Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 5, Issue 1
    February 2010
   Garden Renovations

The renovated front yard
The renovated front yard.

Over the past six years, my husband Richard and I have transformed our small suburban garden in Ottawa, Ontario (American zone 4/Canadian zone 5a), into an idyllic retreat. Here are some things we learned along the way.

For reasons of budget and sanity, it makes sense to do things in stages, especially when planning a complete makeover. It's important to start with a good design you can follow from start to finish.

Most public libraries have a selection of garden-design books that will introduce you to the basics. If you choose to be your own designer, measure carefully to avoid the unpleasant surprise of a design element not fitting its allocated spot.

Alternatively, you can consult a professional designer. For an additional fee, he or she will develop an original design and professional drawings. A good designer should not dictate garden fashion; instead, he or she should help you combine functional elements that match your budget, suit the ways in which you plan to use your garden spaces and take into account the amount of time and energy you are prepared to devote to ongoing maintenance.

With a design in hand, it's time to decide what to do first and whether you should do it yourself (DIY) or you should hire help. Taking a job on yourself, even if you have the necessary skills and tools, can take longer and cost more — sometimes a lot more — than initially calculated.

Deciding whether to DIY or to hire help means balancing your skills, time and energy against a realistic budget. Our compromise was to hire help for the highly skilled jobs and for those requiring backbreaking labor.

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