There are a lot of amazing opportunities that owning your first home provides: the chance to customize everything you want, the freedom to put nails in the wall without having to worry about violating your lease, and of course, the yard, and the opportunity to truly make it your own. You’ll love these landscaping tips for beginners & first-time homeowners!
But landscaping is a challenge, and it isn’t one that should be taken lightly. HGTV makes it look easy with shows that transform a barren wasteland into a luscious backyard paradise in a matter of hours. The truth is, landscaping your yard – and maintaining it – is a big job. But with time, hard work, a few tips on how to landscape and some fun landscaping ideas, you can make your yard into the envy of your neighbors.
Be Realistic About Your Landscaping Timeline
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and granted, your yard isn’t the size of the city of Rome, but the same rule applies. Trying to completely transform your yard in an afternoon is impossible, so instead of holding on to that fantasy, figure out when you’ll have time (over a series of weeks) to work on building your yard out. Set aside a few weekend mornings or afternoons to larger projects, like mulching and planting, plus a few weekday evening sessions to smaller projects, like shopping for supplies or taking control of smaller sections of your yard.
And don’t forget that once the initial planting stops, your job isn’t over. You’ll need to dedicate a few hours a month (or more, depending on how extensive your landscaping ideas are) to weeding, re-planting, and taking general care of your yard. Otherwise, all your hard work and success will be replaced with weeds and a disappointed spouse.
Start with a Clean Slate (Quite Literally)
If you’ve ever watched House Hunters, you’ve probably seen a home buyer mention, “I love the house, but I can’t get past that paint color.” As a viewer, you know it’s possible to see the vision of the home beyond the paint color, but the buyer can’t see it.
Landscaping is a lot like this: permanent fixtures like trees, patios, and plants make it hard to see the true potential of your yard. So unless you’re planning on preserving the existing landscape, one of the first big landscaping decisions you should make as a first time homeowner is to start over. Rip out the existing plants, kill the weeds, and even consider whether you want to keep any paved or brick spaces.
Budget Your Money to Make Your Yard a Success
Plants are free, right? Not exactly. As with all home projects, you should set yourself a realistic budget for the upfront costs, like seedlings and mulch, and an additional amount for regular maintenance cost, like new equipments, fertilizer, and any professional care you’ll seek for your yard. While each yard and each design will have different costs, you can expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars at the very beginning.
Another consideration in your budget: storage space. A shed, although sometimes necessary, isn’t the most attractive addition to any yard, especially a small one where it dominates the landscape. For those situations where a shed isn’t the right choice, and your garage won’t fit it all in, store with Neighbor. Find a neighbor who has extra space and use it to store your gardening tools, extra materials, and all those not-yet-ready-to-be-filled plant pots until you need them. At 50% the price of a storage unit, Neighbor will also help save your landscaping budget. Perhaps you’ll even befriend your neighbor in the process.
Landscape Your Yard for Flora AND Function
It’s all about the plants…but not really. While flowers and trees make your yard beautiful, it’s up to you to plan it to be functional. Think about what you’ll use the space for before doing anything else: are you putting in a swing set for your kids? Planting herbs and vegetables to have truly homemade meals? Setting up a patio space for grilling and chilling? How you’ll use the space should dictate what areas are set aside for function, and which will be the showcases of your new landscaping ideas.
Another key with thinking of function: getting around. Rows upon rows of flowers are lovely, but difficult to maintain if you can’t get in between them to take up weeds. Give yourself enough space that you’ll be able to get to each plant once it’s fully grown for pruning, weeding, and let’s be honest, proud plant parent photo taking.
Don’t Rank Landscaping Design Over Maintainability
It should be clear by now that maintenance is just as important as setup is to a new gardener. And while you should set yourself up for success by being ready to step up and maintain your garden, make sure you don’t overcommit yourself.
