6 Tips for First-Time Landscapers & Front Yard Landscaping – Stage 1

As mentioned here, I snuck after work one evening and did some plant “window shopping.”  Well, shortly thereafter, Eric and I got the serious bug to actually pick out and purchase our plants.  Now, I must say that this whole, first-time-homeowner-landscaper thing is quite the experience, so if you’ve never done it before, this is what we recommend…

6 Tips for First-Time Landscapers

    1. Take a few hours and walk around a big box garden department or nursery and get a sense of the various sizes of plants, prices, varieties, and the differences between perennials and annuals, and the differences between evergreen and deciduous trees
    2. Drive around neighborhoods, gardens, parks, and shopping centers and observe their landscaping. Figure out how layering looks, what plants you do and don’t like, and whether you like a fuller or more spaced apart look (we call the spaced apart look “breathing gardens” because some of the other fuller gardens make us feel claustrophobic)
    3. Go to a local nursery and have one of their specialists walk you through and help you figure out what plants will work for you – We went to our local nursery, Green Acres!  They are fantastic!  At a local nursery, you will have the opportunity to interact with really talented, knowledgeable plant folks!  Issues to share with the specialist would be: how much work do you want to have to put into the garden, level of drought/weather tolerance needed, and what style of plants you like (country, tropical, woodsy, zen, etc.) We recommend, while at the nursery, taking pictures of the plants you like and the prices, so that you can put together a “mood board” or design plan at home later. This was REALLY helpful for us!


  1. Go home and measure your various planting areas to determine how much space you have and how many plants you’ll need
  2. Review your plant pictures and decide which plants you want to use and then how many of each you’ll need. We decided to buy smaller plants that will mature into larger plants in a year or so (it’s a great money saving technique!).
  3. Go to the nursery and buy buy buy!!! :) When we bought our plants, we selected all of the plants we wanted and then set them all beside each other to make sure we were achieving the look we wanted.  At that point, if any of them were out of place, we swapped them out at that point!

I know this process seems lengthy, but plants are not cheap and it’s fairly easy to get a aesthetically unpleasing look if you’re not careful!  Hopefully some of you find these tips helpful!

Front Yard Landscaping – Stage 1

All that said, once we got our plants home, we were stoked to get everything planted… but A LOT of prep work had to happen first.  So, our lonely plants chilled in the garage and in the sideyard for a few days while we hammered out the prep work.

Prep work included:

    • Digging out root systems of trees, plants, and bushes that we tore out
    • Rototiller-ing the planter beds (Eric though about this when we first bought our house and bough a weed eater that had interchangeable heads, so he just went to Sears and picked up the rototiller attachment)


    • Dig out any extra dirt. If  you see the “struggle” on Eric’s face, it’s because we live with clay, not dirt and it’s a total pain!


    • Raking and leveling the planter dirt
    • Repairing the drip system and adding TONS of new lines (we plotted out where the plants would be placed in order to properly determine the number and placement of the drip lines


  • Lastly, the holes were dug

Sadly, while Eric was doing much of the prep work, I was doing this…


Yup, studying for my law school finals!  (For those of you trying to figure out what that is, it’s my Real Property outline.  And YES, I do color code and make things pretty… it helps me study!)

So I totally know that some of you were hoping to see more plants, but I promise… that post will come early next week!  I figured it was best to break up the process since this was quite an ordeal (albeit very fun and rewarding!). Here’s a quick teaser pic to hold ya’ over!



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  1. Beautiful. Lots and Lots of work.

  2. Great post! I hope we have the budget to do some landscaping soon! Other wise I’ll just keep pinning things on Pinterest…

  3. Wahoo to landscaping! We’re just now finding out what died over the winter. Sadly, two of my roses for sure didn’t make it and another looks sketchy. I still have to plant my window boxes, too. Can’t wait to see what your ‘after’ looks like! :)

  4. Looks great! I just started my first vegetable garden a couple weeks ago. It’s so exciting to see the seeds sprout! We’re going to do the flower garden next.

  5. Still letting my muscles heal from last weekend’s patio & veggie garden creation… next weekend? Gross bushes removal. YAY! … “Yay”??!?

    You know what I don’t love? How quickly you can drop hundreds of dollars on landscaping! Oh, and how tropical plants don’t grow up here in the north (or, if they do, you have to store the bulbs= UGH!)

    • bummer about the tropical plants! :( We’ve been told that they’ll handle ok here… so we’ll see! :) And YES… it is amazing how quickly money goes when it comes to landscaping! Whew… first project and we came to a quick realization!!!

  6. Found you through Tip Junkie, your site is great!

    I am off to browse :)


  7. Thank you so much for these landscaping tips. I just moved into my first home where I get to do all the landscaping, and I’m so excited. These tips will be very helpful!

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