First Estimate on Making a New Planting Bed

My original title for this post was going to be "$1.07 Won't Even Buy Me A Glass of Iced Tea".

A while back, I posted about how I was taking back some overgrown planting beds, reclaiming them from various mis-behaving plants so I could replant with something better. I also commented in that post that I was going to call a landscaper to get an estimate on helping with those overgrown beds and digging up a new planting bed in the back yard.

If you are keeping up with what's going on here at May Dreams Gardens, you know that I have already reclaimed one of the two beds on my own.

I'm half way through digging out the other bed, where the forsythia is, but still need to do quite a bit more to fully reclaim this space for other plants.

And I did call a landscaper to get an estimate for digging up the new bed.

When he got here, I used some orange marking paint and painted the outline of the new bed. I asked for a quote for them to remove the grass, dig up the area, add some compost and leave it basically ready to plant. He estimated that the new bed would be about 500 square feet. Then he went to his truck to do some ciphering and calculating while I waited around, puttering about, dreaming of what I would plant in that new bed.

Any guesses on the estimate for digging that new bed?

About $2 per square foot. Put that way, it doesn't seem like a lot, does it?

The total estimate was $998.93.

Which means out of One Thousand Dollars, I would have $1.07 left over, which isn't enough to buy me my daily Venti Unsweet Iced Green Tea, No Water, No Ice at the local Starbucks. (I don't, by the way, drink it like that. I take it to work and pour it over ice and then it lasts me all day.)

I'm making no judgments on if that is a fair price for digging up a new planting bed. I think it is probably the going rate. In his estimate, the landscaper included two applications of Round Up, rototilling the area four times, bringing in four cubic yards of compost, and tilling all that in again. I would assume at least two guys would do the work and it would take three trips, two trips for the Round Up, one trip for all the tilling.

I really didn't give it much thought once I saw the price. It's not the money as much as I know I can do that work myself, albeit at a much slower pace. I have to pay for enough things that I can't do myself, so it bothers me to pay someone to do something that I can do. After all, I was able to do the work on the retaining wall myself and I am halfway on my way to reclaiming the forysthia bed.

So I'm going to dig this new bed myself, too. As I work, I'll keep telling myself how much I am saving and how many plants I can buy with those savings.

It will take me awhile, but taking it a section at a time, I know I can do it. What's the big rush, anyway? I've been looking at that unplanted area for ten years already, so even if I takes me another year to gradually dig it up, that's okay. I think it is mostly a matter of just getting started. And if it is next spring and I still don't have that bed dug up like I want, I've got at least one nephew who might be willing to help for far less than the landscaping crew would charge.

There's too much rushing around these days anyway. Everyone wants everything right now. Instant gratification! Not me. I want to continue to enjoy the process of gardening as long as I can, hopefully for many more decades. And that process involves not just weeding and planting and deadheading, but digging, too.

One square foot at time, I'll get this new bed dug eventually!


  1. You sure will. I like do-it-yourself projects too. But finding a nephew or other young man to help out with the heavy work, for a fraction of the landscaper's price, might not be such a bad deal either.

  2. I appreciate the fact that you're taking the tortoise rather than the rabbit approach to the new garden beds. After all, gardening is all about the enjoyment. And too many people fail to enjoy the process in their urgent quest for the result. Why can't the result BE the process? More slow living! Yes!

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  3. Good luck on your new garden. Just which nephew did you have in mind?

  4. Carol,
    When we were putting in our new garden bed, someone recommended the "lasagna method." No digging. Just cover the area with newspaper and layers of mulch. Then leave it alone through the winter. I haven't tried this method (because we were in a hurry to plant right away) but maybe it would work for you if you're not planning to use the bed until next spring?

    Good luck with whatever approach you decide to take. It is more work to do it yourself, but those kinds of projects, I think, are infinitely more satisfying when it's all said and done.

  5. Not to mention the health benefits from all that work, Carol . I agree with you 100 per cent - as long as you can do it why pay an hefty price ?

    $900 will buy a lot of good stuff for your garden.

    I'm with you on "what's the hurry?" In the memorable last words of Scarlett O'Hara " I won't worry about that now. After all, tomorrow IS another day. "

  6. when you look at it as one square foot at a time, it seems doable. That's the best way to approach a project of any kind!It's got me through many a chore.

