Should you start all over?

March 1, 2011

I've been looking at a lot of videos and articles on "edible landscaping" lately, and the question comes up a lot: do I have to dig up my entire yard and start all over?

Personally, I think it's up to you, but here's some thoughts to consider to help you make that decision:

1. Do you have the time and energy to devote to doing your entire yard all at once?

If you

  • are energetic,
  • have a clear picture of what you want your yard to look like,
  • have a bunch of friends/family to help you

then this is the way to go. You'll save a lot of money and have fun doing it!

If you're going to do this, though, you'll need to make sure you can get your landscape done in a timely manner.

What you don't want to do is leave your yard torn up for months at a time -- not only will rain erode your topsoil but your neighbors will probably complain.

2. Do you have the money to hire someone to do your entire yard at once for you?

If you
  • have the money to do this and shudder at the thought of digging up sod,
  • are physically unable,
  • have no help,
  • or have no time to do it yourself,

then this would be the way to go.

You will still need to take the time to plan your edible landscape (or at least have some idea of what you want, because your contractor doesn't read minds), learn how to maintain it, and harvest your crops, unless you hire someone to do that for you as well.

3. Are you a beginner at gardening? Planting one small area with edibles or adding edibles to your existing landscaping might be the best way to begin.

The biggest mistake people make when starting a garden for the first time is taking on too much then getting discouraged in summer when the weeds hit. Learn basic gardening before you try to landscape the back 40.

4. Are you contemplating a major change in your property's hardscape, drainage, or grading? (The term hardscape refers to the walkways, driveways, walls, or any other "hard" features of a piece of land.)

Many of these kinds of projects have to be done in a certain order (a culvert, for example, usually is placed before the driveway is put in, because the driveway goes over it), and may require permits or licensed contractors, depending on your city's regulations.

My point is, if you're doing a great deal of work on your hardscape, drainage, or grading, you'll almost certainly have to tear up a good portion of your yard, and it won't be all at once.

On the other hand, you won't be able to do much edible planting while this is all going on, but when it's all done you will have an entirely new landscape that's exactly what you want.

5. Do you just want to do it a bit at a time?

Whether you're energetic or not, healthy or not, well-off or not, have tons of help or none at all, have hours a day or five minutes a couple of times a week, you can still create your own edible landscape on your own schedule.

It will take longer, and you might need to recruit or hire help for a couple of hours for the heavy lifting, cement pouring, or any other major projects, but doing it yourself a bit at a time can be an extremely rewarding challenge. (as a matter of fact, this is the route I'm taking)

One tool that I've found extremely helpful to help me decide what I wanted to do with my lot is Choose-It! There's no charge -- it's a free tool that helps you figure out which decision is most consistent with what's important to you. You can give it a try here.

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