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Landscaping Budgeting: Smart Planning for Premium Outdoor Spaces

example of natural seating walls as barriers to protect flowers

Your outdoor living space isn’t just about curb appeal — it’s also about enhancing your lifestyle and the value of your home. But how much should you budget to bring your vision to life? Whether you’re considering your first project with a professional landscaping partner or are already a seasoned customer, proper landscaping budgeting ensures that your space comes to life according to your expectations. In this article, we’ll dive into how to budget for a landscape project that’s both luxurious and practical.

How Much Should I Spend on Landscaping and Outdoor Spaces?

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) recommends that homeowners plan to spend between 10 to 20 percent of their total home value on outdoor living space. Landscaping investments typically yield a 20 to 30 percent return on investment when homeowners resell their property. (Source: Bankrate)

Should You Tell Your Landscaper Your Budget?

Yes! In any partnership, transparency is key. Knowing your landscaping budget helps your contractor make the right recommendations regarding materials and features so that you bring your vision to life without biting off more than you can chew financially. A clear understanding of your budget also empowers your landscaping partner to make smart decisions and prevent surprises if plans need to change as the project progresses.

Key Elements of an Outdoor Living Space Project

While plants, flowers, and mulch are a great place to start, it takes a bit more to truly bring a premium outdoor space to life. Here are a few elements that you should consider when envisioning your space:

Landscaping Budgeting for Hardscaping (Walkways/Patios)

Hardscaping refers to the non-living elements of your landscaping, such as walkways and patios. Here is a breakdown of the most common hardscaping materials, their functional performance, aesthetic value, and relative cost:

Hardscape MaterialFunctional PerformanceAestheticsPrice
ConcreteHighly durable and versatile. Can be poured into various shapes and is ideal for patios, walkways, and driveways. Offers a range of finishes from smooth to stamped patterns that mimic natural stone or brick.$-$$
Generally one of the most cost-effective options. Prices can increase with decorative finishes.
Concrete PaversComposed of concrete, brick, or stone. Pavers are durable and can easily be replaced if damaged.Available in a variety of shapes, colors, and textures. They can create a more sophisticated look than plain concrete.$$
Varies based on the type of paver. Stone pavers are usually at the higher end.
Clay BrickTraditional and durable. Great for walkways, patios, and edging.Provides a classic and timeless appearance. The color generally stays consistent over time.$$$
Can be more expensive than concrete pavers but typically less costly than natural stone.
Natural StoneIncludes flagstone, slate, limestone, and granite. Known for durability and natural beauty.Offers a unique, elegant, and organic look. Stone types vary in color and texture.$$$$
Generally, the most expensive option is due to the material’s cost and the labor-intensive installation.

Retaining Walls

Budgeting for a retaining wall involves several key considerations to ensure that you cover all necessary costs while achieving the desired functional and aesthetic outcomes. As a homeowner, here are the primary factors you should consider:

  • Material costs. Similar to hardscaping, your choice of material significantly impacts the total cost of your retaining wall. Common material choices include natural stone, concrete blocks, and brick.
  • Wall size. Your wall’s height, length, and thickness will determine how much material and labor is required for construction. 
  • Excavation, site preparation, and drainage. If the site where the wall is to be built requires significant excavation, this will add to the cost. Proper groundwork is crucial for a stable wall, especially on sloped terrain. Finally, drainage must be implemented to protect the wall’s structural integrity and create a healthy environment for plants. Drainage solutions can include weep holes, drain pipes, or gravel backfill.
  • Permits and regulations. Depending on the requirements of your locality, permits for construction may be required, and you and your contractor may need to submit drawings for approval before construction can begin. Some communities or homeowners associations may also prescribe certain material choices, which can also impact your project’s overall cost.

