Updated: Feb 27, 2022
Your backyard space 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 simply not an option for many people. So what do you do? You do it yourself. If you are a relatively handy person you will be amazed at what you can accomplish to create a beautiful backyard retreat.
The first thing you should do is to visualize your yard as a functional space rather than just a lot. Think about your yard as an extension of your house with rooms. Then visualize how you see yourself spending time in your yard. Secondly, get inspired. There are many great resources to trigger your creative juices. Pinterest and Houzz are helpful websites when seeking inspiration. Landscape design companies are also a great resource. Most companies will have some photos of their work online. It’s a great way to get inspired. Landscape Ontario features landscape design companies from all over Canada and is an excellent tool for when it comes to design. If you live close to Toronto be sure to check out Canada Blooms - one of the best flower and garden festivals in the country.
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 in? Do you want a water feature? Water drainage is important so you need to access the grade of your yard. If the grade of your yard 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.
Once you have determined what you what to do with your space take measurements of your yard and lay them out on paper to scale or you can download a free design program. Circle out designated areas such as eating area, play area, garden, sitting area etc. Be aware that measurements can be very deceiving even though they are to scale so I would suggest using something like a water hose or rope and map our your “rooms” before you begin. This will ensure that you have allocated enough space for each area. A common mistake is making the eating areas 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 flagstones are a great choice. If your budget does not allow for natural stone you may want to consider pavers. Unilock pavers 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 a little more interest to a space and allows our eye to wander more freely. If you would like a more formal look natural square cut flagstones add a little more elegance to a space. Don't make your walkway too narrow. If it's a major path that perhaps leads to your garage make it at least 3' wide.
Create interesting vignettes throughout your garden. They add an element of surprise and are fun to design. Seating areas in unexpected areas of your garden are easy to create and are inviting to onlookers.
If you are planning on building a deck you have the options of cedar, pine or man made wood such as Trex. Trex decking is eco friendly and is made from recycled plastic and reclaimed wood. There are a few other manufacturers of faux decking so do your home work to get the best price as this decking can get expensive. There are a variety of colours to choose from and the wood won’t rot or split like natural wood and require little maintenance.
Before you begin digging don’t forget to call your local Utility company. They will need to make sure you will not be digging 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 hookup for an irrigation and/or lighting system these must be installed first.
Landscape lighting is critical if you want to create a romantic 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 spot lights for your ornamental trees or shrubs. It’s very important that your solar lights are placed in an area where there is a lot of sunlight, otherwise your lights will go dim very early in the evening.
Once you have completed your hardscaping you are now ready for your plants. Start with your larger trees and shrubs. Be sure to include perennials and then finish with annuals. Annuals are great 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. Be careful with decorative mulch such as black or red mulch. There may chemicals in the mulch that are not safe for insects and small animals but this depends on where the wood comes from. If you are purchasing mulch from a stone yard ask them if their mulch is eco friendly. Box stores may also sell the eco friendly mulch so you just have to look at the packaging to see where the mulch comes from or speak to one of their sales people. For more information on mulch click here.
When placing rocks in your garden bury them a little in the soil so that they look as though they were naturally found there. If you are unsure about what types of plants to buy ask to speak to a staff member at your local nursery. Most nursery staff members are very knowledgeable and will be able to recommend plants for your soil and light conditions. Larger nurseries offer design services and will be able to help you with your plant selection. There is also a wealth of information on plants on line so do a little research to determine what kind of plants you like. Don’t forget about evergreens. Evergreens are great for winter interest and require very little maintenance. Euonymus, Dogwoods, Boxwoods and Corkscrew Hazels are great for winter interest.
There is no denying that doing your own landscape design will require research and hard work but the hours you will spend enjoying your space along with the thousands of dollars you could save will be completely worth it.