Simple Landscaping Ideas for Beginners



To start off, we'll share some easy-to-do landsc

To start off, we’ll share some easy-to-do landscape projects as well as some money-saving landscaping tips:

1. Mix Soil and Homemade Compost

If you’re planting flowers or plants, you may be tempted to buy pricey potting soil. While soil is essential for your plants’ health, you don’t have to use only soil — you can actually save a significant amount by mixing soil with your household’s leftover organic scraps.

If you don’t have the time to make and maintain a compost pile, you can alternatively mix in your discarded coffee grounds and the mud- or clay-like dirt in your yard to make your soil go further. You can also save by adding mulch, which also provides plants with nutrition but costs slightly less than potting soil.

2. Begin With Young Shrubs and Plants

When shopping at the nursery, people are typically more drawn to mature flowers and plants due to their visual appeal. However, the only difference between mature and young plants of a given species is their price tag. If you want to save big, pick younger plants. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fast they grow once they’re planted.

3. Wait Until the End of the Season

Nurseries, like clothing retailers, try to get rid of last season’s trees, shrubs and plants with clearance sales, which are a great opportunity to save money if you’re willing to wait. Keep your eye out at the end of the spring and summer seasons. Even if the flowers and leaves appear unkempt and scorched, they’re perfectly salvageable as long as they have green stems. Just make sure to plant them soon after you buy them and give them sufficient water.

4. Make Your Own Stepping Stones

Stepping stones are a great touch to any yard, but buying stepping stones from the store can cost hundreds of dollars, even for a short path. Instead, consider making a beautiful homemade pathway with the following supplies:

  • Quick-setting cement, one 40-pound bag
  • A shovel or hand-shovel to mix
  • A paint bucket
  • A ruler
  • Decorative shells or marbles, one bag
  • Shallow cardboard boxes, square-shaped

Using your paint bucket, mix your cement with water according to the instructions on the bag. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, pour the cement into your cardboard box. Then, place the shells or marbles in the cement and let it dry. After 24 hours, check the dryness. If it’s set sufficiently, just peel away or cut the cardboard and you’ve got an adorable stepping stone.

5. Pick Perennials

Even though there are a lot of beautiful annual flowers out there, picking flowers that die each year will end up costing you a lot. Instead, consider buying charming perennials like catmint, coreopsis and alstroemeria, which will come back every year with vibrant, colorful flowers and leaves. Although the upfront cost of perennials is a bit higher, remember that they’ll be a permanent fixture in your yard — not a rapidly fading annual plant or flower.

6. Divide and Conquer

Keep in mind that, after a perennial is planted, it will grow for several years. Instead of purchasing new flowers every year, you can just uproot and move the new blooms germinated from the previous year’s perennials. You can save a great amount of money each year by just dividing the blooms and replanting them in different portions.

7. Take Advantage of Free Mulch From Your Community

Communities often offer their residents free mulch — you just have to know where to find it. If you live in a city that picks up tree cuttings during the spring and fall, there’s a good chance that it processes the waste by sticking it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch. Find out if your community has a mulch program. If it does, keep in mind that you might need a truck to transport it back to your home. You’ll probably also need a shovel, as the mulch is not usually bagged.

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3- Create a scale plan (drawing) of your landscape

The next thing that you want to do after you curate some photos and determine your garden style is to actually measure your yard and draw it out. It’s called drawing a scale plan.

And I know this is daunting. Most people don’t want to do this. And, that’s why they can’t have the garden they’ve always dreamed of. Believe me when I tell you that this step is a non-negotiable when creating a landscape from scratch.

To properly plan out your garden, you need to know the size of your garden and what else may play a part in the plants and materials you choose. A lot of times people think they have a rectangular square yard. But then if you look at the actual scale plan, you’ll realize that it’s longer on one side than the other… or there’s a corner of your lot that juts out a bit that you never noticed before doing this. Some of these things are not easy to see without the drawing.

In order to create a scale plan drawing of your la
In order to create a scale plan drawing of your landscape, you’ll first need to take measurements. I just jot the numbers down on a piece of paper attached to a clipboard as I measure the perimeter and other objects in the yard.

How to measure and draw your yard to scale

Start your scale plan by measuring the perimeter of your property and marking the distances on a sheet of paper. You can use a fiber tape reel which is just a large, flexible tape measure that can measure long distances. Here’s the Amazon link for the one I use by Komelon. It comes in 100′, 200′ and 330′ lengths.

Using graph paper, you’ll be able to scale down that size based on the squares in the paper. For example, maybe one square on the paper is one foot in your garden. So if your yard is 40 feet long, you will draw a line that’s 40 squares of the grid paper in length.

