How to Landscape a Large Yard

Two Parts:Planning the projectUndertaking the landscaping

Landscaping a large yard can be a challenge, but it also gives you a chance to add a variety of elements that small lawns do not have room for. Because of the differences in climate, topography, and soil conditions, this article may not apply to every situation.

Part 1
Planning the project

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    Plan the project. This is the key to having success and being satisfied with the outcome of your landscaping adventure. You cannot just decide for landscaping if you do not plan for other important things that you need to do for your outdoor space. Divide your space accordingly and set just enough area for landscaping.
    • Plan for enough space. Consider things such as the playground for your kids or for your pets, your vegetable garden, your garage and other outdoor space ideas needed.
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    Draw a diagram of the entire area, to scale if possible. Include the lawn and at least roughly show the location of large trees, permanent structures, and other existing elements which need to be incorporated in your plan.
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    Draw arrows or topographic lines. Use these to show the slope of the land, noting conditions such as wetland sites, rocky areas, and anything else which will require special attention.
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    Use the information you have gathered to look at the way you want to use the spaces in your large yard area. Low places and wetlands are not suitable for growing most common lawn grasses, and rocky bare hill-tops do not support grass growth well, either, so another type of landscaping may be more suitable for these areas. Areas under deep shade, such as beneath a large, broad hardwood tree might be better suited for some patio stones and a bench or swing, and very steep hills can be covered with vines or small shrubs instead of something requiring mowing or other maintenance.

Part 2
Undertaking the landscaping

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    Check the local nursery or home center and find out if there are fruit or nut trees, or berry producing shrubs and bushes that do well in your area. Here in the south, we have pecan trees, blueberries, and grapevines which are often used in landscaping and provide a food source for wildlife, as well as ingredients for favorite recipes.
    • Choose the right plants. It is better and smarter to choose native plants. Although it can also be tempting to go for plants that are uncommon in your place, it is still best to opt for native plants as these kinds of plants are already familiar with the natural habitat you have in your property. It will be easier for you to grow them.
    • You can actually put other variety of plants, but make sure that you do not overcrowd your yard space with imported plants and always make room for the native ones.
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    Measure any areas where you will need to add fill material to grade and smooth the existing site. Look for other areas you can "cut", or take some soil off to spread to these places. Often in large landscaping projects you will find that you have to "import", or haul in additional soil to level out the lawn, and it is best to bring this material in before any underground utilities are installed.
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    Calculate how much fill you will need to import. This is a math problem, and if the area is irregular in shape, try to imagine it as a square or rectangle, multiplying width X length X depth, to give you a cubic volume of material. Large volumes are measured either in tons or cubic yards or meters. If the amount is very large, you will need to hire someone to haul your material in with a dump truck, smaller amounts may be brought in with a pickup truck or utility trailer.
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    Spread the new fill material and level all areas of the yard. If you have a large amount to move, you may want to rent a small tractor with a front end loader bucket and a grader blade or box blade to do this job for you. Very large projects may require a bulldozer or other heavy equipment, but this may be too much for the average homeowner to attempt on their own.
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    Mark off any flower beds, tree plantings, or other features you are putting in your landscape, and also consider any permanent structures you may want to add now or later. After the landscaping is complete is not the time to build a swimming pool or utility shed!
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    Leave some additional soil in areas where you want raised flower beds, garden areas, or other features that need it.
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    Remove plants, bushes, or undesirable trees from the area so that areas to receive grass will get maximum sunlight.
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    Plant all the shrubs, bushes, and trees that you have planned for each area, and remember, it is often easier to start working one area and finish it before moving to the next. Large landscaping projects can be overwhelming if they are not broken down into a series of smaller projects.
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    Lay out and install whatever irrigation piping you have planned, install conduits for underground electric to power landscape lighting and to operate pumps for fishponds or fountains you are building. If you use an electric mower, leaf blower, weed eater, or edger, you may want a couple of remote ground fault receptacles to eliminate the need for long extension cords. You will need to mount these with weatherproof boxes and covers on posts or attached to some type of structure.
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    Work out your flower beds and other permanent landscape features, such as patios, permanent barbecue pits, fountains, etc. Use landscape fabric in planting areas to keep the weeds from becoming a problem, and mulch all these areas to conserve water.
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    Finish grading the areas to receive grass. This is often done by dragging a section of fence material behind a lawn tractor or ATV, passing back and forth over the area until it is smooth.
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    Install sod or plant your grass seed in the grassed areas, pray for rain (but not flooding), and be prepared to water sufficiently to establish your grass.
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    Add other features such benches, chairs and tables, swings and shaded tea areas. These are perfect for outdoor activities such as afternoon teas with friends, evening talks with your spouse and weekend picnics with your kids. However, experts advise not to add features that you cannot really maintain as this will only make your lawn look dull and old. Make sure that you can maintain the features in your landscaped lawn.
    • Clean the benches and chairs regularly as these can get easily damaged especially when they get wet during rainy days. Adding some features in your lawn can really add more beauty to its overall landscape design.
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    Sit back, and allow your work to establish itself.


  • Lawns and landscaping projects are the subject of many magazines, television shows, and home center workshops. Take advantage of these for planning your project.
  • Keep in mind there are some plants that do not mix. Some nut trees, for instance contain juglone. Walnuts contain this chemical. It is not friendly to many plants such as tomatoes or lilacs and need to be planted a long distance from them. Raspberries and red maple trees do not seem to mind them. So, before investing too much time or money in the planting process-do a little research on companion plants. Sometimes they are like people that way-some live together better than others. The internet has some great sites on this...just google companion plants or juglone.
  • Grass is not the most earth friendly landscaping element. It often requires watering, fertilization, chemicals for pests and weeds, and mowing and maintaining with gasoline powered lawn equipment. Considering use of ground covers and native shrubs and plantings for at least a part of the landscaped area. This will reduce the expense and environmental impact, and also the cost of maintaining the lawn.
  • Use the local Agricultural Extension Service. This is a program operated by the USDA in the United States, and the people there can help with soil testing, as well as growing requirements for various types of lawn grass and ground covers.
  • Think of the area or plant that will serve as the main focus of your lawn. It may be a huge tree, an array of flowers, a fountain or an artificial waterfall. You can get ideas from home improvement magazines and gardening shows on TV.


  • Try to use earth friendly products in your yard.
  • Use care or locate a competent person to operate any equipment you may rent to do heavy work landscaping.
  • Contact the underground utility location service for your area before digging. This may be done in many areas of the U.S. by calling 811 on your telephone, other jurisdictions may have different phone numbers or contact procedures.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovels
  • Rakes
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Gloves
  • Tractor, or garden or lawn tractor if available

Article Info

Categories: Landscaping and Outdoor Building