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How to create a garden that doesn't cost the earth

18 October 2018

Dan Mackay

Landscape designer, HOMEmade

About to embark on a new landscaping project? We asked HOMEmade landscape designer, Dan Mackay for his top tips to provide you with inspiration, along with some practical advice that will keep your wallet happy!

When’s the best time to start a new landscaping project?

Landscaping projects can generally be done at any time of the year as long as you’ve got good irrigation in place. But, the best time to plant or sow a lawn is during spring. In the planning phase of a new project when you’re considering what types of plants to include in your garden, it’s always a good idea to incorporate plants that flower during different seasons so you’ve got garden action all year round. Deciduous trees are great because they flower, but you also get to see the bones of the tree during their off months.

What are some ways to make your money go further on a project?

  1. Transplanting is a good way to stretch your budget. This is when you have existing plants and you move them to another spot in your garden, which can help to create a whole new look. Transplanting requires a bit of care, but when done successfully, can lift the look of your garden without a large financial cost.
  2. Some types of plants tend to clump when they have grown out a bit, so it’s a good idea to lift and divide up as a way of multiplying your plants. This also ensures the plant stays healthy.
  3. Planting a young garden is also inexpensive, as long as you’re willing to wait for the plants to grow out

What natural resources can you use to make an amazing statement?

Rocks and pebbles are impactful and can also be inexpensive. I like to make big boulder rock gardens, because a large rock can make for a great natural sculpture. You can also frame paths using rocks on either side or even use rocks within water features too.

What kind of trends are you seeing in Kiwi gardens?

The biggest trend that I’ve seen grow over the last five years is edible gardens. Veggie gardens, herb gardens and sustainable living are really popular at the moment, with people looking for ways to incorporate these features into their backyard. I’m seeing lots of herb planters and veggie gardens, and Kiwis going out of their way to learn about compost. I think sustainable living will continue to grow, which is great to see.

When doing DIY, what can you not afford to skimp on?

Foundations for sure. For most landscaping projects, strong foundations are laid underground. If you’re creating a concrete pad you can’t just lay that straight onto dirt, you need to construct the base course and compact it, otherwise things are going to crack. It’s also worth investing in good soils and fertilisers . By spending money on the ground preparation will mean your plants and trees will grow nicely and also a lot faster.

About the expert

After working in landscaping in London and Sydney, Dan came back to Auckland to study horticulture, then landscape design and construction. He has 15 years’ experience and has built up a successful landscaping company, Ministry of Ground. He has a crew of five children who keep him levelled and motivate him to work hard. Dan's knack for repurposing unwanted items and turning them into something special, plus knowing his Begonias from his Gladioli, make him a real asset to the HOMEmade crew.

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