DIY Landscaping - How I Landscaped My Pool By Myself

by Pool Builders on 04-29-2012 in Articles

In my part-time work opening and closing pools and installing new liners on aging pools I had the opportunity to be in some incredibly beautiful back yards. I estimate that the cost of some of these outdoor living areas ranged from $80,000 to $200,000. Great if the project can be afforded but what does one do if it cannot. A beautiful, functional and enjoyable outdoor living area can be built much cheaper if the home owner is willing to put in some work oneself, to plan carefully and to determine ways that will cut landscaping costs wherever possible.

Make no mistake, installing a swimming pool in an outdoor living area is definitely not an inexpensive venture. Here in Canada for example a minimum budget of $40.000 will be required; that sum will pay for the installation of a medium-sized pool including a reasonably sized plain concrete deck and patio area, the required fencing plus the electrical and gas hook-up for the pump and heater. There will be no money in that budget left for landscaping and some degree of landscaping will be required because the yard will be considerably torn up by machinery. That is pretty much the situation I found myself in, with only about $5000 left to accomplish the feat. Hiring a professional landscape company was out of the question without incurring too much debt. I needed a plan to do it myself. Here is the story about how I did it.

First, I needed that plan. Sizing up my lot and deciding on my needs balanced against my wishes came first. My lot already had a flagstone walkway along the back of the house sided by a raised garden with a quarry stone retaining wall. From there the lawn sloped down before it flattened out to the fence line. Considering the space available I could have a 16 x 34 foot pool installed on the flattened out area that left sufficient space for a 3 foot walking deck on each side plus a concrete patio sunning area at one end and a concrete pad at the other for an adequate pool house and pagoda bar. However this plan meant that I would need to cut into the sloped portion of my lawn. By planning carefully, I came up with a solution to handle the logistics of this problem.

My advantage was that I already had at my disposal the existing quarry stone that formed the current retaining wall plus quite a bit more that formed a garden area against the back fence which had to be moved. These stones were large enough to form a solid wall yet small enough to lift manually. By moving the quarry stone available, I formed a new retaining wall that extended the existing garden out another twenty feet or so and covered up the slope that would have shed rain directly down into my pool area. I kept this wall back about four feet from the edge of the line that would border the edge of the concrete side walkway of the pool decking. All of this was completed before the pool was installed and sat there empty waiting for the installation.

When the excavator arrived to dig the pool I had the topsoil removed first and dumped into a pile inside the retaining wall for the garden. Once the concrete decking was in place, I dug a trench alongside it and put in a long drainage pipe that extended out under the fence at the end of the pool to the town ditch along the street. After covering this trench area with landscape fabric, I added a layer of 3/4 inch clear stone topped by a layer of 3 inch river rock. In this way I solved the problem of adequate drainage and created an attractive dry riverbed that bordered one side of the pool and ran all the way out under the fence. I did not need a drainage pipe on the opposite side of the pool but I decided to place a 3 foot river rock border on that side as well to balance out the look and keep the garden area there back from the pool decking. My last job in the construction stage of this landscaping project was to level out the topsoil piled into the extended garden area I had created.

The final stage of my DYI landscaping project was threefold. I needed to select and plant the trees, shrubs and plants that I wanted in this new garden area. I also had to move a very heavy 8 foot Japanese Maple that had been dug up and set aside by the excavator - a beautiful tree that I was determined to keep and relocate. Finally I needed to create a pathway down the slope along one end of the raised garden that stretched from the upper walkway by the house down to the level of the pool deck and the dry river bed I had already created. Each of these three projects is a story in itself.

Remember, landscaping a pool or any other patio or outdoor living area can be accomplished in a DYI manner by a homeowner who is willing to plan carefully and do a bit of manual labour.

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