Landscaping with the pros is expensive, which is why I try to DIY first. Before starting any new project, I look around to see what I already have and whether it can be reused in some way, then try to figure out how to improve it in the most cost effective way instead of “reinventing the wheel” as they say.
Repurposing = GOOD, Expensive Landscape Makeover = NOT SO MUCH!
We just finished a “small” kitchen remodel in 2014 and decided to keep the cabinets since they were in good shape. We moved some cabinets around to repurpose them, added granite counter-tops, a garden window, pull-out shelves, and extended the wood flooring. Ours was small remodel compared to most kitchen blow-ups that cost $50K or more (so I’ve heard.) In that case, ours would be considered just a small revamp or “tweak.”
I use the same technique with my landscape designs, ideas, and projects. I first look around at what I already have to work with and try to improve it. I can’t change the steep slope of my backyard, so I am creating better drainage, pathways, tiers, and different areas of interest on the slopes.
Sunlight was a huge issue when we moved in since there wasn’t ANY. The entire backyard was canopied by giant oaks and beech trees. About the only thing growing was moss, weeds, ivy, and a few mountain laurels.
During the first summer, I couldn’t do much until I saw what existing plants were actually growing. Then I tried to figure out if I could use any of them or move them to better locations to thrive. Heck, back then, I didn’t really even know what was a plant and what was a weed.
Moving plants is never easy in my terrain because every hole that is dug hits a rock quarry. In fact, all the rocks I’ve unearthed have become the borders for my different tiers and beds. Since I can’t change the rocky soil, I reuse those rocks to create my borders.
I spent the entire first year pulling ivy, weeds, and poison ivy, until my hands wouldn’t move. We broke down and hired a tree service to remove some dead trees for safety reasons. Tree services are expensive, but the added bit of sunlight was a welcome bonus. I also hired Elegant Gardens, a local mother and son landscaping team to create a small bed of shade-loving colorful plants outside the living room windows. I needed some quick color and inspiration. They must have inspired me because I’ve been creating more colorful beds and borders ever since.
Until the yard is completely fenced off from the woods, deer resistant plants were the only option. During that first year, deer dined on a lovely salad bar of my hostas, which were about the only decent things growing back then. I’ve since divided those hostas many times to other areas in the landscape.
The soil always needs amending because it’s mostly clay and rock. We do a ton of composting and chopping of leaves to boost the soil quality. Starbucks gives away free grounds for your garden, so I give all my acid loving plants a boost with a sprinkle of free coffee grounds. Starbucks is THIS gardener’s best friend. Their coffee and their phone app ain’t so bad either!
Sometimes a path or walkway is needed to give easier access to the back slope. Water drainage also needs to be considered. Again, because of the slope and because of damage from several hurricanes we’ve experienced over the last few years.
I would always prefer to revamp, restyle, recycle, reuse, and repurpose before reinventing the wheel from scratch, which is always more expensive. I first give my idea or project a try, no matter how crazy. If it doesn’t work out, I can always change or redo it, or pay someone to fix it. At least I give myself first shot at the job.
Repurpose or reinvent? DIY or hire professionals? What’s your favorite style?