Where Can I Save Money with Landscaping?

Hi Peeps!

Newb homeowner here :)

Our house has just been built but we have had no landscaping done whatsoever.

Looking to start getting some landscaping done but got no idea on where to start or what to look out for? Currently, there is just unleveled dirt and WEED GALORE so we'll be needing topsoil / under turf soil and turf.

Before I run around and get some quotes, I just wanna prep some knowledge:

  1. Without heavy machinery, is it difficult to level topsoil myself? Initially, I thought I could just rake it around but it might be even. Am I missing anything crazy?

  2. Is premium topsoil a sales pitch or does it actually matter?

  3. Are topsoil and under turf interchangeable? Will turf die on topsoil?

  4. Do I need to kill all the weeds before I put topsoil? I read that people use weed killer, wait a week and drop topsoil down? Can I just drop the topsoil on top of the weeds?

Any help is much appreciated, sorry for the noobness.


    1. It can be done by hand, but with exponential time and hard work. Might take an experienced bobcat driver 2 hours to do what would take you 2 weekends and a bad back. But maybe you're young and fit. How big is the area?

    2. Not a sales pitch. Better to put a 50c plant in a $5 hole than a $5 plant in a 50c hole. Soil quality is very important to plant performance. But ask what you're getting for the "premium" version. Should have higher ratio of organic material to sand, and maybe additives like soil wetter, trace elements and fertilisers.

    3. Don't know.

    4. Kill the weeds first, this isn't expensive or difficult and will save you big hassle later. Dumping good topsoil on weeds will just result in healthier weeds when they grow straight through in a few weeks.

  • IMO, the ways you can save money are to make a plan, do as much as you can yourself reasonably, and buy in bulk.

    It's good to make a plan/diagram of what you want your outdoors area to look like, giving consideration to what you will use the space for and how much maintenance you want to do. There's lots of free landscape design sites and apps and some have suggested layouts too. Remember that landscaping adds value to a home, moreso when done well.

    There are also lots of good ideas for landscaping layouts on pinterest, just do some googling for ideas. You might find something that you really like that's not boring standard stuff and not difficult or expensive to achieve.

    For low maintenance plant choices, drive around your nearby suburbs and see what plants you spot that you like and are really healthy; they'll likely do well easily at your place too. If you don't know what they are, take pics of the whole plant and a close up of the leaves and your local nursery can help you find them.

  • Hey hey!

    Thanks for the reply

    The area isn't too big… I don't think.

    Back yard is approx 2m by 15m
    Side yards: 3m x 20m
    Front yard: 5m x 4m

    I'm like probably like a 6/10 on the fitness scale, I don't mind too much work but shifting the dirt around with a wheelbarrow and shovel sounds like a lot of work hahaha.

    I'll start killing the weeds first, at least it'll look less of a jungle than what it is now while I start whipping up a design of some sort.

    • Yes, definitely kill the weeds first. Please bear in mind weed killers only last about a few weeks by design, so try not to delay putting turf down, because weeds will start growing again.

    • I'm like probably like a 6/10 on the fitness scale

      You'll be 8/10 by the time you finish your garden and it will be cheaper than going to a gym!

  • Landscaping would have to be one of the most physical taxing jobs there is, particularly when trying to do everything manually using old-school garden tools. Cutting down trees and digging out tree stumps, carting soil and turf in a wheelbarrow etc, back breaking!

    Anyway, first things first, sketch something up so that you have a plan, and think long term as well.

    Kill the weeds first. If you have removed any old trees, make sure you compact the area as best as possible to try prevent any ground sinking. Use a generous amount of underturf so that the grass/roots can cope in dry spells should there be limited rain. If laying turf on a slope, plant it across the slope, and make sure you roll it well to get roots to take to underturf. Durable edging (like a paver soldier course) to delineate garden/lawn boundaries will make any mowing/whippersnipping far simpler. Using wood for edging - unless some treated super termite-resistant hardwood, is a waste of time.

    Some other things …

    Consider the type of grass, its shade resistance, durability for intended traffic, and weed resistance (for weeds sprouting through). Also consider Sun position in different seasons (summer / winter) and how that may impact grass.

    Consider any trees you plant, how big they will get, how much shade they will create whether wanted or not, their root systems, and what type of fauna they attract (e.g. bats with palm trees when fruiting). Also ensure your house is kept well away from any gardens/mulch etc to prevent things like termites. Also consider any future access issues that may result when planting close to fence line (e.g. hedges).

    If your block is sloping and likely a play area for kids, consider potentially leveling/terracing it. I've got a sloping back yard and the kids rarely use it for any ball sports.

    Finally, consider any electrical, watering, or drainage requirements you may have in the area. Putting things like DWV, blue-line pipes and conduit in now costs relatively little compared to trying to retrofit in future. Suitable drainage to handle the biggest of storms and any run-off from neighboring properties is something I wish the previous owners of my place took in to consideration as well.

    Good luck.

    • An awesome tip for laying turf across the slope! We have a slope at the front and I totally would've just rolled it downhill hahahaha

      I was intending to go with Wintergreen turf but I shall look into it further as it's quite shady around the house and I'm not too sure if it's compatible.

      I'm currently using round up to kill the weeds now and digging out the bigger weeds… they're pretty much trees by now :(

  • Do you have any retaining walls?

    Best and quickest way to explain is flatten the soil you have. Try and remove as much weeds as you can, by mulching with newspaper then wetting, vinegar or round up.

    Use a few cm of top soil, make sure it's sandy, you don't need a premium mix.

    With levelling, that's up to you to determine if you need a dingo or not. Once level just use a firm broom, long piece of timber to level. If you want to spend $100 you can buy a proper tool to level.

    Hose the soil then lay the turf. Make sure you buy the proper turf as well.

    Couch is hard to maintain and weeds will appear. Go for Kikuyu or Buffalo. How much sun are you getting?

    • We have long retaining wall at the back and on one of the sides. The area is quite thin and usually doesn't get much sun.

      I've been using roundup to kill the weeds, but I'm liking the sound of vinegar. Just read that it's vinegar, salt, and dishwashing detergent? Sounds fun to make, imma be murdering the weeds tomorrow!

      • If using round up. Don't lay turf for a few weeks. Go for the vinegar mix, it may not do the job as well but it's less toxic.

        You will have problems growing turf in shade with the variety sold at bunnings & nurseries. Go for the shade master Buffalo as it tolerates shade.

        Also remember, deep watering & less frequent instead of watering everyday a little bit. Judge how many times to water a week by the weather. Good luck.

  • This post reminds me why I bought an established house. New builds are too much work lol.

    • This post reminds me of the sense of achievement I gained when landscaping my own property in addition to the extra weight in my back pocket at the end of it.

      • One can achieve a sense of achievement and a heavier back pocket without laying grass and planting shrubs.

  • Also think about planting trees not too close to house where roots might affect foundations and leaves drop into guttering. How do you want to use the garden and how much maintenance do you want to do to maintain it? If putting in a water feature make sure it is recycled water. As others have indicated you need to think about the foundations of water, power, run off etc before you put anything down. Think about deciduous if you want shade in Summer and sunshine in winter but you will need to rake leaves.

  • When I was building my house, I opted to do the landscaping myself. Imagine my surprise when I rocked up to see the progress of the build and they were laying turf and landscaping gravel.

    I drove out of there fast and didn't look back.