So you’ve been watching the garden makeover shows. You read the garden magazines and drool over photos of beautiful backyards on Pinterest.
Then you look at your own backyard and wonder about the possibilities!
To get you started, here's what to consider before you start digging!
1. The scope
What’s on your landscaping wishlist?
Retaining walls: They serve a practical purpose but they can also be very attractive garden features. Depending on the size of your project and the state of your back, it could make sense to get in a mini loader or excavator to ease the load!
Raised garden beds: Planter boxes are easy to build with sleepers. Line boxes with heavy-duty builder’s plastic and order a load of rich soil and compost from your local garden centre.
Garden shed: A ‘garden shed’ can be anything you want it to be: art studio, man cave, potting shed, kids’ cubby, workshop, rehearsal space or junk room. If you need power, an electrician will have to do the wiring, but you can save money by doing the trenching yourself, either by hand or with an excavator. Depending on the size of the trench, a mini loader with a trenching attachment or a self-propelled trencher will also do the job.
Garden pond: You can dig out a small pond by hand and line with a rubber pond liner. For a larger pond, you’ll probably need a mini excavator and you may want to line the pond with concrete. If you want to run a fountain or waterfall, you’ll need an electrician to do the wiring or you can use a solar-powered pump.
Paving: A paved courtyard can transform a property. Mark out the area you want to pave using pegs and stringlines. If it’s a big area, think about getting in a mini loader to shift soil, stones, sand and pavers. A plate compactor can help you compact soil before laying the pavers.
Fire pit: An outdoor fire pit is a great landscaping feature and can extend outdoor living into spring, autumn and even winter months. At its most basic, all you need is a level fire-proof surface and an inflammable container for the fire, but you can have plenty of fun making it more elaborate.
Fencing: A new boundary fence offers security and privacy and can give a real boost to your property. If you offer to build it, your neighbour may well offer to pay the cost of the materials. Use a post hole digger for your post holes, or a special attachment on a mini loader or excavator.
2. Practical considerations
Before you pick up a shovel, draw up a plan or some way down the track you’ll find yourself having to backtrack and undo lots of hard work.
Measure up the yard and see what will fit where. How about access – can you get in a mini excavator or loader, or will it have to be done the hard way, by shovel and wheelbarrow? Do you need water or power to complete your plans?
Are there large trees in the way of your plans? Do you need to move large quantities of soil? Does the fence need replacing?
This is the time to think about the equipment you’ll use. A mini excavator has a multitude of uses. Optional attachments include rock grabbers, hydraulic diggers, post hole diggers, ripper blades and concrete breakers. A post-hole digger makes short work of digging footings for a deck or timber posts for a fence. You might not be ready to proceed with all your projects now, but it could make sense to do the groundwork all at once.
A stand-on mini loaderis ideal for narrow or limited access landscaping projects, including moving and levelling soil, mulch, sand, gravel and rubble, trenching and backfilling, and loading trailers and trucks.
3. Dial before you dig
If you’re going to be moving large quantities of earth, or digging post holes, visit Dial Before You Dig in your state to check for pipes and cables. Water authorities and/or councils also keep plumbers’ plans of water, stormwater and sewerage pipes, showing their location and depth. Your electricity supplier will be able to tell you where the underground cables are.
This is also the time to find out whether you need to get a building or planning permit for your project. Regulations differ from state to state, so check with your local council.
4. DIY vs professional
There are some jobs that you won't be able to DIY. Electrical work must be done by a licensed electrician, who will also supply a safety certificate. You’ll need a plumber for anything related to sewerage or drinking water. In some states, you can install a water tank yourself; in others you must use a plumber, so check with your local water authority.
You can certainly tackle tasks like carpentry, earthmoving, concreting or paving yourself. But consider whether it’s more cost-effective – or safer – to get in a professional. Hipages has some great resources that estimate the cost of getting someone in to do the work versus the cost of doing it yourself.
If you need to remove tall trees overhanging houses or fences you should employ a professional, but you can handle smaller trees and shrubs yourself. Check out Kennards Hire’s range of chainsaws, stump grinders and hedge trimmers. New users also get a quick lesson in how to use them safely.
When you need a professional, hipages can connect you with trusted arborists, concreters, electricians, plumbers and earth movers. You’ll get three quotes and you can read genuine reviews before you accept to move on with the job.
Many of us have watched contestants on The Block transform a worksite into an amazing garden - often in a short period of time. Depending on the scope of the project, it could take you a bit longer without a whole TV team behind you! It's important to be realistic about your timeline and your expectations. Hiring earthmoving equipment and a professional will cost, but can speed the timeline up and may be worth the reduction in stress.
Finally, you need to consider safety before you start your project. Be prepared to slip, slop, slap before you work outside. Make sure you have the right PPE, including sturdy boots, a hat, gloves and ear and eye protection if you're operating heavy machinery.