Mystical Landscapes is a Marin Design and Build company for all aspects of landscaping.
The best designs work with the existing site to create the look and functions you need with a minimum of unnecessary change. Nevertheless, you will sometimes need to bring in or export large quantities of soil or dramatically reconfigure the soil that is there.
This is definitely an area to consider as a whole. You don’t want to design the front yard and export thirty yards of soil only to import forty yards of soil when you get around to designing the back yard five years later. Because bringing in and removing soil can be expensive and a hassle, I have trained my mind to consider removal and placement options simultaneously. When I’m designing a large pond, I’m thinking about what area in the garden would most benefit from a higher mound or extending the level area on a slope.
On large grading projects it’s also valuable to understand heavy equipment and costs. People tend to design within their comfort zones and this can be a mistake. For example, it can be cheaper in some instances to both lower a large
area and create a six foot privacy mound with the soil than it is to build a fence there, but if you are not experienced with heavy equipment and do know a bit about fencing your mind will tend to overlook options like this, or proceed to spend weeks doing something by hand that can be done in a day with a large machine. I realize that saying this is not very encouraging, since you have probably not operated a bulldozer, backhoe or excavator, but it’s one of the reasons I encourage you to have an experienced designer and/or installer review your plans even if you are going to do the work yourself. It would be a shame to spend months doing something by hand that could have been done for less in a few days with the right equipment.
Grading ties into a number of areas of landscaping, including terracing with retaining walls (it’s usually best to grade first or parallel with any walls being built), drainage, possible permits, large water-features, some aspects of demolition and soil amendment. In the case of soil amendment, it’s helpful to put the topsoil off to the side and spread it back on top of the finished grade, as some sub-
soils in Marin are dead, rocky and very difficult for plants to grow in.
Keep in mind that grading can also be interchangeable with retaining walls and can be cheaper. If you are putting in a four foot path perpendicular to a slope it would be normal to think in terms of cutting into the slope to form the path and building a small retaining wall on the uphill side of the path. When machinery is present it may be much faster and cheaper to slightly steepen the upper and lower slope without using any stone. If stone is used, one row of rocks to help define the path may replace a three foot wall that would have been necessary if the areas ten feet to the up and down hill sides of the path had not been graded.
Grading is a very important design element because it determines the views, shapes, scale and sense of space within the landscape more than many other things.
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