Mystical Landscapes is a Marin Design and Build company for all aspects of landscaping.
There are several benefits to breaking your project into stages:
It puts less strain on your short-term cash-flow.
It may allow you to see some of your design installed and then refine your design for other areas, based on how you like stage one.
It may be less disruptive to your life-style to have a break between projects.
Neighbors and city/county officials may be less worried if you develop a large project incrementally.
The downside to doing things in stages often includes:
There are two areas of inflation that affect landscaping. One is material prices, which go up an average of 4% per year. The other is codes and permits. Every year more things are regulated. For example, in the last few years irrigation systems that are newly installed are required to spend an extra $100.00 on what used to be a check valve assembly AND then have the new valve device inspected every year or so. The new device is less flexible so cost may be spent placing it in a location it will work. Net 100% increase in costs for that one area.
Landscapes are typically more efficiently installed as a unit. For example, if you rent a trencher for the back yard and then rent it again for the front yard at a later date in order to lay irrigation pipe, you may pay twice as much as doing it all at the same time.
Landscape companies may factor larger jobs with less profit margin than two or three smaller jobs to reflect the fact that they are more efficient to install. For example, I sometimes give clients doing more than $50,000.00 in work at one time a 10% discount to reflect the fact that jobs of this size are often easier for me to manage and install than three $15,000.00 jobs, all of which need their own contract, clean up, meetings etc.
You have to wait longer to enjoy your garden.
Because large jobs get done with a bigger crew they are done in fewer working days than the same job broken up into stages. If the front yard can only hold about four people working without getting in each other’s way that is the crew size I typically allocate. However, if the backyard could also handle four people I might have six to eight people working rather than four for stage one and four for stage two. In this way the project might be done in half the working days, which can be nice if you find work done at your home disruptive.
Knowing how to break your design into efficient stages is one of those areas where an experienced installer can help you. The variables are too design and sit-specific to give a universal recipe here. However, I’ll share general things to keep in mind.
Make a list of the things that are most important to you to get done based on your personal preference. It might look something like:
Make the front entrance area nice.
Put landscape lighting on the front walk.
Erect a dog fence.
Create a play area for the kids.
Transplant mother’s roses out of the pots.
These are your personal priorities but are almost certainly not the most cost effective or efficient sequence for the work to be done in. This creates a tension in values between doing things in the order that will be most pleasing to you and saving the most money. So that you can make an educated decision in this area it is helpful to make a concrete comparison:
Install the landscape in stages based on my ideal sequence will cost: $21,200.00
Install the landscape in the most efficient stages will cost: $18,100.00
Installing the landscape in one complete stage: $17,000.00
In this comparison you can see that you save $3,100.00 by breaking things down into the most efficient stages and save an additional $1,100.00 as a result of doing everything right now. You can then weigh whether the benefits of stretching your cashflow from your ideal of doing three separate $7,000.00 stages over three years and having to wait three years for the garden to feel complete outweighs the benefits of having things finished now with a $4,100.00 savings.
Why does the sequence of things affect the price so much? Going back to the list above that is based on your ideal sequence and priorities, here is a likely scenario:
The dog fencing will likely be more efficient if it is installed as the last thing so that work-traffic does not have to deal with the fence.
The back-yard will likely be done easier if the crew does not have to be careful with the entrance landscape that you want to do first.
The dog fence will be more efficient if tied in with other carpentry, such as trellis, benches and deer fencing.
The landscape lighting wires and transformers can best be laid and chosen for the entire garden simultaneously.
The clean-up cycle for two stages can be eliminated with just one clean-up at the end.
Transplanting the roses requires bringing the tiller in to rototiller just one area. If the whole area is tilled and not planted weeds will grow. Perhaps bagged soil needs to be brought in rather than the efficiency of one dump-truck load of soil for the entire back garden and one trip with the tiller, followed by comprehensive planting and mulching.
"After trying to install our own garden for two years and getting nowhere, you came onto the scene with the vision and ability to make it happen.
It is a pure joy to wander the paths, sit on the benches and know that our garden is a quiet place of beauty for our family."
Jack and Marilyn Hoover