Tag Archives: garden master plan

Sequencing Garden Construction to Avoid Conflict

What to do with all that creative garden energy while you wait for fall to plant?  Get the rest of the landscape ready!  Plants should be the finishing touch on a garden to protect them from damage during other gardening projects.

Once you’ve completed your garden master plan, decide whether you want to tackle the whole garden or divide it into smaller projects to be completed individually.  Which ever approach you take, there may still be infrastructure projects that should be done first to avoid conflict later on.  The key concept:  Don’t paint yourself into a corner!

At the top of the list is grading your site to ensure drainage away from your house and other structures.  Water is the enemy of buildings.  Take the time now to evaluate and correct any problems you have with drainage.  At the least, make sure that all earth and paving slopes away from your house for a minimum of 5′.  If you have dampness or puddling near or under your house or smell mold or mildew during wet seasons, you may need to install drainage structures such as drain inlets/piping or french drains to carry water away from your house.

Consider where you may need to use heavy equipment and make sure that your current phase of construction doesn’t block access routes.

Placing Boulders with a Loader

If you are adding an automatic irrigation system, electric lighting, or gas for a barbecue, consider the needs of the entire garden and where your piping or wiring will need to go. Trench and install piping or sleeves (larger diameter piping through which the actual  pipes can be run) in areas that will be constructed during your current phase to service future phases.  If  piping or sleeves must run through paved areas, make sure it is installed well below grade to allow for excavations for base rock, sand, and paving materials.

Do you want to replace your lawn with drought tolerant native plants?  Summer is the time to let the sun do the work of killing your lawn using a technique researched by UC Davis called Solarizing.

Once your infrastructure projects are finished, you can start adding the fun stuff.  Construct your hardscapes such as paving, decks, walls, shade structures, boulders, etc., now.  Keep referring to your master plan; sequence construction to avoid future conflicts.  For example, if you want a pergola over your stone patio, get footings and post bases in before you pave.

Install Pergola and Fencing Footings Before Paving

After construction is complete, prepare your soil for planting.  Loosen compaction caused by construction.  If you are planting edibles or ‘traditional’ landscape plants (i.e., not natives), amend the soil as necessary.

And, finally, when fall arrives, you are ready to install your plants.  They’ll put their energy into root development and reward you with vigorous growth and vitality next spring.

The Beauty of a Master Plan

A page of planning is worth a book of re-doing.  Or something like that.  A garden is a long term investment that takes years to realize it’s potential.  Taking the time to create a master plan before planting the first tree will save time, labor, and money and result in a more cohesive, beautiful, functional, and easily maintained garden.  A master plan does not lock you into a rigid design but rather helps keep the big picture clear.

A master plan can be as simple a diagram, drawn to scale, that shows the location, size, and relationship between the various elements that you want in your garden.  Kind of like the floor plan for a home design.  It may indicate the overall concept of the garden and indicate material selections such as stone, fencing, and plant types to create the desired look.

To create a master plan, first consider how the space will be used.  Who and how many will use it on a regular basis?  For special events?  What will they be doing?  When?  What are the most pleasant parts of the existing garden?  The least?  This information will help you understand the types of amenities that may be useful, how big different areas should be, and whether protection from the elements may be needed.  ‘Hardscape’ elements like decks, patios, pools, shade structures are the bones of the plan.  All other elements attach and relate to them, and embellish them.  They cost more effort and money to install so it’s critical to make sure they are built to meet long term needs.

Once you understand how the garden is to be used, think about how you would like it to look and feel.  Beauty is a judgment call and a garden is very personal.   Take photos of garden elements that you like and peruse garden books and magazines to help clarify your tastes.

And then, there is reality.  What is your budget?  Who will be doing the construction?  What is the time line for construction?  Who will be doing the maintenance and how much time do they want to spent doing it?  Nuts and bolts questions like these will help you select appropriate materials and amenities.

With this thought process and information, you are ready to start drawing up a master plan that will guide you from start to completion of your personal garden.  Have fun!