Beginner’s Guide to Landscaping

You are not alone if you feel overwhelmed when you start a new landscape. It can be difficult to know where to begin, no matter if you’re starting from scratch or wanting to upgrade your existing yard. Our beginner’s guide will help you get started landscaping the front yard and/or back yard of your dreams.

Plan Your Landscape

Planning is an essential part of landscaping. You should get a journal to keep track of your landscaping and garden plans. You can make notes in your journal to help you remember what inspires you. This journal is a great way for you to track your landscaping ideas, goals, learnings, and helps you overcome past failures.

Sketch a Landscape Design

Start by drawing a map of the yard. You should include hardscape items that will stay in place during the entire project: these include walkways, patios, pools, trees, plants, and any other permanent items. You can later add any structures you want to your future plans. Keep a copy of your main sketch to help you create different scenarios while you decide where you want to go.

Note Features Of Your Current Landscape

With your garden journal, take some time to just sit in your yard. Pay attention to landscape features such as hills, low spots and privacy considerations. You can note how the sun moves through your property, where full shade is located, and mark them on your map. The location of your water sources is also important to mark/note, as it will influence the size of your proposed planting beds.

Get Inspired!

For some inspiration, grab some gardening magazines, visit home and garden shows, and browse through landscaping/gardening blogs. Take a walk around the neighborhood and note any styles, structures, or other ideas you like. Log into Instagram and search through relevant hashtags such as #landscaping and #landscapingdesign. Inspiration is everywhere to find the landscaping features that catch your eye!

Set Goals For Your Landscaping Project

It helps to have a goal. Think about your current needs and think big about your future plans for your yard. Landscapes and gardens are always in flux. In your garden journal, sketch some ideas for your landscape map, and have a final “vision” of what you want to achieve.

Some Of Our Favorite Landscaping Features To Consider In Your Goals:

  • Play area for children
  • Entertainer space
  • Sustainable garden sapce
  • Flower gardens
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Cozy sitting area
  • Patios, pergolas, gazebos and decks
  • Koi pond, swimming pool, and water features

Landscape Design Ideas

Before you start your landscaping project, take a look at the architecture of your home and decide what type of design you want.

  • Modern appeal is given by straight lines. This style is well suited for ornamental grasses and shrubs, as well as monochromatic color schemes.
  • Curvy pathways and garden beds have a natural look.
  • Hedges can be used to create a friendly privacy barrier.
  • A fence can help you protect your privacy and safety. There are many fence options available, including pickets, pickets, wrought iron and chain link.
  • Consider walking/stepping paths. Pavers are more formal, while crush stone is more casual. Stepping stones can be a fun and beautiful way to go from one place to another.
  • Before you dig, map out your landscape with chalk spray, twine, or your garden hose.
  • Lighting! Lighting! Lighting! Some simple lighting can turn a yard from good to great when the sun goes down. There are so many solar options that won’t hurt your electricity bill, too!

How to Set a Landscaping Budget

Once you have allowed yourself to dream, it is time to figure out how much you want to spend. It is often better to take small steps and complete small chunks at a time, rather than attempt to do everything all at once. Let yourself enjoy the process! Think of the following things during your budgeting:

  • Which projects are you going to tackle?
  • What projects are best left to a landscape architect or contractor?
  • Calculate material and plant costs.
  • Budget is not just about money. Budget is also about time. How long will each project take and how much can you devote to the tasks?
  • Is a landscaper required for upkeep? Can you handle the daily/weekly/monthly/annual upkeep yourself?

How to Choose the Right Plants for Your Landscape

Landscape design is only as good as the plants you choose. It is important to think about the types of plants that you want to include in your landscape.

  • Annuals must be added to garden beds each season. It is best to mix perennials and annuals in your garden beds so that you don’t start from scratch every year.
  • Perennial plants will grow stronger and more prolifically each year. Many varieties can be divided and spread quickly to improve your landscape. These plants are an investment in your future garden, so plan ahead when buying them.
  • When planting a garden, height is important. To determine the mature height of your plant selection, always check its garden tag. Plant taller plants towards the rear of your garden, but not blocking windows. You can place shorter border plants along the edges. Midsized plants can stand in between.
  • Consider what support structures are needed if you plan to plant a climbing plant variety. Arbors, pergolas and trellises can be great focal points for climbing vines.
  • Allow adequate space for perennials, trees, shrubs and other plants. Although they may appear small at first, they can quickly fill in space and can become a problem later.
  • Decide on the color scheme and textures you prefer for your plantings. Are you more comfortable with a mix of colors or prefer a few?
  • Planting plants in odd-numbered groups tends to be more visually appealing than those planted in even-numbered.

Planting Trees In Your Landscape

Trees can be a beautiful addition to your landscape, adding shade and beauty to your yard. If strategically placed, they can also help lower your energy bills.

  • Shade paved areas with trees. Sun heat hits asphalt pavement and darkens it, and absorbs the heat. This causes the air and structures surrounding them to heat up.
  • In the summer, it can be a great way to reduce heating costs by planting trees on the northwest, east, and west sides of your house.
  • Avoid planting trees too close to your home’s foundation. Transplants can grow large roots, which could cause homeowners problems. It is possible to damage your foundation by planting too close to underground pipes or lines. This can lead to costly repairs.
  • Place small trees at a distance of no closer than 15 feet from your home.
  • Plant medium and large trees at a distance of 30 to 50 feet from your home.

Encourage Wildlife In Your Landscape Design

When planning your landscape design, don’t forget to consider wildlife. You can attract birds and pollinators to your garden and help control their numbers, which will protect your plants.

These are some ways to bring nature into your yard.

  • Watch the birds flock to your suet or bird feeders when you fill them up regularly.
  • A hummingbird feeder is a great addition to invite hummingbirds to your yard.
  • Plant perennials such as salvia, bee balm and rudbeckia to attract pollinators.
  • A birdbath is visually beautiful and will offer the birds a place to cool off.
  • Birdhouses can provide nesting areas for birds.
  • Sow sunflower seeds in late summer so the birds can enjoy them.

Preparing for Landscape Maintenance

Consider how much time and effort it will take to maintain your space before you start any project. Landscape maintenance includes lawn mowing, weeding and mulching as well as pruning. Start small to achieve success. It is better to work in a smaller space than trying to create a large garden that looks unkempt or weedy due lack of maintenance. Before you start this beginner’s guide, be realistic about how much time you have available to maintain your garden.

Landscaping Safety

It is important to call before you dig. Many states offer a call before digging program that allows utility companies to come to your house and flag any lines. This is important for safety so you don’t cut any electrical or gas conduits. Tree roots can also cause serious damage to underground pipes, lines, and cables, including telephone, cable, gas, and electricity.

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