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Amaze Yourself - Design and Build Your Own Backyard Retreat by Donna Altomonte
  

Amaze Yourself - Design and Build Your Own Backyard Retreat
By Donna Altomonte

 

Your backyard should be a place where you can unwind, relax and escape your day-to-day worries. Hiring a professional landscape design company can be costly and is simply not an option for many people. So what do you do? If you are a relatively handy person, you do it yourself. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish using your own resources to create a beautiful backyard retreat.

Think about your yard as a functional space rather than an empty lot. Essentially, it is as an extension of your house with potentially many rooms. Visualize how you see yourself spending time in your backyard.

Questions you should be asking yourself are: do you want to entertain friends and family, do you have children and need a play area, do you have dogs and need space for them to run freely, do you want a water feature etc. Water drainage is important so you need to assess the grade of your yard. If the grade is an issue, consulting with a professional is recommended. You will also need to take note of the light and soil conditions in your yard before purchasing your plants.

If you have a difficult time coming up with design ideas go on line and do a search for local Landscape Design companies. Most companies will have photos of their work. It's a great way to get inspired and to trigger ideas on what you can do in your backyard. Or, you can simply go to the library or book store. There are hundreds of books available on landscape design ideas.

Once you have determined what you want to do with your space, take measurements of your yard and lay them out on paper to scale. On paper circle out designated areas such as dining area, play area, garden, lounging area etc. Take note, measurements on paper can be very deceiving even though they are to scale. I would suggest using something like a water hose or rope and lay them down on your yard to map our your "rooms" before you dig. This will ensure that you have allocated enough space for each area. A common mistake is making the dining area too small so be sure to allow enough space to walk around your table with guests sitting in their chairs. I would also recommend coming up with at least two or three different design ideas. Get a sense of how each design will work before selecting your final design.

For walkways, natural random flagstones are a great choice. If your budget does not allow for natural stone you may want to consider Unilock pavers. They are less expensive than natural stone and are available at retail stone yards. Also note that a walkway does not have to be a straight line. A curved walkway adds more interest to a space and allows your eye to wander more freely.

If you are interested in building a deck you have the options of cedar, pine or man-made wood such as Trex. Trex decking is enviro-friendly and is made from recycled plastic and reclaimed wood. There are a variety of colours to choose from and this product won't rot or split like natural wood.

Before you begin digging don't forget to call your local utility company. They will ensure that you do not dig near hydro wires or gas lines. Once you are ready to dig start with your hardscaping. This means the patio area, deck area and walkways. If you require an electrical conduit hook-up for an irrigation and/or lighting system this must be installed first.

Landscape lighting is critical if you wish to create ambiance for you and your guests. If you are unable to install an electrical line to your yard, solar lights are great solution and are also available in spotlights for your ornamental trees or shrubs. It's very important your solar lights are placed in an area where there is plenty of sunlight otherwise your lights will go dim very early in the evening.

Once you have completed your hardscaping you are now ready for planting. Start with larger trees and shrubs. Be sure to include perennials and then finish with annuals. Annuals help to fill in bare patches and add a boost of colour all summer long. Place natural rocks through out your garden and then top off with mulch. When placing rocks in your garden partially embed them in the soil to create a more natural setting. If you are unsure as to what types of plants to use visit your local nursery. Most nursery staff will be able to recommend plants for your soil and light conditions. Larger nurseries may offer design services as well. There is also a wealth of information on plants on line so do a little research to determine what types of plants you like. Don't forget to include evergreens in your plant selection. They are easy to care for are great for winter interest.

There is no denying that doing your own landscape design will require research and hard work, but the hours of enjoyment as well as the thousands of dollars you could save will make it all worth while!

Visit my blog for an example of a before and after transformation.

Donna is the founder of City Home and Garden http://www.cityhomeandgarden.com, an on line store featuring custom crafted home decor products, many of which are made by American and Canadian Artisans.

In addition to selling beautiful home decor products, City Home and Garden features articles with helpful information related to Home Decor and Gardening. Please visit City Home's blog http://www.cityhomeandgarden.wordpress.com for additional tips.

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This article was published on Thursday 26 March, 2009.
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