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How to Create a Landscape Plan

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    LESLIE: As the saying goes, plan your work and then work the plan. And that certainly applies when you’re planning a new landscaping project.

    TOM: That’s right. Whether you’re starting from scratch or need a total yard makeover, planning that space on paper before you put the shovel in the ground can help make sure it comes out perfectly. For tips on what to consider when putting together your plan, we’re pleased to welcome Roger Cook, the landscape contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    How to Create a Landscaping PlanWelcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Sounds like we’ve got a plan ahead of us.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. And that is the major mistake that people make – wouldn’t you agree? – is not having that plan before they start a project. I think people tend to head to the home center or the hardware store, buy a couple of things at the nursery center, come home, pick up a shovel and dig a hole and stick it in there. And no surprise, over time, the yard starts to look kind of crazy, doesn’t it?

    ROGER: I couldn’t agree with you more. You can save so much money by coming up a plan, whether it’s one you develop yourself or one you develop with a professional.

    It does a lot of things. It allows you to get things in the right space, so you know where it’s going to be and how it’s going to fit in with your lifestyle.

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: It tells you quantities or how much you need of certain things. And it can help you – you know, I can move a tree on paper and it doesn’t cost anything. Once it’s planted and you go to move it again, then that’s a big problem.

    LESLIE: So, really, what’s the first step? Do you need to think about that space and how you and your family use it?

    ROGER: Exactly. You need to know which area is going to be for play, which is going to be for privacy, which area is shaded, which is an area shaded, exposure to a house or a street. Do you want to screen a certain view? There’s just so many things you can put on a plan to help you get a good project.

    TOM: How about maintenance? That’s an important thing to consider, right? You can design a landscape for high maintenance and you can design it for low maintenance.

    ROGER: That’s right. And one of the biggest things we talk about is the lawn area. Is it something you’re going to mow? Are you going to hire a professional to do it? That can control how large a space you’re going to have. Or you’ve got kids playing. That will control how large the lawn area is.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, I know we just redid our landscaping plan and it was very helpful that my husband and I both had an idea of what type of plantings we liked. Didn’t know whether or not they worked for our area but that’s when the pro really made a difference. Because we were like, “Oh, I really like the idea of Japanese maples and grassy things,” but does that necessarily work? Is that a good point to bring in a pro?

    ROGER: That’s an excellent point to bring in a pro or even to go to a garden center or a nursery where they’ll be glad to look at your plan and help you find the right things. There’s no worse feeling – I think everyone’s biggest thing is to do it wrong, you know?

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: To put all that energy into it and have it turn out not what you hope it can be.

    So, gather as much information as you can. And a lot of times, you can get free information from people that – from websites on different types of plants and going – like I said, going to a garden center and getting a recommendation from them.

    TOM: And finally, before you actually start to execute on that plan and get the shovel in the ground, it’s important to make sure you’re not going to hit anything that’s unexpected, right?

    ROGER: Yeah. I mean there’s just all sorts of things buried on properties that you don’t know about, from a wire to a gas line, a main line. So, it’s very easy. Call your local utility-locating system and usually you can do that by dialing 811. And they’ll come out and mark out everything they know of.

    Now, some of the things aren’t marked out that are there, historically, but at least you have a fighting chance going in to know where the major problems could be.

    TOM: And you don’t end up with an unexpected water feature.

    ROGER: Water feature? What about a gas line?

    TOM: Yeah. That, too.

    LESLIE: And if you don’t call and you do damage something, you are financially responsible for that, correct?

    ROGER: That’s what they say, yeah. But it’s not that bad, because you only have to call 72 hours in advance. And if you can’t be aware of the project – oh, I shouldn’t say that, because I have called later than that. But no, for the most part, if you can’t figure out 72 hours in advance you have to call them, then maybe wait a week. It’ll be a good thing.

    TOM: Then you haven’t done your plan.

    ROGER: You haven’t done your plan. Yeah, that’s one of the checklist items.

    TOM: Well, Roger Cook, thanks so much for helping us form our landscape plan. Roger Cook, the landscape contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much. Great advice.

    ROGER: Yeah, it was a real plan, huh?

    LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

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