you busy this winter, and taking time to truly look at your landscape space will insure that the finished product is all that you’d hoped it would be. Beginning early will help you accomplish the ideal landscape project efficiently and economically, providing the benefits of beauty and function while enhancing the overall look and value of your home.For more information about this or any gardening/landscaping questions, please e-mail us at office2006@neilslunceford.com or call (970) 468-0340.


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