Whether you’re working on landscaping for the first time or you’re somewhere between a small tweak and a full redesign, the job can feel both overwhelming AND exciting. Maybe you’re someone who doesn’t know where to start. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Should I hire a professional, do it myself, or a combination of both?”

In order to light the way (pun intended) and get you going, we’ve put together a list of things to consider, understanding that the first thing you’ll want to do no matter what is make a landscaping plan with an accompanying budget, including both plants and lighting.

Click here to read more about how to budget your project.

If you don’t have a plan, there’s no way you’ll have any idea about what, when, or how to make your dream landscape a reality. Here are some tips for creating that plan and helping you decide when to DIY and when to hire a professional:

Figure Out Your Design Style

If you’ve got a good design eye, a good place to DIY is in the brainstorming. Ask yourself some important questions:

  • What’s my style?
  • What do I like?
  • What don’t I like?

Maybe thumb through some landscaping magazines and drive around local neighborhoods to best answer these questions and get a wealth of ideas and possibilities. If you’re feeling stumped at this point, it’s a good idea to hire a professional who can help you better understand and help you define your design style.

Click here to see some current trends in landscape lighting.

Sketch Out What You Want

Take some time with this step and think about these landscape elements: plants, trees, furniture, patios, playsets, lighting, gardens, pool area, water features, fire pit, pathways, steps, irrigation system, SMART technology, hardscapes, light fixture placement to get the desired effects, safety features, and so on. Click here for a great DIY tutorial for your landscape sketching. This is another great DIY step, but as you get deeper into it, you may want to hire a professional.

As you’re sketching and brainstorming, don’t forget to factor in the different seasons, where you live, and how they can affect your plans and your landscape enjoyment. A citrus tree is a great perennial if you’re living in the southwestbut it may not be the best option if you’re living in the northeast due to your planting zone. It’s also important to remember that as the season’s change, you may also want to adjust the angles and amount of lighting in parts of your landscape.

Click here for more information on winter landscaping in the Northeast.

Understanding some of the complexity that comes with seasonal changes can be difficult. This is where you may want to hire a professional. It takes an experienced eye to understand how light works with all of your different elements. Investing in a professional is a great way to make the most out of the hard work you’re putting in. A consultation from a landscape architect and outdoor lighting professional can be a wealth of information in not only creating your plan, but for saving you money and headaches in the future also. Click here to read more about how low-cost landscape lights could be costing you money.

Landscape professionals can also give you a plan that covers a period of time with directions on what to do each year/time period to help you stretch your overall budget into the future. This can often be well worth any associated cost.

Do You Have the Tools + What is the Overall Cost?

While you might have all the imagination and creativity to get you from pen to paper in the early design phases, it’s important to ask yourself if you have all the necessary tools. If not, include those in your budget. We’re talking shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows, etc. If you’re making some major landscaping changes, renting the heavy equipment to do so might prove to be costly, so keep that in mind.

Speaking of tools, a common DIY outdoor lighting project is installing solar lights for path lighting. This often requires no tools! Not only are solar lights inexpensive, but they are easy to install because they don’t have any wiring. However, it’s important to consider the cost over the long term because you will have to replace them often. Additionally, the light is significantly less dim than what you might get with a professional installation. The same applies to using them for uplighting and other design elements. Hiring a professional will allow you to invest in fixtures that will last longer (saving you money), can improve your safety, and enhance your design work when properly installed.

With all of this in mind, there are some great outdoor trends happening right now that you can easily DIY like string lighting and setting up smart technology. Click here to see more outdoor trends for 2020.

Consider Maintenance + Set up Requirements

Take into account the maintenance requirements of your dream landscape. Will you have the time to do the maintenance yourself? Will you have to hire all or some of it out? These are great questions to ask when you’re putting together your plan and your budget.

As mentioned above, there are some DIY and low-cost solutions. But they will break, bend, and potentially not work at all after one season. The maintenance cost here is that you have to not only replace those lights, but you’ll have to take the time to re-install them as well.

Click here to read more about why low price lighting could cost you more.

Put Your Plan in Place

Once you have a solid plan and budget in place, it’s time to decide how to put that plan into action: go the DIY route, hire the professionals, or a combo of both. Here are some important things to think about that could save you both money and stress when making these important decisions:

  • Take some time to decide what you REALLY want and what you’re willing to spend on it, whether you DIY your landscaping or hire professionals. Those estimates will be good for at least several weeks, and if any contractor pressures you into signing on the dotted line right away, that’s probably not the contractor for you.
  • Your dream landscape doesn’t have to be done all at once unless that’s your goal. You can move slowly through your list, doing things in baby steps.
  • Remember, it can feel more expensive to hire the professionals, but it could potentially save you time and money from the accidental mistakes you might make when doing things yourself.

If you’re still not sure what matches your budget and skills, do some comparison shopping: Get estimates from the pros and do some DIY estimating. Then decide what you’ll do yourself and what you’ll hire out. If you do get some estimates from the pros, having each contractor break out every item individually with the associated cost will help you to understand how it all comes together. Yes, you might save some money doing a package-type deal, but you can also save some money by picking and choosing what you have the experts do and what you’ll do yourself, based on your priorities. This will also help you decide if the investment of both your time and materials is worth it.

Need help with any landscape lighting needs? We’re your one-stop-shop for both, so let us help you take the stress and worry out of creating and enjoying the landscape of your dreams. Contact us today!