Navigating the Landscape: A Step-by-Step Insight

Landscape Design and Construction Navigating the Landscape: A Step-by-Step Insight

Looking at the finished project photos of expert landscape companies can lead to the impression that a beautiful landscape is just a few shovelfuls of dirt away. What isn’t shown, is the intricate planning and implementation process, which often involves getting the local authorities involved to ensure full compliance with local ordinances.

Think about it this way: behind every pristine garden and beautifully paved patios lies an elaborate process of planning, labor, and attention to detail. When starting your landscape project, buffer in realistic timelines for design, permitting and construction. Let’s journey through this detailed process:


Designing a project to meet clients’ expectations is the first set of steps in this process. The design process typically includes surveying, site analysis, measurements of existing structures and grades, drawing the base plan and finally creating conceptual drawings and/or 3D renderings to present to the client for their approval. Having a good understanding of the local guidelines and regulations while designing makes the permitting process more streamlined to gain approval for construction.


Before breaking ground, conceptual visions must be translated into construction documents. These documents are not only for the construction team to build upon but also these documents then pave the way for permissions from local authorities, including the city, county, fire department, and HOAs, to ensure that the project fully complies with local laws and community aesthetics when necessary. Not all landscape works are required to be permitted depending on where your project is located and what the project includes. However, elements such as overhead structures, pools, large retaining walls, typically need to be engineered prior to permitting. The engineering and permitting process could take up to 2-6 months or longer depending on the scope of work and reviewer timelines. Once work is permitted, it’s time to hit the ground running and start the construction process. 

Demo and Grading:

The first physical step involves site preparation. Old hardscapes, existing trees and shrubs, and other obstructions blocking the worksite are removed. The land is then graded, ensuring optimal drainage and the foundations for planned changes. This is a laborious process, however it generally moves relatively fast in the overall construction process. 

Underground Utilities:

A series of trenches are dug to lay down necessary utilities for the landscape to function correctly. Drainage pipes, water mains for irrigation and hose bibs, irrigation laterals for drip and spray systems, low-voltage lighting wiring, and finally electrical and gas lines for outdoor cooking appliances or fire pits are laid into place at proper depths to meet building code. Once those lines are in place and after inspection, some lines are tapped for future tracking, then shaded and buried, setting up for the next steps in the construction process. 


Constructing hardscapes involves the crafting and installation of materials made of stone, concrete, and metal. This includes but is not limited to patios, walk and driveways, walls, steps and railings, outdoor kitchens, overhead structures and footings, pools, and accent boulders. Excavation for these items is the first step, determining the proper depth for finish grade and building upon that with base materials before the final material finish. This is a laborious process; landscape materials are very heavy and machinery helps when access allows, however, a lot of work is still required to be done by hand. This set of steps typically make up the longest part of the process, but varies from project to project. Expect the project site to look like a construction zone for the majority of the project, it all comes together in the end.


Carpentry involves the cutting and shaping of wood for practical implementation. Woodwork is used for fences, shade structures like pergolas and gazebos, timber steps, and features like raised vegetable beds. Carpentry is a tedious task, this work should not be rushed, therefore it may take some time to finish the build of the elements designed. There are many different woods and finishes as well as composite materials to select from so budget and longevity is a great place to start. 


This stage breathes life into the landscape by adding flora for aesthetic and functional purposes. Large trees and shrubbery can provide shade, privacy, and visual breaks or focal points. Perennials, succulents, and lawns add a lush look to the landscape, while seasonal flowers add a shock of color to the outdoor environment. Here in San Diego, the use of low-water plants and limiting high-maintenance/ high-water lawns are our top priority. Forecasting drought and water restrictions is the best way to ensure the health of the landscape for the long run.  


Every plant has unique water needs for proper health and growth that must be balanced with water conservation concerns. Depending on the nature of the plant and the setting, above-ground drip lines, lawn and slope spray heads, and other irrigation methods are employed to balance both concerns. Initially the plants will require more water to get established after planting, however once established, water can be limited depending on the plants needs. 


Enjoyment of your landscape doesn’t need to end with the setting sun. Most of the electrical work is handled in-house to ensure proper and safe power delivery to low-voltage lighting that highlights the home’s beauty. In addition to aesthetics, landscape lighting can be used as a safety feature, deterring people or animals from your property. The use of path lights near walkways and patios, spot lights on statement trees, wall wash lights on hardscapes and hedges, and many other lighting applications can all be controlled via an app connected to the transformer for ease and customization. 


Mulching is the process of using organic material to enhance soil health and moisture retention. Mulch can also be inorganic like pebbles or crushed rock, to add to the visual appeal. Organic mulch does need to be top dressed as it breaks down into the soil. Inorganic mulch can move around over time and may need to be top dressed from time to time in higher traffic areas. Generally, inorganic mulch last longer, yet is more of an expense from the jump. 


Even the most thoughtfully designed landscapes need constant care and attention. Maintenance services ensure the plantings remain healthy and trimmed to maximize the aesthetic impact of your landscape. Low maintenance landscapes still require some level of maintenance, there is no such thing as a no-maintenance garden; even artificial turf needs to be cleaned from time to time.

Landscaping is a meticulous blend of art and science that demands the utmost in experience and education. At Torrey Pines Landscape Company, our expertise ensures that the challenging journey of landscape construction is smooth and rewarding for our clients. If you have a yard that you’ve been dying to transform, Torrey Pines Landscape Company can help you design and build the landscape of your dreams. Call today!