While many people are overwhelmed with work, educating their kids at home and keeping their pantry stocked during the covid-19 pandemic, others have a little extra time on their hands while staying distant from their friends and normal life. Everyone is also looking for ways to manage stress. One optimistic option: planning for a new landscape.

We asked Joe Richardson, owner of Joseph Richardson Landscape Architecture in Arlington, to share his suggestions for homeowners looking forward to a revamp of their outdoor space.

“Most clients underestimate the time it takes to move through the design, permitting and construction of a landscape project,” wrote Richardson in an email. “This process can take anywhere from several weeks to six months or more, depending on the scope and scale. With that in mind, there are a number of things homeowners can do now to minimize lost time and hit the ground running when life return to normal.”

Richardson, who continues to meet clients virtually through a video conferencing platform that allows him to use a shared screen to go over plans, has the following suggestions for homeowners who want to start the process for a landscape project:

  • What are your goals for the property? Are you looking to simply add plantings for better curb appeal? Or do you have a more complex program that might include a pool, retaining walls or an outdoor kitchen? Having a list of what you want will better help your landscape architect or designer meet your expectations.
  • How will you use the space? Take note of how you move around the space, as this will help your landscape architect determine where to place walkways, seating areas, etc.
  • Consider your budget. A good rule of thumb is to set your landscape budget between 10 percent and 15 percent of the total value of your home. This applies to such basic elements as patios, driveways, walkways, plantings and landscape lighting. Higher-priced items, such as swimming pools and outdoor kitchens, will increase this budget.
  • How long are you planning to be in the home? Is this your forever home or are you planning to move in the next few years? This will help you determine how to evaluate the project’s return on your investment.
  • Locate any drawings you have of your home or property. At minimum, each homeowner should have a basic survey or property plat. This is typically found in the closing documents when you purchased the home. If your house has been built recently, chances are you may have architectural drawings and a topographic survey. These drawings are useful to determine the location of existing site features, property lines and important utility easements or setbacks that could impact the landscape design.
  • Observe your property when it rains. Take note of where the water flows and look for drainage patterns. Are you experiencing areas of washout or erosion that can be addressed with drainage improvements during construction?
  • Start collecting ideas. Websites such as Pinterest and Houzz can help you clarify your sense of landscaping style as well as give insight on what plants and hardscaping finishes you would like to include in the plans.
  • Remember that spouses do not have to agree on a particular style. Having a difference of opinion is okay. Part of your landscape architect’s role is to help turn those opposing styles into a cohesive space.
  • Request a second or even third bid from contractors. During the ongoing pandemic, contractors are being more aggressive with their pricing in anticipation of a potentially slow spring. Take advantage and ask your landscape architect to get multiple bids from their contractors.

While many landscape projects are implemented in the spring, most can be accomplished in the summer and fall with some possible adjustments for planting schedules.