Alternative to hand-drawing a scale plan

If this is sounding way too complex for you, another great option is to find your house on Google Maps. When you type in your address on Google Maps, you’ll get an overhead view of your property so you can see your whole property at one glance! Even better yet, switch to the “Satellite mode” so you can see a real photo of your house, trees and other elements of your property. Right-click on the map to print out the picture of your property and you’re off to the races.

You can watch this video for more information: How to use Google Maps to create a Landscape Base Map.

Lastly, you can also hire a site surveyor in order to do this work for you. Here’s some more information about boundary surveys and what you’ll need to know before you hire a professional.

Don’t forget to make a few copies of it so you can use them in the next few steps.

Using Form and Texture

Maria Pia De Stefani / EyeEm / Getty Images

Flowers are great but don’t forget the characteristics of a plant’s branching pattern and foliage. In landscape design, varying form and texture is one way to spice up a yard with diversity. Evergreen conifers, while lacking flowers altogether, nonetheless have foliage that offers a myriad of different forms and textures. While browsing these do-it-yourself landscaping tips, you’ll discover many ways to enhance the beauty of your yard.

4. Start Small

Sure, complete outdoor makeovers can happen in just three days on your favorite home and garden show, but they have a huge crew to handle the heavy lifting, which is not a situation enjoyed by most beginner home gardeners. Part of creating a landscape you'll love is slowly developing a plan and enjoying the process. From your master plan, start with a small flower bed. Go out and work on it for an hour or two when you have the time, and worry less about filling everything up right away. Lipanovich notes that when you take your time with your DIY landscape design, you're less likely to get sloppy or resort to shortcuts you'll regret later.

garden firepit outside backyard irrigation Credit: Marion Brenner

9. Add the final touches

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Last but absolutely not least is when you should start adding final touches to water features including any ponds that need filling. This is also when you can start to fill raised beds for your kitchen garden and so on. At which point you’ll be able to sow your lawn, or lay any turf around it (if you want one that is!) to let it establish.

7. Put in hard landscaping

(Image credit: Future / Brent Darby)

Hard landscaping takes in the structural features of a backyard such as paths, patios, decks, walls, garden fence ideas, edging, raised beds and more. Each landscaping element can be designed in a variety of materials.

The materials for a backyard landscaping project will often be suggested by the style of the outdoor space you’re planning, whether that’s more traditional or tends to the contemporary. 

But as well as the style, think, too, about the durability and maintenance requirements of each to ensure they’re suitable for the time you can dedicate to tending your backyard, and the budget available in the long term.

For patios and garden path ideas, choose between pavers with more rustic style like those that resemble cobblestone or old brick, or opt for choices such as flagstones, natural stones that are suitable for outdoor use, and porcelain pavers. 

For deck ideas, composite and PVC boards can all be considered, and the best option will likely depend on funds available for landscaping. 

Be mindful, though, that initial landscaping cost should not be the only consideration as, depending on the wood, regular maintenance can be required, bringing extra costs over the lifetime of the deck.

Gravel may suit a country-style backyard or a contemporary design, and is suitable for paths as well as larger areas. 

While you’ll want to select a range of materials for the various hard landscaping elements of the backyard, bear the overall color palette in mind. You might want to combine browns and brick red shades for example, or choose a paler selection of materials. 

‘Bright light colors are the contemporary way to go when considering flooring in a modern design,’ says Jack Dunckley. ‘Creams and whites offer the perfect backdrop for features such as potted plants and luxury furniture. 

Lighter colors also give the illusion of a bigger space and contrast beautifully with the rich red and browns of any brickwork used in a house or wall.’

2. Decide whether to DIY or hire a garden landscaper

The key here is to know your limits and your budget. Planting, installing off-the-peg water features, adding a new gravel path or lawn, laying decking and garden fencing are within the scope of the keen amateur; however, walling, laying expensive stone pavers, concrete rendering and electrical work should be carried out by professionals for a quality, safe finish, even if you do have a small plot. Contractors that are affiliated to either the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) or the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) should be your first choice, Checktrade is also a good place to find reputed garden landscapers that are UK-based.

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright)

How do I landscape my backyard?

Whether you decide to use a garden designer or to create your backyard yourself, there are many decisions to be made regarding materials, so it pays to understand the pros and cons of each. 

Your first priority will be to establish the functional spaces, from patios to paths. The expanse of an area and its use will dictate which materials are most suitable. 

For instance, a hard standing for a table and chairs needs to be flat and stable, and you might want to keep granular aggregates such as gravel or bark away from the entrance of the house so they are not trampled inside.  

