Complete Guide to Landscaping Backyard Home
Landscaping is a broad field, encompassing everything from landscaping design to architectural landscaping to landscape engineering. It takes many things into consideration, including the landscaping ideas and designs of the past, aesthetics, resources available to you, and plants that will thrive in your local area.
Not only does landscaping improve the value of your home (as much as 15 percent), but it also creates a pleasing environment for you to relax in. Many people find that increasing their landscaping efforts, perhaps by adding trees, plants, or flowers, makes for a better home that is also promoting a relationship with the environment.
Landscaping is a big business in the US; more than 30 billion dollars was spent on lawn maintenance and care in the last year. Deciding to do your own landscaping, rather than hiring a professional, takes some work, but that work will pay off.
Understanding some landscaping basics will be of great benefit when you begin to make decisions.
Some basic landscaping terms
- Hardscape: refers to the non-living elements of landscaping. This can include concrete, brick, stone, and items comprised of non-living wood (such as a wooden tree house). Building a patio or deck is considered a hardscape project.
- Softscape: refers to a living landscape. Plants, flowers, and trees would fit this category. Working on creating a vegetable garden would be a softscape project.
- Percolation and pH tests: are both conducted on the soil. A percolation test finds the rate at which soil absorbs water, while a pH test finds out how acidic or alkaline the soil is. Both of these tests help determine what kinds of plants and trees are ideal for growing in the area.
- Deciduous and evergreen trees: Deciduous trees are trees that shed leaves and foliage at the end of the growing season, while evergreens are trees that stay green year round.
- Island bed: refers to “islands” of flowers which one can walk around. They usually appear in the middle of lawns and are bordered with stone or brick.
- Accent: refers to the use of a plant or other object in order to draw more attention to that particular area. Ferns surrounding a tree would be considered accent landscaping pieces.
- Landscaping fabric: is a synthetic material that is placed over the soil. It allows water to pass through but blocks out sunlight and weeds.
Do it yourself
If you plan on doing the landscaping yourself, you’ll need a plan. Following these basic steps will help you to be prepared well before the shovel hits the soil. A common mistake that people make when doing their own landscaping is a failure to take note of the conditions of their property, which includes both front lawn and backyard.
- First, take yard measurements: This will enable you to see how much space there is to work with. Draw out a sketch of the dimensions.
- Next, note areas where cables are present: You may need to call your local utility or phone company about this. The reason is simple: a large tree can’t be planted in an area where there is a cable. Note underground cables on paper as well.
- Note sunlight in different areas: Some areas of your yard receive more direct sunlight than others. Some places may remain in the shade a large portion of the day. Knowing the amount of sunlight at different times of the day is extremely important because it can affect what types of plants go where.
- Then, write down areas that have specific problems: For example, some areas may have poor drainage. Perhaps there is a spot where no plant seems to grow. Or maybe there is a patch of soil that is particularly eroded. Again, identifying problem areas will help in deciding the overall landscaping design.
- Finally, begin to sketch in what will be added: Take light and soil requirements into consideration, think about what plants, flowers, and trees would make nice landscaping additions. Do a little research and find out what grows well in your area. Also, consider the placement of any hardscape features.
Landscape lighting: what to know
Landscape lighting, designed to illuminate the outside, combines technology with nature, blending the two to create a pleasing effect. It can be used to showcase pathways, trees, flower gardens, patios, or part of your home.
The first step in creating beautiful landscape lighting is to understand a little about the different lighting techniques available.
- Landscape up-lighting is used to illuminate a specific object, such as a tree or shrub. With this technique, a light comes from a low fixture location and shines upwards.
- Landscape down-lighting also called moonlighting, creates the opposite effect of up-lighting. A light is placed in a high place and shines downward on its subject. Down-lighting is particularly effective for illuminating smaller objects close to the ground, such as flower beds. It can also be used as a form of the security light.
- Pathway landscape lighting is used to illuminate walkways. It uses low light fixtures that are set an equal distance apart, which are pointed outwards and down. Path lights are often covered with fixtures to prevent glare, achieving a clear, even light.
- Landscape spotlighting is another technique used to draw attention to an object. If differs from up-lighting in that two or more lights are used at a low level. Spotlighting usually incorporates a very bright light as well.
- Silhouette lighting, also called backlighting, incorporates a wash light fixture. It creates a beautiful effect on a large surface area, such as a wall, by causing the objects in front of it (shrubs, flowers or small trees) to appear as silhouettes. Lights are placed at a low level behind objects.
