Phasing a Garden Renovation

So, you’ve just moved into a new house, or maybe you’ve been there a while but finally wrapped up what you had to do on the inside. Now where to even start on the outside?! We have some tips below to help you break into your garden renovation without breaking the bank.

Renovating your entire landscape can be an overwhelming process, especially if you’ve never done it before. Changing your landscape can dramatically improve both the aesthetic appeal of your home and the functionality of your landscape. However, it can also be an expensive process and it is one you want to make sure you do right the first time!

Before you grab that shovel (or chainsaw!) be sure that you consult with professionals and develop a plan for your entire landscape. It may be tempting to focus only on an immediate problem such as a deck in need of repair, or a large dying tree, but focusing on these individual problems without addressing how they will tie into the remainder of your landscape can cause you to miss opportunities down the road.

  • Decks are one of the most expensive items in your landscape 
    • You may gain more function from your garden by considering a deck/patio combination or replacing the deck with something else entirely.
  • The most obvious solution may be to plant a new tree 
    • Checking with professionals will help you ensure that the location is indeed appropriate for a tree.
    • You also want to check that you’re using an appropriate species for your space.
    • You may even want to consider alternative shade solutions like shade sails or a pergola – no need to mow!
  • Elements in a landscape are all connected
    • Only addressing one piece of the puzzle can cause the remaining pieces to have gaps between them in the end.
    • Having a plan in place will help ensure that your new landscape matures cohesively into a functional space.

Example Landscape Design

Phase One ↓

Example Landscape Design

Phase Two ↓

Example Landscape Design

Renderings ↓

Once you have your design direction for your entire garden, you’ll need to prioritize which features will be addressed first, second, and so on.

Keep in mind the following factors when creating your priorities:



  • Address any hazards first
    • Old trees with deadwood, weathered and deteriorating woodwork and washed-out pathways should be high up on your priority list.
    • Unsafe situations you inherited, such as a slope that is too steep to be safely maintained or drainage problems that cause water to drain towards the house.

Equipment Access

  • Plan for heavy equipment & items like large boulders or decks
    • If you’re planning a patio on the far end of your yard, you’ll probably need to do that early in your renovation process.
    • This way you won’t have machinery going over pathways and plantings to get to that area later.
    • Heavy items like boulders will also need to be brought in fairly early before access is cut off.


  • Tackle the same birds with the same stone
    • Doing multiple patios? It will make sense to try and do them at the same time. This way you’ll be purchasing materials in the same batch so they’ll be a closer match.
    • Natural materials such as flagstone can vary significantly from each load that comes out of the quarry so doing them at the same time will ensure you get a more cohesive match.
    • Even concrete will be more cost-effective if you can pour all the patios and steppers at the same time as opposed to piecing them together.


  • One thing at a time…
    • Some features of your landscape may be so cost-prohibitive that they prevent you from doing anything else in the same phase.
    • Examples would be pools, patios, custom pergolas, and decks.
    • Remember these items may have to be done on their own and your budget may require you to wait a year or two to implement other phases.


  • Get slow-growing trees + screens in the ground as soon as you can
    • In California, you do have the option to splurge on much larger material.
    • In Colorado, you are very limited by the size of materials that nurseries have available to you.
    • In both states, the most cost-effective option will be to install your trees and privacy screens early in your renovation process so that they have more time to grow.

Get Creative

  • There are ways to achieve more goals in phases without breaking the bank
    • For example, decomposed granite is a cost-effective material great for patios and walkways.
    • Conveniently, it can also serve as a great base for flagstone, pavers, concrete, and a variety of other higher-price tag finishes.
    • This means that in earlier phases you may be able to get your patios and walkways installed as decomposed granite.
    • Then you’ll be able to enjoy the functional space until a year or two later when you pull out all the stops and add stone/pavers on top of the decomposed granite.
Example of phasing a garden renovation landscape design steps created by Helios Landscape design

A final word of caution: when it comes to phasing; your final project price will be higher, sometimes significantly higher, than if you did the project all at once.

This is an unavoidable aspect of phasing projects. Not only is this because the price of materials and labor typically goes up each year, but also due to lost efficiency and limited options by breaking the project into pieces. For example, if you can redo your landscape all at once, you have more opportunities to regrade the entire area and import/export soil which may save you on the amount of hardscape you’ll need to account for grade changes/stairs later. You may also end up working with various subcontractors when your project is broken into smaller pieces. This can lead to a lot more effort on your part to coordinate everyone whereas if your project had stayed larger, you could have gone with a more full-service installation company.

There is almost always a way to accomplish your goals and we would love to help you find your way. Contact us to get the ball rolling on your project! 

Kristen Whitehead

Founder + Lead Landscape Designer of Helios

Your go-to crew for help finding creative outdoor solutions for your landscapes, plants, and so much more!

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