How to Landscape

Four Parts:Planning a LandscapeMaking StructuresHardscapingPlanting

Landscaping can boost the value of your home. It can also make your home more energy-efficient, increase play areas and provide food for your family. Since every yard is different, it is a good idea to plan out your structures, fences, lawn, beds and trees carefully, adding a little more each year until you create the perfect landscape.

Part 1
Planning a Landscape

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    Decide upon your budget. Experts recommend spending five to 15 percent of your home’s value on landscaping; however, you may want to divide the total cost between one and five years of work.
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    Wait a year to see what you like. If you have just bought a home, the experts recommend living with it for a year to see what you like and don’t like about your yard. You will get a chance to see what areas are shaded, sunny and windy.[1]
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    Write down the features you would like to include in your landscape. These may include a play area, vegetable garden, rose garden, fire pit, porch or trees. Ensure that everyone in your family agrees on these features.
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    Consider hiring a professional to do some tasks. You can hire a landscaping consultant/architect to plan it out, or you can hire a landscaping contractor to execute your design. A consultant will usually charge $100 to $150 per hour for their time.[2]
    • If you don’t have the money in your budget to hire a professional, consider hiring them for anything with large tools or heavy rocks. You can save a lot of money by landscaping it yourself slowly over several years.
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    Peruse Pinterest to look for ideas. Home and Garden websites and magazines are also a great place to look. Print out or post ideas on a board so that you can return to them as you plan.
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    Sketch out an initial plan. Include rocks, trees, plants, flowers and paths as well as structures. Then, number them in order of priority and importance. Use the Plan-a-Garden application at Better Homes and Gardens to sketch out your home if you aren’t able to sketch it to your liking.
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    Divvy up your budget between structures, hardscaping and plants. Choose one area to splurge on and then save on the less important features.[3]

Part 2
Making Structures

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    Consider privacy. For many people this is a priority in their landscaping. The most common ways are through fences and shrubs or trees.
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    Compare the costs of wood, metal, composite or plastic fencing. Get a bid from a contractor that can also supply the materials. It may be only slightly more than doing it yourself.
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    Make tree planting a priority if you want to create privacy with trees or shrubs. Look for a good supplier of trees and then enrich the soil before you plant. It’s a good idea to plant trees at least 30 feet (9.1 m) from your foundation.
    • Planting trees to shade and shelter your house can save up to 25 percent on your home energy bills. provides tips on how to landscape for energy efficiency by region.[4]
    • Request trees from your city. They may provide the plants for free if you provide the maintenance.
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    Build trellises and start vines. You can create a structure on which creeping vines can grow. Since many of these vines are fast growing (and invasive), they can fill out in just a few years.
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    Decide if you want a patio or a porch. Choose a place where it is shaded from the sun and not too exposed to the wind, so that you can be comfortable there. Most people try to offset this area from the house.
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    Install play equipment. You may want to dig in the posts and pour concrete to make them more safe and sturdy.

Part 3

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    Block off areas where you want paths. You can pour concrete, use paving stones or lay bricks.
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    Make plans to install retaining walls. If your landscape includes hills or uneven ground, you can have a professional contractor install retaining walls so that you can work the soil on several levels, while making the hills more attractive. It is a good idea to ask a professional for help with leveling and terracing a hillside.
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    Plan water features. In most cases, water features require retaining walls to keep the water from running off into other areas. A water feature should be carefully planned and executed, since poor plumbing and planning can result in problems for the house and the yard.
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    Consider rocks or stones. If you don’t have the time or money to maintain a lawn, then you can cover the area with rocks, gravel or stones in areas. Make sure to compare quotes from contractors and home improvement stores, including delivery and installation.
    • Inquire about collecting rocks and stones from demolition sites. If you can collect and deliver them yourself, they may even be free.
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    Save money by purchasing bark or other landscaping materials to cover dirt, weeds and bare areas.

Part 4

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    Start with the soil. You will need to enrich clay and gravel filled soils with compost and other materials.
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    Save money with homemade compost and cisterns. Provide your own rich soil by composting kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaves and more. Place cisterns below your drain pipes so that you can gather rainwater for plants.
    • Home water bills are usually 20 percent of your water use. Saving rainwater can cut your water bill by 15 percent.
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    Consider drought resistant plants. Succulents, native grasses and wildflowers are good choices if you are in drought areas or if you want to save money. Visit sites like to find a list of native plants that are bound to thrive in your area.
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    Plant your lawn or purchase sod after all of your big structures, hardscaping and trees have been installed. Trucks may need to deliver materials to your yard, which can rip up grass.
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    Sign up for a local gardening magazine or research your hardiness zone. Don’t invest in annuals until you have the money to replace them every year.
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    Take care when choosing sun and shade plants. Ensure you have the right kind of sunlight to help the plants thrive, or you will be wasting your money by buying plants. For example, hostas require full shade, while most flowers require full sun.
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    Buy smaller plants and give them time to grow. A landscape usually doesn’t include full-sized plants. Use one-gallon plants and allow them to fill in.
    • This will save you money in the long run and you are less likely to end up with plants that refuse to grow or thrive.
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    Ask neighbors for cuttings or large plants. Vines, groundcover plants and perennials may be able to use small cuttings from larger plants. You can also divide your own well-established plants, like hostas, and plant them in other areas around the yard.

Things You'll Need

  • Better Homes and Gardens Plan-a-Garden tool
  • Fencing
  • Trees
  • Vines
  • Retaining walls
  • Paths
  • Drought resistant plants
  • Cuttings/plant dividing
  • Cistern
  • Compost pile
  • Enriched soil
  • Rocks/stones/bark
  • Concrete
  • Water features
  • One-gallon plants

Article Info

Categories: Landscaping and Outdoor Building