New-Home Landscaping by Rob Sproule
for the Edmonton Journal
Few feelings can match the euphoria of moving into a new home. Open, immaculate rooms and bare yards resonate with an intoxicating sense of potential. Homes are where our life’s dreams happen. Getting started can be overwhelming, so when it comes to your yard my first piece of advice is to pace yourself. Enjoy this milestone with your loved ones and don’t feel like you need to go from clay to show garden in a month.
Take a breath, brew some coffee, and talk with your family about what you all want and need from the yard in the years ahead. Spend time getting to know every part of the yard and, as you start to plan, be realistic in your timeline, budget, and final goal.
Different lifestyles demand different yards. If you have, or are planning to have, little ones than you will want a generous section of grass for playing. If you don’t spend much time outside, large mulched beds with low maintenance perennials and shrubs may be in order. The kind of yard you choose, whether an outdoor kitchen for entertaining or vegetable gardens for cooking, will determine your plan of action. Spend the fall adapting your vision to fit the physical space. Over the winter put your plans down on paper and develop a 3-5 year plan for how to achieve it.
A vibrant garden is impossible without good soil. It sounds simple, but black earth is so valuable that developers will scrape off as much as they can, leaving only a fraction of it for the home-owner.
Dig through your contracts to find out what soil depth your yard should have. the depth around the yard with a spade . If the average depth is less than promised, call your developer and let them know. 4 inches is the minimum for a healthy lawn, but you will need more for beds.
Consider bringing in extra soil to supplement. A dump-truck of dirt and a Saturday spend spreading it will increase your yard’s bounty for decades.
Planting flowers is a spirit lifting project is as much a part of settling into a new home as unpacking the cutlery and firing up t.v.. A splash of colour in the yard does wonders to help your new house become a home.
Choose the highest traffic area of your yard (typically around the door you use daily). Head the to the Garden Centre and pick a half dozen fall blooming favourites (make sure to get them on sale). Plant and enjoy until the snow sets in.
You don’t need to have the entire yard laid out before planting flowers. Unlike sidewalks and retaining walls, plants are easy to transplant later to a permanent home. A few mums or sedums to greet you will soften the yard and you can move them later into their permanent homes.
Don’t forget a smattering of tulip and crocus bulbs. When the early Spring is at its brown and drabbest, pioneering crocuses and trumpeting tulips will remind you of warmer days ahead.
Upon first moving in you will probably be buzzing with thoughts of a sidewalk here, a patio there, and it will be easy to start throwing down stone for your outdoor living area. Unless you already have a firm idea of what the idea yard will look like, this is a good time to practice self-restraint.
There are few things harder to move than a patio or retaining wall, so you will want to make sure that, wherever it goes, it will weave into the unfinished beds and lawn yet to come.
A finished yard is a painting; it’s most beautiful when all elements weave together to create a harmonious whole. Taking the time to create a proper plan will give more Sunday barbeques and Saturday morning coffees on the patio in the long run.
Make sure to establish pathways through high traffic areas before the snow falls. Dirt yards are harmless in the dry Fall, but once the early Spring muck hits it will be a shoe-eating sloppy no-man’s land. Paving stones (you can skip the base), a 2″ x 4″ boardwalk, or even thick plywood sheets are a good temporary fix.