Preparation is All in the Details: A Checklist to Help You Make Your Garden

You're all set! You put your vision on paper, picked out your plants and decided on design materials. What now? More planning, that's what. So roll up your sleeves as we help you figure out what comes next...and what might have come first.

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Pre-Construction Checklist

Once you have completed a site survey and prepared your design, it's time to work out when the construction and planting should take place, and who will do the work. You may decide to do some of the preparations yourself and bring in specialist contractors only for specific jobs. Or, you may decide to hire in for the whole job. Either way, try to visualize the project from start to finish to make it run as efficiently as possible. Here, we lay out the major steps of a gardening project in order.

Permission: Major building work, such as the construction of an outdoor building, may need planning permission from your local neighborhood association or municipal government. If you have any doubt, check into it, and talk to neighbors to explain plans and settle concerns.

Hiring Contractors: One or more contractors may oversee the project, bringing in specialists as needed. If you are project-managing the job yourself, you will need to find and hire bricklayers, pavers, joiners, electricians and other skilled technicians and craftspeople.

Selecting Materials: Ask contractors to provide samples of landscaping materials, or visit stone and builder’s merchants, and lumber yards yourself. Personally select feature items and commission custom pieces.

Materials Order/Delivery: Double-check amounts to avoid under- or overbuying. Arrange deliveries to coincide with different construction stages. This avoids materials getting in the way and having to be relocated later.

Site Clearance: Stake out area and rent a dumpster. Remove unwanted hard landscaping materials and features. If the lawn is to be re-laid, lift it with a turf-cutting machine. Also lift and move existing plants for reuse.

Topsoil Removal: Save quality topsoil for reuse and do not mix with subsoil. Remove it manually or with a mini digger. Move topsoil away from the construction site and pile it up on the future planting areas.

Machinery Rental/Access: If your plan requires a lot of heavy digging, trenching and re-levelling, rent a mini digger and operator. Ensure suitable access, clearing pathways and removing fence panels, as required.

Foundations and Drainage: Establish different site levels and excavate accordingly. Organize the digging of foundations and drainage channels, then pour foundations and lay drainage pipes. If needed, move existing drains.

Lighting and Power: Bring in a lighting engineer or electrician to install the cabling grid for all garden lighting and powered features. Some of these shouldn’t be wired up until the garden has been completed.

Building and Surfaces: Build all hard landscaping features, including all walls, steps, terraces, pathways, water features and raised beds. Construct wooden decks, pergolas and screens. Prepare new lawn areas.

Boundary Construction: Once the contractors, builders and landscapers no longer require access across the boundary for their machinery, vehicles and materials, walls and fences can be completed and/or repaired.

Topsoil and Planting: Some basic planting may have to be done during the dormant season, while construction continues. Replace or buy in topsoil to make up levels, then carry out remaining planting.

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Excerpted from Garden Design

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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