  7. Hello Carol,

    That's the kind of project I save for my yearly turn with the Divas of the Dirt. They like to do one big thing to give us all a sense of immediate gratification ;-]

    But I did things on that scale by myself before the Divas let me in.

    If you rush to get everything done, and there are no more projects to plan, you'll have to move!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. Good for you, Carol!

    I was going to suggest the lasagna method as well if you really don't want to approach all of that digging. You may have to at least dig around the edge, though, to give it a clean one--and because cardboard generally is hard to round off, if you have an amoeba shape. :)

  9. Heck yes, Carol, do it yourself. Most of that cost is for sweat equity, of which we gardeners have plenty (though only in spurts here, of course)! I pay people to do things I'm pretty sure would kill me if I attempted them, like cleaning gutters, washing 2-story windows, and felling trees. You're going to enjoy that bed so much when you're done, and wow, all that money for plants!

  10. when i read your post i thought, wow! i have saved myself a ton of money enlarging my own beds... i am working on one right now that is marked off with spray paint, round-up is applied and next week i start digging up the grass. AND i have others to do in my garden dreams. :-)

    thanks for the reminder there's no need to rush it... i often forget that aspect wanting so badly to get to the results.

    i look forward to following your progress!

  11. I am putting in a vote for the lasagna routine. I use birdseed bags. They are heavy enough to last long enough to kill the grass. You can also easily cut them to the desired shape. Then you just throw on your soil amendments, turn it over and plant. You will feel so good about all this when it is finished.

    If that is too slow maybe a neighbor boy or girl could do the removal of the turf and digging. My children, as teenagers, used to help me in the garden a lot. Sure would be cheaper than the landscaper.

  12. I'm in the same boat and I hear you. It would be lovely to have all the work done magically and just be able to focus on the fun of planting. But I'm reminding myself that we are destined for cooler days now and working outside won't be as horrific as it would have been a few weeks ago.

    Can't wait to see your future results.

  13. cha ching! i agree with carolyn - imagine how many plants you can buy with 1000 bucks!

  14. Hi Carol,
    I haven't been active reading or writing my blog for a while... Tonight I read of few of my favorites (you being one of them!) and you won't believe what I just finished this weekend...a bed like you described. Now, I won't be in the popluar crowd, because I'm an instant gratification kind of girl and had a young man dig it up for me Saturday. For a mere $100, the two of us worked all day Sat. I also got a landscaping bid and got sticker shock. So, I found this strapping young man with lots of strength, but no landscaping knowledge. While he was digging, I ran out to a tree farm and bought a Pond Cypress I've been eyeing marked down 50%. I was in my backyard today, "shopping"!!! Other than the tree, every thing I planted this weekend was free. I just finished putting in the last of the lantana and liriope @ 11 tonight (by moonlight!).

  15. What you are after is the Esther Deans' No-Dig method -- see for details. It works very well here at any time of year and I imagine it would be even better left through winter, as Christa suggested. I recommend wads of 10 sheets of newspaper on the bottom layer to kill off whatever is underneath. No turf removal or heavy digging required!

  16. I'm with you, Carol. After we paid a lot of money to "All American Lanscaping" to dig up beds all around the house and plant some evergreen, we said never again. None of them spoke English and didn't know anything about gardens. Fools. No - we were fools. Now we do a little at a time all by ourselves and keep Advil handy.

  17. I think when we hire someone to do things that we could do we lose something in the process. We lose the physical benefit of all that hard work, we lose the pride in our accomplishment, and we lose something intangible, the fight of reclaiming something ugly for beauty. Such a thing should not be easy.

    Gardening is one of the things that reminds us that we are only human, sometimes only one person, and the lesson is in how to work with nature instead of against it.

    We are tortoises, and so is nature. Two of a kind!

  18. I'm with you! I'm gradually digging up my entire yard. My goal is to create one large garden with paths, no lawn. It's going slowly because it's just me and my shovel. I'm in no rush. I'm enjoying every minute of it.

  19. All... thanks for the comments and encouragement. It seems we all agree on doing as much of the work in our gardens as we can manage.

    I would have started digging this evening, but it is raining (which is a good thing!)

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens


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