Did you recently purchase – or are you planning to close on – a new construction home? It’s a dream scenario that opens up a world of possibilities, both indoors and out. The idea of landscaping a newly built house can be intimidating, but we encourage you to embrace the freedom and creativity your new property presents. By being proactive, you can ensure that you’ll love your home’s exterior as much as you do the spaces within.
A blank canvas is exciting, but it also presents more possibilities – and potential pitfalls – than a space where many variables are already fixed. For most families, this is a better time to find a trusted expert partner than to try DIY. Landscaping a new construction home presents you with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy a space exactly as you want it over the next twenty or thirty years. By working with an experienced and highly qualified landscape architect, you can make the most of all that blank-slate potential and set the stage for your landscape to unfold over time in just the right way for your family. This professional will help you maximize your family’s enjoyment of your outdoor living space while making sure to consider all the factors which can impact the appearance, longevity, and resale value of your property.
When buying a home, it pays to think ahead. It’s as true of your outdoor spaces as it is for the indoor ones. (You planned the bathrooms around the family you PLAN to have and the teenagers your toddlers will become, right?) Since it will take a few years for your landscaping to mature, you’ll be best served by combining a short-term plan that enhances your home’s appearance with a long-term strategy that checks off all your must-have outdoor living boxes. Working with a professional landscape designer now will help ensure that your plan is sustainable and does not have any built-in problems. Put some thought into how you think you’ll want to use your space in a year and after ten years, and be sure to discuss long-term logistics like drainage and the locations of utility lines in relation to future tree-root structures.
To Seed or Sod?
The muddy, bare-earth appearance of new construction is one of the most challenging aspects of inhabiting a newly built house. You find yourself surrounded by pristine finishes and fixtures everywhere – except when you look outside. If you’re faced with a wasteland, you can pay a higher price for the instant green and erosion protection delivered by sod, or you can put in the time to grow grass from seed. Seeding is the more affordable way to green the open spaces in your landscape, and it gives you the flexibility to pick grass varieties likely to perform well on your property and require less maintenance. Sod, though more expensive, can prevent erosion and weed establishment while giving you a play-ready lawn within weeks. Consider the pros and cons of each to find the option best suited to your needs.
Dig into the dirt.
You are about to gain intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny of your new home. As you do so, don’t overlook the elements that extend beyond those four (or more) walls. Construction wreaks havoc on soil. To give your green spaces precisely what they need, you’ll need to get your soil tested. Given the demands of moving, this probably sounds like a pain right now. Trust us. You will avoid immeasurable suffering in the months and years ahead by taking a few soil samples and getting them tested up front. The results will help you to translate your outdoor-living vision into real, tangible aspects of your new home.
If your builder installed plantings, take a Marie Kondo approach. If it doesn’t spark joy, get rid of it. Any plantings you keep should match your style and your lifestyle. That means looking beyond aesthetics and finding out what those specific plant species require. A tree that looks perfectly fine could turn out to be high-maintenance or even fruit-bearing. It can be difficult to remove anything when you’re expecting a few years of sparse landscaping. Take the opportunity to try some short-term options by planting them in containers instead of in the ground. Once your trees and shrubs have had a few years to mature, you can decide whether to continue container gardening. To protect the soil and ward off weeds, leverage mulch and weed-suppressing ground cover in the short term.
Don’t back-burner the hardscapes!
Porches, patios, pools, and decks are far more fixed and require more extensive planning than softscapes. For this reason, even if you won’t be getting started on your hardscaping until a future date, it pays to nail down a detailed plan for hardscaping when you first move in. Now is the time to set the stage for your future fire pit, outdoor kitchen, or sleeping porch. Your property will never have such easily accessible potential as it does now, so capture your vision for its future right away. Doing so will help you make decisions confidently at every stage of your landscape’s execution.
Get ready to work.
Regardless of the specific choices you make, you have some work ahead of you as the owner of a new-construction home. Building up a new lawn, young trees, and fresh garden beds tends to be more labor-intensive than maintaining an established landscape. In the first few years, aeration, over-seeding, fertilizing, and weed prevention can be crucial to growing a gorgeous lawn. If you can anticipate this work and plan for it, you’ll be more likely to enjoy (and less likely to resent) the process.
An Evolving Exterior
After building a dream home or purchasing a new build, homeowners do not typically have a ton of extra budget lying around. Not to worry. Even if your home has left you short on funds, you can still have a gorgeous landscape and the outdoor living spaces of your dreams. The exterior of your home has the flexibility to change, evolve, and mature over time. Planning is the key. By talking with a landscape designer before undertaking your first landscaping project, you can plot out a strategy of phases to be completed – and financed – over the next several years.