What I Did
Resculpted a half-acre lot on New York's Long Island to address flooding issues, put in a patio and swimming pool, and carved out 15 beds for flowers and vegetables.
Landscaping costs: $15,600 for the flood work, $4,000 for an irrigation system, and $20,000 for the pool.
Time frame: 12 years. Four years of hassles before I figured out what to do about the flooding, and two months for the regrading. It took less than a month to put in the pool. I built garden beds over 10 years.
Where I saved: I started plants and shrubs from cuttings that neighbors gave me, grew plants from seeds, and used lots of recycled material.
Where I splurged: The pool's extras: $12,000 bluestone surround, $4,900 heater, and $1,750 salt generator.
What I'd do differently: Plan a sunroom off the back of the house.
I yearn for that winter room.
Biggest challenge: Solving my drainage problems.
How I solved it: I talked to neighbors, engineers, people who work for the town. When I found Tom Langsdorf of Micro Machines Excavating, in Hampton Bays, it was clear he knew exactly what to do. He's a local who grew up working with his dad. He also gave me credit for knowing what was happening, and my solutions made sense to him.