4 steps to creating your ideal landscape

Even plant novices  can still have great gardens. All it takes is some basic knowhow and a willingness to plunge into some outdoor work. Here's some advice to help you get started:

4 steps to creating your ideal landscape

1. Avoid sudden,. drastic changes

  • Don't make extensive changes to a new yard for a year or so — until you understand the landscape's peculiarities.
  • Use a garden journal to record what you learn about the soil, drainage, shady areas and any hot or cold spots.
  • Use the first year to experiment. Plant a few annuals, perennials, some vegetables and some plants in pots. See what works and what doesn't.

2. Make a list

  • The best way to design your landscape is to make a list of wants and problems.
  • You may want an herb garden, a place for the trash cans, or even an outdoor dining area, but you might have to forgo some of your wants.
  • Make a complete wish list, then trim it down to the most important items.

3. Sketch your ideas out

  • Sketch your ideas out on paper, drawing rough thumbnails at first and then, if you want, more detailed plans later on.
  • Be warned: even the best paper plan is just a starting point. Expect your ideas to evolve.
  • Take the time to photograph your landscape in each season of the year. Draw in what you'd like with a marker or grease pencil.
  • Outline the garden beds that you're planning with a garden hose or by sprinkling flour on the grass and live with them for a day or two to test them out.

4. Decide on professional assistance

  • If you're unsure how to begin your landscaping project, or if you want some new ideas, consider bringing in a professional.
  • A professional landscape plan not only gives you direction, but it also saves time and money in costly, backbreaking mistakes.
  • A landscape professional can draw up plans for a lawn and garden that addresses your needs. You can then do the work yourself bit by bit, or you can sign a contract with a professional to do all or part of the job.
  • Professional help can be expensive: a landscape architect may charge more than $1,000 for a design. However, some nurseries have designers on staff who will create plans for free with the idea that you'll buy the plants there.

Getting the landscape you want is all about careful planning and knowing when to get help. Be sure to take your time and learn your limits. The results could save you time and a lot of hard work.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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