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How To Create A Garden For Your Self Build Property

07/02/2023 - Developers And Self Builders

No Self Build Property ever looks properly finished until the plot has been landscaped.  All of those machines you used during the build will likely have rutted and/or compacted the soil into a horrid mess that certainly does not show your home off in it’s best light. Even if you opt for a simple garden to keep the spending under control, you need to do something.

Remember too, that some landscaping features (not all) are VAT exempt. However, you will need to get them done before the building is signed off and you submit your VAT reclaim request.  So at the very least, you would be prudent to build your driveway, put up boundary fences, install essential paths and lay turf.

In This Article

  • enlightened Designing the garden for your self build property.
  • enlightened Landscape contractor vs DIY landscaping.
  • enlightened Choosing and pricing landscaping materials.
  • enlightened Advice for first time landscapers.
  • enlightened Where to get help at any stage of the design and build process.

front door of self build property with timber framed porch and clay pavers creating wide walkway

No matter how simple they look when they are finished, it takes vision and skill to create welcoming outdoor spaces. This is part of a project built by Manor Prestige Landscapes

Designing The Garden For Your Self Build Property

The services of a professional garden designer will come at a cost, but my goodness, it will be worth every penny.  We’re all used to looking at 2D layout plans for gardens, but in actual fact, there’s a lot more to designing a garden than thinking about what it will look like from above.  How will the design cope with different levels in the garden? Or address problems such as poor drainage. What if the plot is overlooked by neighbouring properties? How can you create a sense of privacy?

You can commission a garden design really quite early in your self build journey.  Once you know the footprint of your building and what it will look like, you can start working with a garden designer to create a basic layout plan with product recommendations.  Details such as a planting plan, the exact model of pergola and a laying pattern for your patio slabs can follow on later.  But if you have a layout plan, you may well be able to consider it when doing the groundworks for you foundations.  

Landscaping is a very holistic art and unlike utility companies who seem to be forever  taking turns to re-open holes in the road instead of working together - you can save yourself quite a lot of time and effort by planning ahead.

Visit the Society Of Garden Designers website to find a garden designer for your self build property. 

two landscapers using angle grinders to cut purbeck stone

sunken patio garden with bandstand pergola and relaxing sofas

Hard work pays off! This sunken garden was built by Unique Projects Devon.  Read the case study here.


Landscape Contractor vs DIY Landscaping

When deciding who is going to bring to life the garden for your self build property, you have four main considerations.  Budget, time, resources and skills set.  

Naturally, a landscaper is going to need paying for their time and expertise and you may well think that you’ve gained some transferable skills whilst building your property.  But laying a driveway is not the same as laying floor tiles.  Landscaping is akin to civil engineering only on a smaller scale.  A driveway must be able to withstand the forces exerted by numerous heavy moving vehicles travelling over it. Retaining walls can go horribly wrong if they are not up to spec and preparing soil for planting is not as simple as they make it look on TV. 

Having a team on site to begin landscaping as you work on the interior of new property will mean that the whole project will be ready to move in to.  No waking up to the sound of a tone deaf landscaper singing Bohemian Rhapsody as he prepares to fire up the cement mixer. No wading through mud to get from the door to your car, no apologising to guests that they can’t take a tour of the garden. 

It’s just easier to get a reputable landscaping company to build your garden for you.  They will have all of the equipment and machinery they need. They’ll have a network of suppliers and a wealth of project management experience.

On the other hand, there is something quite satisfying in the knowledge that you have built your home and garden with your own two hands.  If you do choose the DIY option, please be sure to educate yourself on every aspect of the build.  Your garden designer should be able to provide you with construction drawings and many landscape supply companies (including Arbour Landscape Solutions) will be happy to advise you on the best techniques to use.

For hands-on training courses, it’s well worth visiting the Task Academy - their courses are very highly rated and sensibly priced. 

Choosing And Pricing Landscaping Materials

As a self-builder you are probably very familiar with the concept of specifying materials and comparing prices from different suppliers.  It’s an interesting but exhausting part of the process and whilst there may be bargains to be had, you need to be sure that you are choosing products with the correct specification for your project.  

There’s more to landscaping than aesthetics.  If you want your new garden to last, you need to think about suitability of materials, how they will weather and behave over time, what maintenance they will need and how they will interact with neighbouring materials. This is where an experienced garden designer can really help you.  A less experienced designer though can inadvertently give you the wrong advice.  Always work with garden designers who are members of the SGD, the APL or BALI - the acceptance criteria for those organisations is very strict indeed and designers must show a high level of competence before their application will be considered.

Once you have a basic specification for your landscaping materials, you need to be sure that they will look right in your setting.  Don’t be afraid to ask for samples to take home and ‘live with’ for a few days before you make a decision.  After all, once your garden has been built, you can’t take it back to the shop!

Richard Bickler of Arbour Landscape Solutions is always happy to discuss materials choices with self builders and he holds an extensive stock of samples at his yard in Bedfordshire.  Richard is an experienced landscaper and has built some very impressive gardens in his time but will never impose his will on anyone.  He can however, guide you through the choices you have, discuss the pros and cons of different landscaping materials and answer each and every question you may have about installation techniques.  He can even recommend a reputable garden designer or landscaping company to work with.

Contact us for help and advice sourcing landscaping materials

Discover a speedy way to price your landscaping materials using the UPLOAD MY LIST on our website.

the ultimate lifestyle garden with swimming pool and landscaped gardens

After all your hard work - don't you deserve a dip in the pool? This would be the ultimate dream for many a self builder. It's worth setting aside the landscaping budget before you begin on the house.

Advice For First Time Landscapers

If building a garden for your self build property will be your first experience of landscaping, please be sure that you fully understand what’s involved.  

The Arbour Landscape Solutions team would strongly advise you to team up with a garden designer to create a cohesive plan with construction drawings.  That way you’ll have measurements and levels all mapped out for you to work with.

Don’t skimp on things like groundwork, sub-bases and foundations.  It’s the invisible bits of a garden that determine how well it works and how long it lasts.

Take time to learn how to do each and every task involved in building a garden.  Guesswork will make the job a lot harder than it needs to be and may even let you down.  If in doubt, ask an expert.  The internet is a great place to find conflicting advice, but one person who DOES know his stuff is Gareth Wilson.  Visit Gareth Wilson's YouTube channel for expert landscaping tips.  

Plan ahead and complete tasks in a logical order.  A self-build garden is no different to a self build home in that respect.

Bear in mind that some landscaping materials may take up to 12 weeks to arrive on site - particularly bespoke stone or metalwork.

Arrange for turf to arrive on the day you plan to lay it. Turf is highly perishable and unless it is installed and watered immediately after delivery suppliers can be reluctant to entertain a claim against quality.

If you don’t feel confident with a task - don’t do it! Not until you’ve sought advice and/or training.

Help At Any Stage Of The Design And Build Process

Richard and the team at Arbour Landscape Solutions are knowledgable, experienced and available to offer FREE advice and recommendations no matter what stage of your self-build landscaping journey you are at.

Help to source landscaping materials for your self build project

How to order samples of landscaping materials

Your self-build landscaping questions answered - take a look at our FAQ's

Here are the ways that you can contact us.

Visit our yard - BY APPOINTMENT ONLY

Come along to one of our landscaping events  

Visit The Task Academy website for landscaping skills training courses.