Best Practices for Landscaping and Hardscaping in Minnesota

Front yard landscape with fountain

There is definitely a right way to approach landscaping and hardscaping. And to do it ‘right’ in Minnesota there are additional elements to take into account. Let’s start with the basics:

What is Landscaping & Hardscaping?

In a previous blog, we’ve defined in detail what landscaping is, and what hardscaping is. So here we’ll keep it brief and make sure we’re all on the same page. Landscaping refers to the design of an outdoor space using natural elements – trees, grasses, florals, etc. This also includes any excavating and gradework, where modification to your land is required to support the design.

Hardscaping on the other hand, is the use of man-made materials – stone, block, concrete, pergolas, fireplaces, grills, etc. – in an outdoor setting. These are used to build the features you are looking for in your design.

In most landscape designs, a combination of landscaping and hardscaping is used to achieve your perfect outdoor oasis.


landscape bed and retaining wall


Plan – Plan – Design – Install

What does your perfect outdoor oasis look like – and how does it come to life? There’s endless inspiration from the beautiful homes on HGTV, the stunning photos in Better Homes & Gardens, and the endless examples filling your Pinterest feed. The trick is getting those ideas to show up in your yard. Here’s how we make it happen:

  1. First, You Plan
    In Minnesota, the best time to do this is in the Fall/Winter, so by the time we’re ready to install, it goes in quickly and you get to enjoy it for a FULL season. You’ll want to start by establishing a budget and identifying how you hope to use your outdoor space. From there you can begin to create a wish list of the landscaping and hardscaping elements you’d like to incorporate. We have a comprehensive checklist to help you, but here are some of the examples of things to be thinking through:
  • What hardscaping features do you want included?
    For example: driveway, walkway, patio, retaining wall, deck, fireplace, pool, garden, lighting, fencing, and so on.
  • What plants do you like? Dislike?
  • How much routine care and maintenance are you comfortable with?
    This will help guide both landscaping and hardscaping material choices.
  • What mood/style best describes your outdoor oasis?
    You’ll want to marry this with the style of your home, but jot down words like the following: Formal / Informal, Modern / Traditional, Relaxing / Entertaining, Calming / Energizing
  • Are there any existing problems or eye-sores you’d like addressed in your design?
    Things like drainage issues, sick trees, and unwelcome pests are good examples.
  1. Next, We Plan
    When you are ready to get your project rolling, we do an on-site consultation. Armed with the information you’ve defined in step 1, we join you on site to discuss your wish list and get a lay of the land. We’ll do the necessary measurements, but the most important part of this process is for our designer, Ben, to spend time exploring the land – solo. This time allows him to understand the land, and find inspiration for how to make your landscaping and hardscaping dreams come true.
  2. Then, Design
    This, as they say, is when the magic happens. The dreams and measurements turn into paper sketches, which eventually becomes a full-color, 3D CAD design that will WOW you. We’ll present this to you, and then it becomes a process of tweaking and perfecting the design to get it exactly where you want it.
  3. Finally, Installation
    In Minnesota, your landscaping and hardscaping installation window is any time between early April and late November. As stated above, the earlier you install, the longer you get to enjoy it in it’s first MN season. Depending on the scope of the design, this will take 1-2 weeks.

Perrenial plants


Minnesota Specifics

Because we’re in Minnesota, there are a few best practices to follow when designing a landscape that withstands the 4 seasons and allows for usability when the days are shorter and the nights colder.

  • Because central MN is zone 3 on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map there are certain plants that should be chosen because they will thrive in our climate. So not only do you need to take into account your soil type and the amount of sun, but you also need to choose your shrubs, flowers, and trees based on whether or not they are suited for survival and growth in zone 3.
  • Opt for pavers over concrete when possible. As you know, Minnesota winters can get extremely cold – which can wreak havoc on concrete. Pavers offer a longer term value for this reason.
  • For this same reason, steer clear of concrete pools.
  • Look for ways to extend the usability of your outdoor space by:
    • Adding sources of heat – fireplaces, fire pits, or outdoor heat lamps – to warm up the cool evenings and brisk mornings through spring, summer, and fall.
    • Adding overhead and directional light sources to illuminate your space on the shorter spring and fall days. As a bonus, when designed right your lighting will also enhance the ambiance you’re looking to achieve.

Landscaping and hardscaping in Minnesota is all about enjoying our outdoor spaces as long as the weather permits – doing it right will make sure that is possible.