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How to Landscape Your New Home

Austin Callison

My experience goes as far back as my upbringing in a small ranching community in Northern California...

My experience goes as far back as my upbringing in a small ranching community in Northern California...

Oct 24 8 minutes read

Steps for Landscaping Your New Home:

Research – Spend some time looking at other yards, determining what you like and do not like. Get to know your tastes and comfort level for maintenance.

Plot Your Property – Measure your yard, home, and outbuildings. Set a scale and plot your measurements on graph paper.

Sketch Your Dream Yard – Using the plotted map of the property you created, sketch in the yard your landscaping scheme. Call on your research phase to draw in flower or garden beds, determine the amount of grass you will want, and identify other areas for improvement.

Designate Locations for Special Features – If you know you eventually want to install a water feature, pond, gazebo, or fire pit. Be sure to designate and prep those areas in advance to avoid tearing up flower beds, shrubbery, or landscaping in the future.

Install Your Garden & Flower Beds – If you anticipate wanting certain locations in your yard for a garden or flower display in the future, consider preparing those areas in advance keeping in mind which spaces will be most visually appealing and have the best sunlight needed for your vegetation. 

Prepare Your Soil – Test your soil and add soil enhancers or and nutrients if necessary to ensure proper growth.

Plant Your Grass – Determine whether sod or seed is a better option for your grass needs. Some people use sod in the front yard to add immediate curb appeal and seed the back to reduce cost.seed the back to reduce cost.

Install Your Watering System – Consider hiring a professional for this phase. If you choose to install your sprinkler and drip systems yourself, you can find many helpful resources available online or at your local garden center.

Schedule Your Projects – Look ahead at your yearly schedule and determine when you will tackle each individual project. Scheduling each piece of yard installation helps keep you on track and encouraged.


The key to creating a great outdoor space is planning. With a plan in hand, each individual task that you tackle will further the overall goal. When you plan smaller, isolated projects, you may find that you will have to undo or redo the same area as your vision expands. Take a soil sample to your local extension agent for testing. Knowing your soil PH can help you determine the best plants for your soil type.

Before creating your master plan, visit other homes that feature landscaping you enjoy. Take pictures, make notes, and talk to the owners, if possible. Write down the names of shrubs, trees, and flowers that you like. Take note of special features that catch your eye. Consider how much upkeep you are willing to do. Different styles of landscaping require different levels of maintenance. Do you like to mow? What about trimming? Are you willing to weed between plants, or do you require weed-free beds? Knowing yourself will help you determine what style of landscaping will fit your needs in appearance and long-term upkeep.weed free beds? Knowing yourself will help you determine what style of landscaping will fit your needs in appearance and long-term upkeep.

Plot Your Property

Break out some graph paper, a measuring tape, a pencil with a good eraser, and get ready to plot your yard the way it is now. Take measurements of the yard, the driveway, the house, and any other existing structures. Set a scale (one square equals this much distance) and graph your property onto the page. Do this in pencil because you are sure to make changes along the way.

Sketch Your Dream Yard

Using the sketch of your yard and reviewing the research you have, stand out in your yard as you envision what you would your future outdoor living space to be. Draw in the areas where you would like to have grass, and sketch in the beds you would like to see in the yard.

Ground Preparation

If your ground is very rocky, it may require you to bring in several loads of top soil.  Using recommendations from your county extension agent, supplement your soil with the property nutrients and fertilizers.

If you plan to have any raised beds or tiered landscaping, you will need to have soil brought in for those areas before you start planting the lawn.


Having a yard that is easy to care for requires a low-maintenance, underground watering system. If you plan to install much of your landscaping yourself, this is the one area where you might still consider hiring a professional. Professionals will install the watering system in less time, with industry standard materials and workmanship and offer you peace of mind knowing you can call them back if anything goes wrong.

If you do want to install the sprinkler and drip systems yourself, however, you will find many helpful videos and tutorials available online or at your local home improvement stores, about installing a sprinkler system. Be sure to plan for supplying water to any water features.

Caution: If you are planning to install your own water system, be sure to install a reduced pressure backflow device, whether you are tapping into city water or well water it is advisable to do your homework in advance.

Set A Schedule

Once you have your yard “roughed in,” set a schedule for the projects on your sketch. Prioritize by choosing the most impactful, first. Sets dates for completing the projects, as if you were scheduling a vacation. There is a saying about eating an elephant that applies to big projects like this. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Doing one project at a time, will keep you motivated and often works better when you are trying to stick to a budget.


Laying sod is the fastest way to get an established lawn. If your ground is prepared well, a sod lawn can generally be laid in an afternoon or a weekend, depending on the size of the yard. Once laid, keep it amply watered to avoid dry roots which will leave you with dead spots. Keep off the grass for a few weeks, as the sod gets established. You may want to stake it with caution tape. It is easy to leave dents in wet sod.

Seeding is less expensive than sod but takes longer to establish. Choose a seed type based on light, soil, and appearance. This guide on seed will help you determine what seed, or blend, will best suit your needs.

Once you have spread the seed, add fertilizer designed for new lawns, and cover it with a light layer of peat moss. Many people use straw to cover new seed, but this can produce weeds that you will have to combat later.


The landscaping beds that you have planned may fall into different categories. Raised beds are great for creating interest and breaking up large expanses of grass. Beds along the house or around the edges of the yard, help to define the property. Flower beds or shrubbery encompassing the house can help hide an unsightly foundation or add color and interest. If you have water features planned for your yard, install them as you go along to prevent tearing up established beds later.

Landscaping your yard is a long-term proposition. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you have to install everything in a single month or even a year. Once you have the basics in, you can work on your master plan a little at a time until you have created an outdoor living space of which you can be truly proud.

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