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Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

I am new to the forum. We recently purchased a NORTH-FACING spec home in WISCONSIN. We have had so much rain that my landscaping project has gotten pushed back as we had to wait for the concrete to be poured in the back. Nonetheless, I am getting my now weed lawn tilled, racked, and final top-soiled next week. Where I need help is landscaping ideas. Outside of grading/seeding the lawn we plan to everything else ourselves

I am looking for suggestions on plant types and general ideas on what to do with this blank slate. There is also a pile of "construction grade" soil in the SE corner of the lot, I was think I could make a berm out of portions of it.? I am also planning on putting our kids playset in the SW corner of the backyard.

Thanks so much for any help..
-John

Photos here

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RamonaGS
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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

A shade tree might be nice. Not sure what grows well in Wisconsin. Or even some apple trees maybe? What about some nice flowering hedges up by the house to dress it up some? That concrete patio would look nice with trellises around it with a pretty vine growing up, like jasmine or even sweet peas. I'm not sure what would be good to plant that would go dormant and survive the winter in Wisconsin, because I live on the CA coast. Roses seem to survive everywhere. I am predominantly a vegetable gardener, so I would plant a vegetable patch. If you have children or dogs, I would leave a nice big area in the back with lawn so they can have somewhere to play. You also have plenty of room for a pond if you are so inclined.
~~Ramona mother of fur babies~~

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

Yes, indeed, blank slate! Kind of fun, in the sense that when it is done, it will be uniquely your garden, an expression of yourselves. But the first thing you need is a whole bunch of patience. Realize that landscaping a big space like that (unless you have multiple thousands of dollars to pay a team of landscapers to design it and bring in a bunch of mature plants, in which case it is no longer your garden), is a project of several to many years.

So yes, start with putting everything in lawn, just so it isn't ugly and you can live with it while you do the rest.

Then make yourself a plan of your yard and start drawing out what you might want where. At this point, that would not be what specific tree goes where, but where you might want trees and shrubbery, where you want paths, a water feature (personally I think every yard should have one), kids play area, veggie garden, flower beds, maybe a gazebo / sitting area, fire pit, fruit trees, compost area, tool shed, etc.

That little patio out the back, looks like it just bakes in the sun. I would put an arbor or something over at least part of it for shade.

Since your house faces north, I would think about making a significant foundation planting -- not just that little patch in front of one window, but large areas on both sides, with some trees and shrubs that will get big. Your house is very big, you want something in scale, not just a row of little plants. And then I would put some kind of big hedge or row of evergreen trees out by the street, to break the cold north wind. People these days usually have their private space in the back yard, but your front yard would be easier to enclose. You might want to have a little fountain and seating area in the front with that shade tree Ramona mentioned.

Be sure all those north windows are very well insulated or your house will be cold. It is odd how they gave you all those north windows and hardly any windows facing the morning sun. You have that big blank wall on the east side. I would want a tree that will get big in front of that, but not too close to the house.

Things to think about ... think about planting with native plants, shrubs, trees.

https://www.wildflower.org/plants/

Is a searchable database of native plants. Put in wisconsin and your conditions (full sun, how wet), what you are looking for like trees, shrubs, etc (do one search at a time) and it will give you a whole list, with links to info about each. Google WI native plants nursery and find sources for native plants. Native plants are adapted to your conditions, so once established, they will be very rugged and hardy and low maintenance. And they provide food sources for birds, bees, butterflies and other native insects and wildlife, that are adapted to use them and can't use the exotic ornamentals. Read Noah's Garden and Planting Noah's Garden by Sara Stein.

Learn to think about the habitat value of what you plant. Why plant something that just looks pretty, when you can plant something that also looks pretty, but has berries that people and/or birds can eat, that attracts beneficial insects, that feeds wildlife.

Do enough research, before you start spending lots of money on stuff. And keep asking questions here.

Have fun. Take lots of pictures of your project as it goes along! Keep us updated!
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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tomf
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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

One thing you could do to help would be to get some books on landscaping, they have them at lowes and Home Depot. Another is to drive around and see what other people in your area have done. Any thing you pant will look small at first but will grow up bigger, many people make the mistake of not realizing just who big some of the plants the put in will get.
You would get a ton of ideas from people if you post some pictures of your yard.
The things I do are an evolution and I am always learning. My way is not the only way of doing things, and I may and will change the way I do things as I learn better ways. So any advice that I give is in that spirit.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

John did post a link to pictures...
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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tomf
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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

Oh I missed that. :oops:
The things I do are an evolution and I am always learning. My way is not the only way of doing things, and I may and will change the way I do things as I learn better ways. So any advice that I give is in that spirit.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

Here's a little bump - ElizabethB, where's our landscaping guru? Any thoughts?

John - three people have responded to you so far. Any responses to this?
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

Thanks for the advice everyone, spent the weekend finishing the removal of weeds from my roundup spray-feat. I'm going to start to cut out the beds this week, I'll post some pics when I finish. Mostly looking for specific plant suggestions for the lawn. I plan on putting 4 foot mulch beds around the house and an island bed in the front.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

suggestions for trees, shrubs, perennials, all of the above?
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

I'm basically trying to avoid any big mistakes. I'd hate to plant the wrong mix of trees, shrubs, perennials or get something too big or too small for the area.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

Nice trees for you for an island bed, that don't get too huge include pin cherry, hawthorn, redbud, dogwood, crabapple, American hornbeam, serviceberry.

