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new yard...now what?


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My wife and I just bought our house in mid October and I have been wondering what to do with the yard this spring. The lawn was seeded in the fall and other then that it's nothing but dirt. It's about a half acre maybe little more. Got some slope at the back edge that I would like to maybe step with some retaining blocks. My wife wants to do some flower beds and we are thinking of rock around the house with some kind of shrubs or something. Anyone have any ideas on where to begin or some research ideas?? I can watch tv and see some of those landscaping jobs they do to really make a house pop and that's what I want but I don't have the knowledge about what plant's and where. We have a really sandy soil that they skimmed with black dirt so not sure what to expect with that. May need to bring in more. So if you can give me any advice I would appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

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Find a decent landscape suppy center close by, preferably one that's open year around.

Take pictures of your property, from all sides, showing where there's shade, where there isn't.

Take these pictures into a landscape place, and they should be able to give you an idea of what kind of plants and where, depending on shade, soil, irrigation, etc.

They should also give you an idea (or you can decide for yourself too) as to what color / type of ground cover you'd like to use, whether mulch or rock, around the bushes / planting areas.

As far as your grass, if it was seeded, don't spray for weeds right away, unless your yard is already established.

If it was just seeded last fall, personally, I wouldn't spray it until next fall for weeds, and if it was seeded, especially without irrigation, you're most likely going to have quite a few weeds in it.

Back to the landscape center. I say try to find one open year around, because right now they're not too busy and can probably sit down with you and talk more in depth about what to put where.

If you wait until spring / time to plant, everyone's going to be running around like mad, and you're not going to get the quality of help that you probably would now.

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Where abouts do you live? What part of the state you are in can make a difference in what kind of plants to use. I will start by saying I am a lawn and tree guy and can do some landscape work, but I'm not nearly as savvy in landscape design. I know I like something when I see it, but I couldn't make it on my own.

I'm kinda in the same boat as you in that I have a new house. I already have a complete yard, but I want to make changes also. WHat I've done is cutting out pics or taking photos of yards, designs and ideas that I like. If you plan on doing the work yourself than find a way to visualize your plan. If you can use photoshop then you shold be fine. SOme people find it easier to make a paper model. Anything to help you "SEE" the project before you begin.

Having the right plants is important and will take some research on your part and some discussion with a nursery. Advice is usually free, especially if you plan on buying a couple hundred bucks in plant material.

Personally I'm not very fond of rock, but its your place so again, find something you like. Rock is remarkably expensive for nice decorative stuff. I prefer shredded mulch. Its natural, biodegradable and doesn't hurt my mower blade if its gets in the yard.

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Check out some curbing companies for concrete edging, they will help with some ideas as to your design around the house. Looks better and you dont have to worry about the plastic working its way up. I purchase some used equipment for this and it turned out great at the house. Rocks stay in much better than the plastic too. GL

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As far as the soil goes, I live on a sand dune that rivals some of the best beaches! My neighbors have tried to incorporate black dirt with no real good results unless it is 6 inches or more, and even then, the sand underneath tends to seive the water down. I, on the other hand, being sort of cheap and stubborn, went to my local seed outfit and got a variety that is hardy in the sand (it's in North Branch, not sure if I can shoot them a plug). With a lot of elbow grease, I have probably the best grass in the neighborhood. I just dragged it smooth with a 6" tine drag, seeded and fertilized, and used a common metal tines leaf rake held upside down and walked around putting some decent pressure on the rake to work the seed and fertilizer in. Just make sure you keep it wet without washing it out until it is about 4 to 5 inches tall, then cut it high (3-4") for a while until it is thick. Don't worry about bare spots, just try to get the majority of the yard to green up and put out the little fires later. If you have stubborn spots, such as berms or high areas, consider a little flower or rock garden, or maybe a nice cluster of pines. The more shade you have, the better your results will be. Just look around in nature at what grows in sand. Lots of stuff, and quite lush to boot. Don't fight what you have and try to force certain plants to grow. Your local greenhouse should steer you in the right direction, or try your counties extension service for help. If you don't get the info you need from them, the U of M should be able to help. You may not get the result you desire for a couple of years, but with the right stuff, the end result will be worth it.

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Hire a landscape architect. Prices vary and usually your local landscape center will provide this service for a reasonable fee. This can be a good start in figuring what would work where and where you should consider retaining walls and such. Once you have a basic plan you should consider installing an irrigation system if you think you may ever want one. My wife and I bought a house that had some landscaping and based on what doesn't work and things we learned from HGTV (landscape by design IIRC) I would keep some of the following in mind;

1) Plants grow, don't place anything that gets tall next to your house or you may have foundation damage when the tree grows up. Give you plantings some space.

2) Plastic edging gets chewed up by lawn mowers and you will hit them, I like the concrete pavers for edging (looks better IMNHO).

3) Use lots of curves in defining your beds. This TV guy kept hammering that home and it does look good. Identifying outlines with a garden hose works well.

4) You will have to mow so plan your beds with this in mind. You may not have a riding mower now but you may in the future so don't make things to tight.

5) Mix it up, variety is nice. I like to use perenials mostly but then suplement them with nice flowering annuals; keeps the yard looking nice all summer.

The former owner had lots of small retaining block circles around trees; what a PIA to mow. So I made them larger in diameter so my head wouldn't hit tree branches and that would better match the turning radius of the JD I inherited from my dad. I also joined groups of circles together to make nice planting beds - looks good, and easier to mow. Basically I had a goal of making it easier to mow my yard so large planting areas with gentle sweeping curves makes it easy to quickly mow the yard. My wife likes plants and fowers so she wanted beds too. She got her flower beds and I was able to cut my mowing time by 1/3.

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A tip for the plastic edging......

When you install it, get a box or 2 of 10" nails (spikes) from the hardware store.

Drive them through the plastic edging about every 2-3', into the ground. This will keep your edging from popping up.

When you come to a spot where you need to put the ends of the edging together, cut out about 3-4" of the "top / tube" part of the edging on one side, leaving the "bottom / flat" part of the edging. This way, when you put the plug in to connect the two sections of edging, the flat parts should overlap.

Now take one of the spikes and drive it through both sections of edging, into the ground, this will keep your edging from coming apart, or again, popping up at a seam.

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Call nurseries in the area and find ones that will draw you up some plans.Some will do it for little if you buy the plants there, while other will just charge a reasonable amout for it.They know all the plants and how to space them so when they mature your yard will look nice. After that you can decide if you want to do it all or in phases.The only thing else I can recommend is a sprinkler system for all the plants and grass.Either do it yourself or hire someone.I did my own and it turned out great.You will never regrat that decision.

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St Michael,but I use to live in Sartell 5 years ago. Both houses we had plans draw up and then I planted them.Bach Mans did the one in Sartell because we where out of their install area.But now you have to have them install it if you want them to draw you up plans. The last plans we asked around and found a small nursery in Buffalo that did it for a small charge. We didn't have to buy the plants there though.The best prices we found were at Ger Tens by far.

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