Think about how materials combine to add color, texture and interest, and how they will interact with plants, and don’t forget how they will complement the house when viewed from the garden. 

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

Sleek, smooth stone that continues inside the house is a chic option if you have a modern extension or folding doors, but it could look too harsh, butted straight up to a red brick period home or a rustic cottage.

There is no shortage of hard landscaping style ideas for gardens, from the charmingly rustic to something more sleek and modern, with everything in between.

In general, hard landscaping tends to be the star of modern backyard designs, and the range of materials suitable for such spaces is more extensive – mirror, metal, concrete and painted walls, to name a few. 

But there are no rules to say that you could not consider using these in the most traditional herbaceous gardens as well. The trick is to create a single, homogenous design. 

‘Simple, elegant detailing is often the key to a successful space,’ explains garden designer Robert Myers. ‘People often over-complicate design by putting too many ideas and patterns into a small space, making it look busy and fussy.’

Cover Your Grass With Plywood

Bricks and stone really tear up grass. If you’re not careful, you’ll have to lay new sod. Plywood keeps shards and soil from mingling with grass and makes it easy to clean up with a shovel. You can also prevent wheelbarrow ruts by covering the route with strips of plywood. Don’t have a wheelbarrow? You can make your own DIY garden cart.

Rethink Foundation Plants

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“Avoid treating foundation plants as if they were little soldiers pressed up along the perimeter of your house,” advises Winslow. “For a two-story house, foundation plantings should extend at least eight feet out from the house.” When you’re planting shrubs, think about how they will look in three to five years. “You don’t want to select varieties that will block your windows,” she adds. Related: 9 of the Best Shrubs for Any Garden istockphoto.com

Easy Front Yard Landscaping Ideas

Whereas your backyard is dedicated to fun for you, your friends and your family, your front yard is what you show off to neighbors and passers-by. A well-designed, well-maintained front yard will create a great first impression for all who enter your home — including potential buyers. Here are a few simple ways to make this important outdoor space stand out:

1. A Post and Rail Fence

While you may associate fences with keeping out prying eyes, post and rail fences are meant to attract passers-by. They do so by defining the borders of your property. Generally speaking, a defined area —whether it be defined by fences, hedges or stone walls — is more attractive than an open-ended space.

2. Driveway Design

If you’ve defined your front yard with a fence, hedge or wall, chances are it is breached by your driveway. At the entrance to the driveway, you can choose to frame it with a driveway gate. Make sure to keep the landscaping around your driveway’s entrance well maintained, as this area greatly impacts a passer-by’s first impression of the property.

Easy Mulch Spreading

Getting mulch up close to flowers and bushes is easier if the mulch is in a small container. So I place buckets and pails in my wheelbarrow and fill them up with mulch. It doesn’t matter much if the mulch misses the bucket and lands in the wheelbarrow. Once you’re done dumping the buckets, dump what’s left in the wheelbarrow in an open area and spread it out. — Eric Swartz

1. Determine Landscape Needs and Wants

Make a list of needs and wants. Do your kids need a play space? Do you want to grow vegetables? Would your family enjoy gathering on a patio? Do some very rough sketches of the yard with thoughts of where you want to place things; it's a great organizing principle for landscape design for beginners. They don't need to be master plans (they can just be ideas), according to Marianne Lipanovich, author of the Big Book of Garden Designs. Her sketch for her front yard landscape design overhaul was just a few lines and a couple of circles. You can easily play around with ideas without a lot of time and commitment.

Create an Entrance

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“If your driveway is a straight line from the street to the house,” says Winslow, “soften the line with a curved planting bed where the driveway meets the front corner of your yard.” This will create a pleasing sweeping effect as you approach the house. Related: 9 Popular Driveway Options to Welcome You Home istockphoto.com

3. Think about themes

 When deciding on a theme for your yard, a good plA theme can unify your landscape and help guide your plant and material selections. Themes can be as simple as using consistent shapes or forms throughout your yard or as complex as creating a relaxation garden or an Oriental garden.

When deciding on a theme for your yard, a good place to start is looking at the architecture of your home. Try to complement the lines and style of your home’s architecture in your yard; after all, your yard is an extension of your home.

Themes can help guide how you place and select plants, decorations, hardscapes, and structures. Are you someone who wants lots of neat, geometric shapes and structures in your landscape? Do you want softer lines and a more natural feel to your space? Do you want a landscape to include only specific colors? Questions like these will help you choose a unified theme for your garden.

For more on finding inspiration for your design theme, read the EDIS publication Landscape Design: Finding Inspiration for a Design Theme. Gardening Solutions also has articles on specific Types of Gardens.

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