Put a shrub or two with it - one of the ones with colorful foliage would be nice for contrast, like purple nine bark, elderberry, deutzia. Or a red twig dogwood for winter interest. Other nice shrubs might be hydrangea, fothergilla, summersweet.

Then plant some perennials around them and maybe edge with some low growing annuals that bloom all through the growing season.

I still think with a whole wall of windows facing the north wind, you want a windbreak screen of evergreen trees/ hedge out front.

When you say 4 foot mulch beds by the house, you are talking about foundation plantings? You have a very big imposing house. Make your foundation plantings wider than 4', more to scale. Here's a couple threads I did about foundation plantings, with sample pictures:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 12&t=52651

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... =8&t=52070
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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tomf
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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

I see you have a patio in back, I would put a pergola over it and may be an out door kitchen of sorts. You could use some shad like with trees and a pergola. You have the room so a kids play area would be nice. I like walls of climbing plants, I had some walls of climbing roses when I lived in town.
The things I do are an evolution and I am always learning. My way is not the only way of doing things, and I may and will change the way I do things as I learn better ways. So any advice that I give is in that spirit.

imafan26
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Re: Blank Slate- New Construction NEED HELP

The good thing about putting a plan on paper is that erasers are cheap. Since it is a new house, it would be nice to live in it for awhile and get to know what your needs will be.

Grass is easy to replace, so it is good temporarily to keep the dirt down and have something in the yard in the meantime.

When designing your garden take into consideration how you will use your yard. How the sun moves in your yard throughout the year, and what is practical to grow in your area. Take a walk or drive around the area. If you see something you like, take a picture of it and keep a scrapbook of landscapes and ideas you like. Talk to your new neighbors and ask them what worked and did not work for them.

I designed my balcony and chose my color scheme for the house based on a drive through the neighborhood. I also saw my neighbor using screen tile on the side of his garage, so when I rebuilt my garage I put in screen tile instead of a window to allow air circulation in the garage, but also provide security. I got the outdoor sink idea from a fellow gardener who had a sink in the garden to wash produce and drained the water back into the garden. I am using my lanai as my potting shed and storage area, I wish I had a storage unit, but I don't have room for it.

1. Decide what you want to do with your yard.
Family play and entertainment areas for kids and pets, and the occasional outdoor venue
Vegetable garden
Shade or fruit trees.
Outdoor BBQ
Outdoor seating or relaxing area
Storage for tools and everything else that eventually ends up in the garage.

2. Extend the water faucets out into the yard where you need it. Most homes have faucets attached to the house and not very conveniently. Make more faucets out in the yard where you will need it. It is also not the best idea to have water pooling or dripping near the house foundation.
If you are planning a future BBQ or garden area, consider a faucet for a garden sink. Great for cleaning up tools and BBQ equipment and washing dirt off produce. I have a garden sink for washing produce and tools, no soaps or grease go down that sink so it drains back out to the garden where the water will not go to waste.

3. While you are at it put in a sprinkler system. Get a multizoned system and leave the places where you are considering putting a vegetable garden in as one of the zones. Regular sprinklers can be converted to drip, but need to be in the same zone to regulate pressure.

4. Consider a storage unit and outdoor potting area. Permits are probably going to be required, so check with your building permit department.

5. Before you plant trees, make sure you look at mature specimens so you know how big they will get. You should plant a tree as far away from the house and perimeter as the natural canopy will spread. Check to see if the roots are invasive or not and locate your plumbing, electrical and gas lines and make sure trees are planted far away from them.

6. You don't have to do this all in a day. Prioritize and have a master plan. Remember to keep the eraser handy as plans and needs change. Build the landscape in phases. Example

a. Move faucets out and install sprinkler system. Things where you have to rip up the yard are easier to install first.
b. Install the grass to keep mud from being tracked on or in your new house. It is the easiest thing to replace. The sprinkler system will make watering a lot easier.

c. When you have the chance, after you have lived in the house and gotten comfortable.
1. pick a project and build it in phases
vegetable garden
Storage and potting shed
Outdoor entertaining BBQ, deck (deck can also be built in phases)
Play area for kids and pets
Flower garden shrubs, tree borders
Outdoor sink, shower, compost pile, etc.
d. The first thing most homeowners put in are walls. Solid walls block air circulation and limit what you can plant near them. Walls with holes in them let more light through. It all depends on how you get along with your neighbors. We let the neighbors put up the wall, on the second house we bought, we learned from our other neighbors experience that if you put up a wall, not only do you have to be careful that you do not encroach on the neighbor's property, you also need to worry about fluid easements, and maintenance of the wall down the line, and the neighbor undermining the wall when they dig especially if their lot is lower than yours. Neighbors sometimes share the cost of the wall, but cannot agree on what kind of fence to put up and later on again, who will be responsible for maintaining the fence.

d. Dream big, but keep that eraser handy, dreams change.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.



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