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While we may not be finished with snow and icy temperatures just yet, warmer days are just ahead and the only way to be truly ready for them is to start planning now. Landscaping professionals are already gearing up for their busy season and booking jobs. Homeowners who are waiting to make that call risk getting left behind as landscapers fill their schedules on a first-come-first-serve fashion. 

“Checking in with your landscaper before the spring is an excellent idea,” says Chelsea Feast, sales and marketing-Go Green Division-at Elite Landscaping.  “Professional landscapers are extremely busy in the spring because they are starting to install all of the projects that were planned during the winter. Therefore, the longer you wait to reach out and plan, the longer you will end up waiting for the project to get on their schedule and get completed.”

 “It’s never too early to get ready for spring—especially if you’re looking for something fun to do,” says Tammy Panetta of D. Panetta Contracting. “D. Panetta does 3D designs of your yard to show you what you can do by bringing  it to life on the screen. You can see how your yard can become the backyard paradise you are dreaming of. Then, when you approve the design, we’re ready to bring it to life for you.”  

Plan Now for Warm Weather Fun
The landscaping experts we spoke with all stressed that the “offseason” is an excellent time to start the planning and designing phase of  an outdoor living project— particularly if it’s a larger undertaking like a new patio, an outdoor kitchen or maybe even a pool. In fact,  it’s simply not feasible to have a project like this finished if it doesn’t get underway early on.

 “Most homeowners don’t realize just how much time it takes to  plan a project,” says Richard Cording Sr., LIC, owner of CLC Landscape Design. “A lot of that process is out of our hands with permitting being required for even smaller projects these days. We’ve had permits take two or three months to get approved as the local townships are often overburdened with receiving so many at once. It pays to get those plans started early so that there are no hold-ups when it’s time to build.”

 “The offseason is the best time to start planning your landscape updates and renovations,” adds Dave Zimmerman, owner of Zimmerman Landscaping. “Unfortunately,  those who wait until the first signs of spring to start thinking about their landscape could be in for a long wait. If it’s a large project, you may not even be able to enjoy it until the following season. We always recommend getting on your landscape provider’s radar well  ahead of time—even if it’s just an idea at this point.”  

Planning in the winter is also a great way to get through those “wintertime blues,” adds Dean Johnston, owner, Johnston & Associates Land and Water Creations. 

 “It also helps you create a budget so that you don’t overspend or rush into something,” Johnston says. “I find a lot of mistakes with homeowners who are just rushing to put something together at the last minute.”  

Cording says that acting soon will also help avoid disappointment.  He has had first-hand experience with this and says he always  gets last-minute calls from homeowners who want to have a brand-new patio built in time for their child’s high school graduation party or a pool installed in time for Memorial Day swimming. It’s difficult to have to disappoint those people.

 “It’s no fun having to tell a homeowner who is excited about their project that it’s not going to be ready in the timeframe that they want it,” Cording admits. “But when you don’t make that call until March, it’s just not realistic. Even if we worked as fast as we could, there will always be factors like weather and permitting that are out of our hands. In most cases, we’re already starting to break ground on projects by mid-March, so you want all the designs and permitting to be finished by then.”  

Of course, planning ahead doesn’t only apply to large-scale design/build projects. While it’s definitely critical that you get those on the calendar, you can also use the offseason to plan for maintenance projects. Feast says that the winter is a good time to create checklists of smaller items that you plan to do (or want your landscaper to complete) in the spring such as power washing and resealing your patio or deck, repairing loose boards or bricks in outdoor spaces and making sure that all outdoor lights are operational.  

Trends on the Horizon
In terms of what homeowners are interested in, the big trends seem to be all about “backyard vacation destinations,” says Zimmerman. Homeowners are looking for  lots of amenities like new patios with outdoor fire places, built-in stone pizza ovens, outdoor kitchens and combination water/fire features for amazing “accent pieces,” Zimmerman adds.

Sam Waddell, owner of SLS Landscaping, agrees and says that the “stay-cation” trend continues to reign in popularity. If anything, homeowners are getting more elaborate than ever with their backyard paradises. He says that it’s due to the fact that people are spending more time at home and want to have a backyard they can enjoy.  

Beyond outdoor living spaces, there are other trends to pay attention to in 2019 as well. Christine Gale, president of Gale Nurseries, says that she’s seeing more requests to accommodate organic lifestyles.

 “Many clients are requesting vegetable gardens so that they can eat organic,” she says. “We have done a lot of raised-bed vegetable gardens recently. Along that topic, we have done some very interesting chicken coops and even vineyards. People want to grow their own food and it’s an easy way to accommodate an organic lifestyle.”  

Along those same lines, there’s also an increased interest in being environmentally friendly.

“Permeable pavers are gaining a lot of attention as they reduce or even eliminate any rain or  storm water runoff,” adds Zimmerman. “This is great for the environment as it keeps water from your property out of storm drains leading to rivers and streams and eventually to the ocean. Sustainability is becoming  a key feature in our ever-changing climate.”  

Making Smart Choices
As you think ahead to the summer, Johnston advises that you make  sure you “work with a professional.”

 “You may find that anybody with a truck calls themselves a landscaper,” he says. “But many of us go to school in the winter to sharpen our skills and knowledge. An educated designer and builder  will help you get the right results the first time. I work with a lot of clients who went with the cheap contractor first because they wanted to save some dollars but ended up spending two times what it would have cost to work with an experienced and educated contractor in the first place.”

The bottom line? Reach out to a professional who has your best interest at heart and plan now. If you want to be able to actually enjoy your space all summer long, you must plan ahead.

 “Meeting with a landscape professional now enables sufficient  time to design the swimming pool, outdoor kitchen and landscape,  make necessary revisions to plans, submit for permits and schedule and order job materials,” Waddell says. “Projects implemented in late winter and  early spring will provide for all-season-long use of the new backyard, giving family and friends time to enjoy it!”

CLC Landscape Design
Ringwood, N.J.
(973) 839-6026

D. Panetta Contracting, LLC
Randolph, N.J.
(973) 659-9374

Elite Landscaping
Berlin, N.J.
(800) 582-6598

Gale Nurseries
Gwynedd Valley, Pa.
(215) 699-4714

Johnston & Associates
Land and Water Creations
Newark, Del.
(302) 521-2984

SLS Landscaping
Lumberton, N.J.
(609) 518-5263

Zimmerman Landscaping
Serving New Jersey
(908) 240-6459

Select imagery courtesy of CLC Landscape Design and Gale Nurseries

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 19, Issue 8 (February 2019). 
For more info on House & Home magazine, click here
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