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Welcome to the third episode of #CanYouDigIt, Yardzen’s web series on Instagram! Our Design Director, Kevin Lenhart, an M.A. in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley, answers YOUR landscape design questions.

Watch episode 3 in our highlights, and send us your questions for next week’s segment!

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Question: How much does grading add to your landscaping costs?

So, how much does grading add to your landscaping costs? Grading costs fluctuate tremendously. It really depends on your site conditions. As a general rule, the more earth you’re moving, the more it’s going to cost. If your site is challenging to get grading equipment onto, that’s going to increase costs.

If budget is a concern, you’re going to want to minimize the amount of grading that you are doing in your design. I often advise clients to work with what they have. Here in the Bay Area, we encounter a lot of sloped yards, and many people want to create more flat spaces to create viable areas for things like patios, gardens, and outdoor dining spaces and kitchens.

I advise our clients to be targeted about their grading. You don’t need to flatten out massive areas to achieve your goals, like an outdoor dining area. Looking for flatter areas and using those to create nooks is a great way to go when you’re on a budget.

Check out our guide to landscaping costs.

Question: How do you design a sloped yard on a budget?

The most effective way to design a sloped yard on a budget is to leave the soil where it is. That does present some challenges, though, like erosion and water runoff. The best way to address that challenge, and to create a beautiful space, is to add a spreading ground cover, which stabilizes the soil and creates a natural look that doesn’t require much maintenance. Spreading plants are also very budget-friendly, as they grow out on their own. Examples include fescue, a grass, and Citrus ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ an evergreen.

Question: We have gophers throughout our yard. How do we create an indestructible space?

If you have gophers in your yard, there are different ways to approach the problem, depending on your philosophical outlook on pest management. If you’re trying to avoid a kill solution, then we recommend that you focus on the plants that you’re trying to protect. To maintain the health of your plants, it’s very important to protect the root balls by wrapping them in gopher wire. You will also need to put hardware cloth beneath any permeable surface–both planting areas and any aggregate areas, like a gravel patio or path.

Question: How do you get rid of bermuda grass or other invasive grasses?

Getting rid of invasive grass is a bit of a chore. You can pull it out manually, but you need to make sure that you dig deep and get every scrap. It will grow back if not. It’s a detail-oriented task, to say the least. You can also solarize it by covering it with black sheet plastic and basically letting it cook for a month. Sunset magazine also has a great article about removing Bermuda Grass.

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