Landscaping Budgeting for Planting

With so many choices when it comes to flowers, greenery, shrubs, and trees, selecting the perfect ones for your property can be overwhelming. Here’s a breakdown of several different types of plants, the maintenance requirements for each, cost to install, and environmental benefits:

Plant TypeMaintenance RequiredCost to InstallEnvironmental Benefits
Native PerennialsLow (adapted to local conditions)$Attracts pollinators, supports local ecology
Ornamental GrassesLow to Medium$-$$Erosion control, low water usage
Shrubs (Native)Low to Medium$$Habitat for wildlife, attracts pollinators
Flowering AnnualsHigh (requires seasonal replanting)$-$$Adds color, attracts bees and butterflies
Trees (Native)Low (once established)$$$Carbon sequestration, habitat, shade
Succulents & CactiVery Low (drought-tolerant)$-$$Water conservation
Vegetable GardenHigh (regular care needed)$$-$$$$Food production, pollinator-friendly
Herb GardenMedium to High$-$$Culinary use, attracts pollinators
Ground Cover PlantsLow to Medium$-$$Reduces soil erosion, low water usage
Aquatic PlantsMedium (requires water management)$$-$$$$Supports aquatic ecosystems
Fruit Trees/BushesMedium to High$$$Food production, attracts wildlife

What’s your outdoor aesthetic? Find out here in our fun design style quiz.

Landscaping Budgeting for Pools, Outdoor Kitchens, and Fire Pits

These additions can take your outdoor living space to the next level, giving your home a resort-like feel you can enjoy in your backyard year after year. While the investment in these features comes with higher price tags, the enjoyment you’ll get out of your home and the addition to your home’s resale value and appeal make them typically well worth the investment.

Here are a few resources that offer more information about pools, outdoor kitchens, and fire pits:

Aligning Your Landscaping Budget with Maintenance Preferences

We understand how vital it is to ensure your landscape design aligns with your expectations in terms of maintenance, both in time and costs. Here are some key considerations and advice when creating your plan:

1. Clear Communication and Realistic Goals:

Begin by having a candid conversation with your landscape designer about your maintenance expectations. Be realistic about the amount of time and money you’re willing to invest in upkeep. Every element of landscape design, from lawns to flower beds, hardscapes to water features, requires some level of maintenance. Understanding and communicating your commitment level helps the designer tailor the landscape to suit your lifestyle. For instance, if you prefer spending weekends relaxing rather than gardening, this should be factored into the design process.

2. Choosing the Right Plants and Materials:

For lower maintenance, opt for native or climate-adapted plants that thrive in your area’s conditions. Compared to non-native, high-maintenance varieties, these plants generally require less water, fewer pesticides, and minimal care. Similarly, the choice of materials for hardscaping elements like pathways, patios, or retaining walls can greatly affect maintenance needs. Materials like pavers might have a higher upfront cost but often entail lower long-term maintenance compared to concrete or natural stone.

3. Incorporating Low-Maintenance Design Elements:

Consider design elements that inherently require less upkeep. For example, once established, perennial gardens need less attention than annual flower beds that require planting each year. Mulching is another effective strategy to reduce weed growth and soil moisture loss, thus cutting down on watering and weeding time. Hardscaping elements like patios or gravel paths can reduce the lawn area, subsequently lowering the time spent on lawn mowing and maintenance.

4. Understanding the Cost of Maintenance Services:

If you plan to hire professionals for maintenance, get an estimate of these costs upfront. Regular lawn care, pruning, garden upkeep, and seasonal tasks like leaf removal or snow clearing can add up. Knowing these costs in advance helps in budgeting and ensures that the landscape design aligns with your financial comfort zone for ongoing maintenance expenses.

5. Planning for Growth and Maturity:

Finally, consider how your landscape will evolve over time. Plants grow, and spaces fill in. A well-planned landscape takes into account the mature size of plants to avoid overcrowding and the associated increased maintenance. Similarly, features like ponds or irrigation systems might require more upkeep as they age. A good design will factor in ease of access for future repairs or modifications.

Finalizing Your Landscaping Budget

The first step toward success in planning your landscaping or outdoor living space project is to consult with professionals. You may also consider a phased approach to improvements that allow you to spread out your investment over time. 

In conclusion, the key to ensuring your landscape meets your maintenance expectations lies in thorough planning, realistic goal setting, and choosing elements that align with your lifestyle. A well-designed landscape can provide immense enjoyment and enhance your property’s value, all the more so when it fits seamlessly with your maintenance capabilities and expectations.

Ready to begin bringing your vision to life? Connect with an Elevate Outdoor expert today for a free consultation! 

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