Mar 30, 2010

Winter Into Spring

Interesting phenomenon: as soon as we got a few sunny days this month, my phone started ringing off the hook with people who "want new landscaping in time for summer." This actually is typical of this season, as it gradually dawns on us that winter may actually end some day, and we may get to spend some time outside again.

No one wants to defer gratification, or make yet another summer's worth of excuses for the state of their yard. But the rains look like they might be around a while longer, and that saturated muck we call soil is no fun for even the most ardent DIY-er to work with. What's more, by this time of year, the good contractors are booked solid for the spring and into summer.

So what's an impatient homeowner to do?

1. Throw money at it. There's no problem that can't be solved when you multiply your budget 4x. Hey, the markets have been on a roll lately, right?

2. Call a dozen contractors for bids. After all, there's gotta be one that's not booked up. (But, to save time, make sure you don't call any of their most recent customers for references.)

3. Lower your design standards. So what if you really wanted a stone patio and redwood arbor? You'll get used to the gravel in time, and you can probably get a really good deal on a charming patio umbrella on craigslist.

4. Do it yer damn self. Because you're really good at things like this.

5. Start planning now for autumn. Contact a really good garden designer now and commission a unique landscape design, to be installed in the fall. Your preliminary concepts should be done by June. You can start contacting contractors in July. Get final plans and bids by August. And break ground in September. Your plants (installed in October or November) will appreciate all the winter rains, as will your irrigation budget. Your wallet won't get raked over the coals by the laws of supply and demand. And in exchange for your patience and wisdom, you'll have an excellent new landscape, at an excellent price, less than a year from now.

It's not quite instant gratification. But it's probably a result you can live with.