Opt for some low-maintenance plants and fixtures at first. Try basil if you’re looking to build an herb garden. Hydrangeas work well for most climates and don’t require much pruning, if at all. Portulacas are perfect if you’re a true newbie who barely keeps cacti alive – they’re all but impossible to kill. By choosing some easier, lower stress plants, you can still make your beautiful landscaping ideas come to life, but you can also make sure you’re able to keep that dream rooted (pun intended) in reality.
Learn About Your Local (and Hyper-Local) Gardening Climate
Each region – and even each city – is a little different in what you can and can’t grow. Arizona may not be the best place for a yard full of green grass, but Illinois might be a perfect location. And while a rock or sand-based yard would look silly in Vermont, it would look right at home in southern California.
But it’s more than just regional climate: you’ll want to consider your home’s situation, too. Does your backyard get a lot of sunlight? Are there areas where shade dominates? Is your house at the bottom of a hill where you can expect lots of rainwater to congregate?
Consider mapping your yard space out into sub-regions on a piece of paper and labeling them appropriately. As you research which plants you want to use in your landscape design, keep this in your back pocket and the back of your mind.
Design Your Landscape Around a Focal Point
The best pieces of art have a distinct focal point, and landscaping art is no different. There should be one section of your landscape or one particular plant that attracts the eye in your yard’s design. Start by figuring this out: it should be big, bold, and beautiful. Once you’ve decided on your focal point, work out from there with smaller, more reserved pieces that complement, but don’t distract from, the focal point of your landscape.
The Best Landscaping Ideas Are About More Than Just Plants
Flowers, trees, bushes – they’re all undoubtedly important in your landscaping schemes. Equally important are the non-living features in your yard: gates, fences, arches, plant pots, patio furniture, and so many others. These stationary items make your backyard a more usable and friendly space, so consider them in your design. A few stationary landscaping ideas to get you started:
- Benches below climbing ivy or fruit trees
- Potted plants on paved/brick sections or flanking doors to your home
- A decorative gate in place of continuous fence
- A metal archway that high-growing plants, like ivy, can grow into and around
Not only will these pieces add some dimension to your landscape and make it more livable, it will save you some maintenance time and energy that you would’ve otherwise spent on planting and weeding. Here is a guide with hundreds of interesting ideas to help bring your landscaping to life around your home.
Learn to Protect From (and Live With) Pests
Pests inside your home are bad enough, but pests in your beautiful landscaped yard? It’s no easy task for a beginner landscaper, but rest assured that it’s not all cockroaches and rats. Though it varies by climate, most gardens and yards are plagued by mammals, some as large as alligators or deer, and some as small as crows and squirrels.
It’s best to get ahead of pests by making the things they love, namely food, hard or impossible to get. You may need to wrap fruit trees in wire, or suspend your bird feeder from a spot squirrels can’t get to. This will change the aesthetic of your backyard landscape, so consider how these pests will affect your backyard vision before you commit to a pest-attracting plant.
As a First Time Homeowner, Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Get help. Lots of help. Whether it’s your mom who’s always had an eye for plants helping you pick hydrangea colors, or your neighbor who’s a contractor giving you tips to best irrigate your yard, every little bit helps. Consider visiting your neighborhood Lowe’s or Home Depot for more expert assistance if you’re stuck on something that requires more technical knowledge, because even if their customer service reps can’t help you, there’s a good chance there’s someone shopping there who can help.
Part of being a new homeowner is accepting responsibility, so it’s time to get real help getting your stuff home from the store – no more bribing your friend with a truck with a promise of pizza and beer. Dolly can bring all your plants, fertilizer, water features, wheelbarrows, and anything else you’ll need for your new yard home. Online or using the Dolly app, we’ll connect you with a local pickup truck owner who can help bring your landscaping ideas to life (or at the very least, home from the nursery). After that, you’re just a few days of digging, weeding, and planting away from your very own perfect landscaped escape.
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Dolly connects you with local pickup truck owners who are ready to help with your moving, delivery, and hauling needs. Whether you need help bringing home a new dining table, picking up a couch you found on Craigslist, or need heavy lifting help during an apartment move, Dolly can bring you truck and muscle, anytime you need it.