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How to Phase a Residential Landscape Project

June 02, 2016

The primary advantage of phasing a residential landscape project is to help alleviate the  associated costs. It can also be used to better meet timelines and manage the construction process. Many homeowners look to complete landscape projects  for parties, move-in dates, or to repair urgent problems. Depending on the type of work required, it’s possible that  budget restrictions or time limitations prevent the full completion for those particular dates. But finishing a portion of the project is better than nothing at all, right?

Residential landscapingLet's pretened that you’ve decided to spend $15,000 on a backyard patio design with plants, but only have $10,000 available for this year. You can either A: scale back the design, use cheaper materials, and cut corners to finish the job under budget, or B: abandon the landscape project completely. Neither of these options are beneficial to your wants and needs. Phasing the project however, allows you to get exactly what you want. Even though your budget is $10,000 for this year, you know that the other $5,000 will be available next spring to complete the job the way you envisioned. By phasing a landscape project, you can break up the job into smaller increments that can be installed at separate times.

So how do you decide what tasks are completed first?  How many phases should the work be divided into? Each landscape job typically starts with hardscape elements and utilities such as patios, retaining walls, and irrigation systems. They then   move to softscape elements like the lawn, plants, and mulch. Splitting the project into hardscape and softscape is the easiest way to phase the work, but that might not make the most sense for your particular needs. The three most common ways to determine phasing other than hardscape and softscape are based on the season, geography, and usage of your project.

SeasonalSod installation

You've started your landscape job during the fall with a patio, but the plants and lawn portion can't be completed until November when temperatures are too cold for establishment and plant availability is limited. Delaying that portion of the project until after winter  could yield the best results for the lawn and plants without sacrificing much time for you to use the space. If you have the  patience, waiting a season can be your best option even though it extends the duration of work.


Most large scale landscape projects effect both the front and backyards of a home. If you moved into a new home whose curb appeal needed major improvement, you’d most likely want to fix that right away. However, access into the yard is crucial when phasing a project by area. Installing a wall or plants in the front yard   before installing a patio in the backyard is counterintuitive if it cuts off your only access point. You’ll end up spending more time and money repairing the landscape you just installed. Each project is unique and your designer will be the best resource to help make those construction decisions.


In this example, there is a section of your yard that is difficult to mow because of the steep slope. You   want to build a retaining wall to flatten it, but you also want to build a large patio to entertain in the backyard. If you decide that a backyard patio is the most Custom Outdoor Kitchenimportant element because you  spend most of your time entertaining with guests, kids, and pets, then that should be the priority when phasing the job. Since there is no real urgency to fix the steep slope, waiting until later to complete that portion of the design makes a lot of sense. Understanding what is important to your home and lifestyle makes the decision of what to phase much easier.

The monetary investment and time commitment for landscape projects can be overwhelming. As tempting as cutting corners can be to finish the job, the final result is usually disappointing compared to the original vision. Phasing a residential landscape project over the course of a season or two will deliver a quality product without breaking the bank. See an example of a phased landscape project.