- Landscape shadowing is another technique which also depends on a large surface area, but its effect is different. Rather than the objects in front of the wall casting a silhouette, shadowing causes the object to cast a shadow on the wall behind it. Lights are placed at a low level in front of objects.
Any number of these techniques used in combination can create a powerful effect. Not only is landscape lighting aesthetically pleasing, but it also helps family members and friends see walkways clearly and wards off potential intruders. A home that incorporates landscape lighting is less likely to be burglarized.
Landscape lighting ideas and tips
Here are some great tips that can help you illuminate your landscaping beautifully.
- Use floodlights to illuminate trees: Uplighting or spotlighting is great for large objects. Not only does it make them appear larger than life, but it also shows off their beauty. Focus on both the trunk and treetops.
- Set landscape lights on a timer: Not only will this save energy, but you won’t have to worry about turning them on and off every day. Plus, if they are outside a bedroom window, you can have them automatically turn off so they won’t keep you up.
- Consider the durability of the landscape lights you purchase: If you live in an area with particularly harsh climates, such as excessively cold winters, make sure the lights, fixtures, and cables can withstand the elements.
- Consider solar landscape lighting: Not only are they maintenance free and easy to install, but they don’t need electricity to run, saving you money in the future. Just remember that solar lights must be placed in an area that receives full sun during the day.
- Chose lights that have low voltage systems: They are both safer and more efficient than high voltage systems.
- Create balance and uniformity: This also means, don’t overdo it! Consider yard size, the brightness of light, and lighting technique.
Landscape software review
Landscape software was designed to help you visualize future landscaping projects. Often highly realistic, may include a 3D walkthrough of design plans, allowing you to place photos of trees, shrubs, flowers, and water features into your existing yard. Here’s how it works.
Getting the full picture
Upon installing the software, the first thing you might want to do is import an existing photo of your home and yard. This makes a lot of practical sense, as the exact dimensions are available to work with.
Now comes the fun part! Search through the software’s database of trees, flowers, and plants to find possible additions to your landscape. Then, drop them into a place to get the visual effect. Many programs will also include a plethora of information about plant types, including botanical name, planting zones, and size. Then, zoom in and out when plants are in place, viewing them from different angles and distances.
Next, play around with software water features, such as gardens, pools, ponds, small streams and the like. Many software programs have realistic water designs where you get a 3D view of water flowing over rocks and koi swimming in water gardens.
You can also incorporate slopes and hills into your 3D landscaping design. The terrain can be adjusted to fit the height of a driveway or a sloping hill. This software feature is also good for planning straight and curved retaining walls.
Popular landscaping software programs
Some popular software programs on the market are Punch! Master Landscape Pro, Realtime Landscaping Pro Landscape Design, SmartDraw 7 Landscape-Design, Water Garden Studio, Dynascape Pro, and 3D Garden Composer. These range in price from $20 to $80, depending on the features included. Most programs run on a Pentium III and use a Windows operating system. There are also free programs on the internet that can be downloaded, but many of these are not as complex as a software program for purchase.
The pros and cons of trading pencil for mouse
There are both advantages and disadvantages to using landscape software. Here’s what we found:
- Realistic presentation tools: Landscape design software used to be criticized for its poor visual images, which looked cartoonish in nature. Technological development, however, has allowed for more life-like and realistic landscaping imagery.
- Nighttime viewing: This feature allows you to view landscaping after the sun has set. You can then add different lighting techniques and types of lights to the area.
- Projecting into the future: That’s right; higher-end programs have a function that allows you to see what your landscaping will look like in 25 years. This is great if you are curious about tree growth. Otherwise, you’ll probably (hopefully!) make many changes before then, which makes this feature a little impractical.
- Viewing all seasons: Looking at landscaping plants and trees in summer, fall, winter, and spring conditions give you a good idea of the changes that will take place.
- The difficulty of use: Some, but not all, the software is not entirely user-friendly. Menus, toolbars, symbols and wizard boxes can fill the screen, making it feel cluttered. No one wants to use the “Help” feature every five minutes!
- Shortage of plant types: While this seems to improve rapidly, some software has a very small selection of plants to choose from. Before purchasing software, make sure it contains at least 1,000 species of plants.
- Software that doesn’t allow picture importation: There are still quite a few landscaping programs that don’t allow you to use a picture of your home. Because of this, they are rather impractical.
Table of Contents
- 1 Complete Guide to Landscaping Backyard Home
- 1.1 Landscaping
- 1.2 Landscaping Guide
- 1.3 Landscape lighting: what to know
- 1.4 Landscape software review
- 1.5 Related