The Secret Garden: Top Tips for Budding Landscapers
Landscaping can be a real challenge, with aspects of the job involving highly labour-intensive work, such as laying patios and levelling lawns. However, landscapers are also required to interpret the ideas of a client, or a designer’s plans, recognising any practical challenges involved in this - and overcoming them with inventiveness and confidence. A good landscaper, therefore, will prove to be an accomplished, skilled and knowledgeable resource.
So, for those of you looking to get started in the landscaping business, we’ve compiled a list of our top five tips to ensure you become the best landscaper you can be - and to get you well on the way to creating a garden fit for the pages of Pro Landscaper magazine.
Pencils at the ready…
Planning is absolutely crucial before starting any project, and landscaping is no exception. Work to an overall ‘bigger picture’, breaking this up into smaller sections to make the workload more manageable. A key element to consider and study is wind and sun patterns – an evening sun terrace is no use if that spot is in the shade come 6pm, for instance. Nor is it any good if the surrounding plants, fences, or walls create a less than inviting wind tunnel.
Scaling and pacing should also be taken into account, as you’ll be working with a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. The garden should be cohesive, but not monotonous – striking a harmonious balance between size and colour. This principle can be tricky to master, but comes with practise - so keep working at it! It is also important to work around a focal point, such as a stunning sculpture or tree, to draw the eye as you scan through the landscape.
Test and measure
It is important to get an indication of the soil pH and nutrient levels, to determine suitability for plant growth - soils that are too acidic will hinder plant growth, for example. We would suggest sending a sample of soil to a local agricultural agency – your nearest one can be found online at agency central - so they can inform you of what nutrients are needed for that particular type of soil.
To save yourself time and money, measurements should be completed at the beginning of the project. Calculating the area you are landscaping is crucial to ensure you buy the correct amount of materials - and to save you multiple trips to the garden centre. Key calculations which you’ll need are square footage (length x width) and cubic feet (length x width x height). Cubic feet can then be converted to ensure the material covers an area at a specified depth (number of cubic feet x 4 gives the number of square feet with three inches of coverage).
It is also worth considering whether you need to buy bulk or bagged. Bulk buying is much more cost-effective and handy if the soil, mulch or stone is being dumped on the spot where it will be spread. But, if the contents need to be moved again later, bagged material will save you hassle, time and money.
Home and garden TV shows may make it look easy to create a garden worthy of a coveted title at the annual BUILD Landscaping and Gardening Awards. But, it is worth remembering that these programmes often have mega budgets, and well over fifty hands on deck. So, whilst it is easy to get carried away with a unique idea, you need to be realistic when it comes to designing your landscape - ensuring plans are in line with the budget, timeframe and manpower available to you.
Always consider the upkeep required as well, before implementing any landscaping project – and ask yourself, will this be practical? For example, using a natural edge around beds is much easier to maintain, and is more flexible in the long term when it comes to changing the landscape, than if you were to use plastic or metal.
Artificial fertiliser ain’t cheap - so to save yourself some money, be sure to make the most of all garden waste. Leaves can be mown into the lawn in small quantities, or added to the compost pile, to provide a light dose of fertiliser for the grass once matured. Additionally, grass clippings can be turned into mulch, acting as a natural fertiliser. Mulching also improves water retention – so you won’t need to water the lawn as often.
Choose Your Tools Wisely
When it comes to choosing your tools, you want reliability, comfort, and of course performance. With hand tools, always look for close grain wood or coated-metal handles, as they’ll be strong but not heavy to use – just ensure the handles aren’t painted, as paint is frequently used to conceal inferior wood. Fibre-glass or tubular-steel handles are also an excellent (albeit more expensive) option, due to their longer lifecycle. Where possible, get tools with a stainless-steel blade, as they won’t rust and are much easier to clean.
As for power tools, always buy your tools from an established international or nationwide brand. This way, your tools will be covered by a warranty, and spare parts will be easier to source - should anything goes wrong! Try to get tools that use the same battery as well, to save yourself having to lug several different chargers or batteries around with you.
Regardless of what tools you’re after, you should always buy the best possible options you can afford – even if they seem a tad on the expensive side. This will save you money in the long term, as you won't have to keep replacing them. But remember, at Real Deals for You, you’re always guaranteed to grab yourself a bargain!
So, there you have it. Our top tips to help get you started in the industry, and to ensure your landscaping becomes top notch!