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LD Total's top tips for establishing your new garden

Australians are well-known for our love of the great outdoors and taking time to soak up the sunshine, so creating an outdoor space you love as part of your new home, and turning your vision into reality needs foresight, thorough research, and a considerable amount of effort.

Before you jump headfirst into designing a backyard, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and priorities. This includes how much entertaining you plan to do, if you have children who will also share the space, whether you prefer cottage, productive or native gardens, plant options depending on the climate you live in, whether it be Perth, Melbourne or Brisbane, and if you have time for ongoing maintenance.

To help get you started, Satterley has asked national landscape designer, LD Total, to share their top landscaping tips for establishing a new garden.

A versatile vision

While front yards have historically been used for vegetable patches, now they play host to manicured lawns and generally compliment the aesthetics of the house design. On the flip side, backyards tend to be a more private outdoor extension of the home.

Having a solid vision for your garden will help to provide some direction when it comes to executing your plan, but first you will need to consider how you want to use the space, now and into the future.

Do you need room for pets to run around? Do you require a shed for storage? Perhaps entertaining is high on your priority list and you’d like a large deck area with an outdoor kitchen or wood fired pizza oven to be the feature.

LD Total suggest that once you have decided on a plan for your backyard, it’s important to think about the seasons, and if your yard (or at least parts of it) could be flexible enough to use all year around.

Having options that provide comfortable spaces all year round will mean you’re making the most of your backyard. For example, a shade sail is great for the summer heat but not for pouring rain. Do you have a budget for a patio instead? And if you’re looking for recreation options for the entire family, will the budget stretch far enough for a swimming pool or a spa?

Could the kids’ cubby house double as storage for your outdoor furniture in winter? Does the children’s play area need to have a window vantage so you can supervise your little people and make sure they’re safe?

Plan the process

One of the first things to consider is how will you make your vision a reality – essentially, the nuts and bolts of your project.

LD Total says as blocks of land have gradually become smaller, there is now an increased need to carefully plan the outdoor space you have. Functionality is also paramount when it comes to creating a backyard that suits the needs of your family and your lifestyle.

It’s not a bad idea to play ‘devil’s advocate’ and flesh out the pros and cons of every aspect of your plan.

Ask yourself pertinent questions like: Do you have access down the side of your house for visitors? Is side access to your property safe? If side access is something you would like, consider getting a prelay in beforehand to bring all the irrigation and wiring through so lawns and gardens can be added to the property’s automatic reticulation controls.

Similarly, where will your clothesline be? It’s worth determining this in advance so you can plan a privacy screen if it’s likely to be within view of your entertaining space.

Low maintenance

As the adage goes: ‘work smarter, not harder’. Society has become increasingly time poor so low maintenance backyards and gardens are more in demand than ever.

LD Total says it’s important to remember that all living plants will require some level of maintenance, but choices can be made to minimise the time commitment.

The team suggests fully reticulated gardens and native, waterwise plants if you just don’t have the time or the inclination to toil in your garden.

Lush lawns

If you’re looking at lawn, consider a variety that’s right for your yard, particularly when it comes to drought resistance, shade tolerance, maintenance and ongoing costs.

One of the most popular options is Couch, a fine leaf, low-cost option that is highly drought tolerant, hard wearing and can withstand a shade tolerance of up to 25 per cent. However, this variety of turf also requires a good deal of upkeep.

The medium leaf Kikuyu is another hard-wearing and low-cost option, but only offers mid-level drought resistance and an average maintenance outlay. Its shade tolerance is estimated at up to 25 per cent.

Broad leaf Buffalo grasses range from high to very high drought resistance. They may set you back a bit more financially as they’re considered a medium cost option, but it’s generally low maintenance, hard-wearing and offers 50-75 per cent shade tolerance.

And of course, for those who don’t have time to invest in the continued maintenance of real lawn, artificial turf may be an option that provides a similar look without the same level of upkeep.

Plant selections

A wander around your local nursery is the perfect way to familiarise yourself with different plant species and what might work best for your backyard.

Most nurseries categorise plants into different types to make it easier to explore specific varieties.

It’s also worth noting that nurseries tend to have plants on display that look best at that time of year, so take a look at the plant descriptions to ensure you are going to like a shrub when it’s not flowering or a deciduous tree without its leaves in winter.

It’s also a good idea to mix plant varieties by putting some grasses or strappy plants in amongst flowering plants. This will ensure your garden will hold interest at times when your flowering plants are not in bloom.

Flowering plants will invariably require a cutback after their show so factor this time commitment into your decision-making.

Veggie patches and vertical gardens

If you have a green thumb and like the idea of a productive garden, position a vegetable patch to make the most of the sunshine so they thrive. Between four and six hours of sun is recommended for vegetable gardens so a north-facing or south/east facing plot would work best. West facing areas cop a lot of hot afternoon sun in summer and could be devastating for your plants.

Vertical gardens are suitable anywhere as long as they receive a good few hours of sunshine each day. Again, it depends on the plants you select, but you could use an east facing wall to have fuchsias, whereas a west facing location would be more appropriate for natives.

Let there be light

Choosing the right lighting options can help transform your outdoor space at night, but it’s important to strike a balance between functionality and achieving the desired atmosphere.

Understated fairy lights around your boundary fence or scattered in a tree will have a different affect to party lights around your patio designed to brighten up the space for entertaining. If you’re after a more luxurious resort feel, perhaps consider accent lights to illuminate a water feature or the foliage of a tree. Don’t forget to think about dark areas that may need to be accessed at night, such as pathways and sheds.

Waterwise options

Regardless of whether you live in sunny Perth or Melbourne where the weather can be a bit more changeable, it is important to explore waterwise options when creating your new garden.

LD Total suggests it’s best to invest time and money in removing excess sand and preparing garden beds and spaces for lawn with quality soil, compost or soil improvers that help hold moisture in the ground and assist with root development.

The additional cost will be well worth it, with the reward being lush plants throughout the warmer weather and no dry patches on your turf.

Mulching twice a year is also important to keep soil at a constant temperature and it’s a good idea to check for hydrophobic conditions, where water is not properly absorbed and runs off a surface. Wettasoil applications twice yearly can help prevent this.

For more garden creation tips from LD Total, check out next month’s blog on LD Total’s top garden maintenance tips.


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