5 tips to keep a landscaping project on time, under budget

Fresh landscaping can add a personal touch to a new home or spice up a back yard by having happy reunions.

But if you’re just getting into the planning phase, a DIY landscaping project this year may be the way to go.

Pandemic supply chain problems for materials like lumber and increased demand from homeowners over the past year have kept landscape professionals booked months or even a year, says Kathy Valentine, president of Michigan-based horticultural company The Plant Professionals.

“A lot of people say, ‘Hey, when I work on my patio from my laptop, the patio has to look a lot nicer,'” says Valentine.

A DIY project can mean more work for you, but it can also cost less and still give your patio a fresh look. Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your landscaping project.

1. Decide what you want, plan for what you have

Free inspiration is easy to come by, says Valentine. Friends and neighbors’ homes, as well as websites like Pinterest, offer endless garden design ideas.

But acknowledge the differences between inspiration and the garden you work with, she says. You will be spending a lot more money modifying your garden to accommodate a new feature than choosing a feature that will suit your garden.

Valentine also recommends considering long-term life plans when starting your project. Will this hearth get in the way of a future swing?

2. Start small and build up over time

Instead of bundling landscaping with construction, more and more homeowners are asking for designs, but then doing the work themselves or hiring a professional if time and budget allow, says Phil Shearon, president of the Shearon Design Collective in the Phoenix area.

The design service at Shearon’s company costs an average of $ 1,500, and if you have a professionally planned garden, you can do it yourself.

Shearon recommends starting with a key feature that you look forward to and building on to that over time.

Alternatively, you can start with a smaller project like a flower bed or garden to help meet your short-term goals and save large expenses, says Samantha Gorelick, a New York-based hobby gardener and certified financial planner with Brunch & Budget.

3. Reuse, exchange and sale

Before throwing away existing hardscape items that you don’t like, see if you can reuse or sell them, says Valentine.

Can you turn the stones that surround your flower bed into a walkway? Would that extra two by four of an old fence work as a border around a raised garden?

If not, try trading something you have with a neighbor in exchange for their extras, she says. Or rely on each other’s expertise instead of hiring a professional.

When investigating a project in a new home, you may discover old broken stone slabs or other minimally weathered materials that you can resell, she says.

4. Find little things that make a big difference

Start with new plants if you want to spice things up with little effort. Evergreen plants – which vary by region – rather than perennial or annual plants keep maintenance costs low because they don’t need to be replaced often, Shearon says.

But Gorelick says flowering perennials can inspire the post-winter dopamine hit we crave in spring.

“When winter goes on and the first small onions rise in spring, it’s a pleasure,” she says. “So this is something you can plant in the fall to do a favor to ‘future’ ones in the spring.”

Landscape lighting can make a huge difference in a garden, often for a few hundred dollars, Shearon says. Path lights can line a sidewalk, while uplights that shine on large plants and trees can change the atmosphere at night.

“You see some of these amazing houses on Instagram and the like – it’s always lighting,” he says.

5. Save financing costs

If you need to borrow for your project, compare funding options to find the one with the lowest interest rates.

Financing home equity is usually the most cost-effective way of borrowing, Gorelick says. Home loans and lines of credit have interest rates of around 4% or 5% and long repayment periods that help keep monthly payments down.

But if you’ve recently bought a home, you may have to choose an option with no equity, she says.

A landscaping loan, which is an unsecured personal loan that you use for landscaping projects, can be as small as $ 1,000 or $ 100,000. Interest rates are usually between 6% and 36% and the interest rate you get depends on your credit rating and finances.

If a contractor offers you financing, Gorelick recommends comparing that offer to personal loan offers as you may qualify for a lower interest rate.

She says that because of the high interest rates, she usually wouldn’t recommend credit cards for large purchases. But if your card offers rewards for home improvement or hardware store purchases, you can make cash back on things like plants and mulch.

“If you can write it on your card and cash it out, then get the points,” she says. “I would only use it if you benefit from points and don’t have to pay interest.”

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Annie Millerbernd writes for NerdWallet. Email: amillerbernd@nerdwallet.com.

The article 5 Tips to Keep a Landscaping Project On Time and Under Budget originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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