Landscaping your Elevated Home - Getting it Done

Patricia Skinner  |  4/11/2009 10:02:18 AM

Preparing a Budget

Plants will take up much of your gardening budget, but you may to need buy garden tools, chemicals, dirt and edging material. Gardening gloves and shovels are essential; other tools may come in handy, including loppers, pruners, trowels, shears and augers, depending on the current state of the yard and which plants you plan to put in the yard.  You will probably need chemicals or organic fertilizer to keep your garden well-fed and healthy. A number of alternatives exist, including soils that come with fertilizer, fertilizer that is put in during planting and fertilizer that is dispersed via a hose during watering.

If your yard has been neglected for many years, you may need to spend time and money getting to the plantable stage. As your garden grows, you also may need help fighting pests with pesticides or such organic alternatives, including some sprays that you can make at home using garlic, soap, spearmint, tobacco or alcohol. Good quality top soil will give your garden the best opportunity to grow strong. Specialized soil for vegetable gardens, flowers and roses may be available from your local gardening shop. Be careful about accepting Spillway dirt or construction leftovers. You cannot be sure what chemicals and nutrients exist in these soils.

There is also variety in mulches. Organic mulches can help fight pests and weeds, and add nutrients as they decompose. However, if you have neighborhood problems with rodents or have a moist yard, inorganic options may be best, though they have been known to encourage snails and slugs. Other budget considerations may include landscape fabric to line a garden bed and dramatically reduce undesired weed growth. Edging the garden will help maintain the shape of the garden, protect it from errant lawn mowers and create a visual boundary. Lining options include  bricks, cement, stepping stones, plastic or metal strip edging or wood edging.

When budgetting, don't forget future maintenance. If you don’t have the time to spare and can afford it, consider hiring a landscape architect to help design a low-maintenance garden and plan on hiring a landscaping service to take care of necessary maintenance before your garden turns into a jungle. Creating attractive landscaping that requires little attention can be done; time must be spent “up front” selecting plants that don’t require much ongoing effort.

Preparing your yard

Before you begin your gardening project it's important to have the soil tested for harmful toxins and to find out where utility lines run through the property.

Especially in Post-Katrina Louisiana, soils should be tested for the presence of heavy metals. Heavy metals, such as lead, in vegetables can have profoundly negative health effects on children who consume them. A soil test also tests the pH and nutrient level in the soil, reducing pollution and helping you to identify the proper fertilizer. To get more information about soil testing, contact the LSU Ag Center’s Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Lab . The phone number for the lab is  225-578-1261. Your local extension office also may be able to help you with this service.

You will be found liable for any damage to water and electric lines from your digging project. Call 1-800-272-3020 to have your utilities marked in your yard, and avoid unnecessary damage.

Mark your beds out before you begin digging to keep them neat and consistent. Consider using the beds to provide a creative twist on the traditional lining of a home - try altering the shape. This, too, can divert attention from the other prominent feature of your property - the raised floor.

Choosing plants

The possibilities are endless, so you'll need to make some decisions on theme. Themes include vegetable gardens, herb gardens, butterfly gardens, rain gardens, scent gardens or others. However, regardless of theme, make sure to include a focal point. Landscapers suggest choosing a single plant as your focus and spending more on it while concentrating on saving on others.

You need to consider the mature size of the plants and the color they provide. This information should be on the tag of your plant. You want to keep proper distance between plants based on the mature size. Otherwise your garden will become overgrown quickly and what looks proportional now, may not after a few years.

Keep in mind the sun needs of the plants, especially when planting close to the home. Some plants need full sun, while other prefer shade or partial sun. Many plants carry labels to tell you how much sun they require.

When choosing a tree, a good rule of thumb is to choose one that is roughly as tall as you. This means that it has survived its risky childhood but is still young enough to recover from the trauma of moving.

Protecting the foundation, maintaining proper drainage

To protect your home and foundation, maintain a 2-foot buffer between your home and plants. This will keep termites and moisture away from your home. You also should raise your bed (unless you're making a rain garden). A sunken bed will pool water, often overwatering plants and attracting pests.

When planting large trees, keep in mind the mature size of the roots and limbs. Planting a tree too close to the foundation could damage the foundation when the tree grows older. The limbs could damage electric lines and roofs. In addition, a tree near the home poses a threat during high-wind events.

With careful planning and a commitment to maintenance any elevated home can be attractive and more like home than the weekend camp. By using landscaping as a tool, the raised-floor foundation can even be an asset to gardening plans, allowing you to go taller and thicker without worrying about losing your view from the porch or front windows.

Getting help

The LSU AgCenter has a wealth of gardening information and advice, on the Internet at www.LSUAgCenter.com in the Lawn and Garden-Home Gardening channel and on display at its Louisiana House Home and Landscape Resource Center (LaHouse) on campus in Baton Rouge. Horticulture agents and Louisiana Master Gardeners (volunteers) are eager to help with the restoration of lawns and gardens in hurricane recovery areas. Contact you parish AgCenter office to find out what resources are availble in your area.

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