What I Wish I Knew Before DIY-ing My Landscaping

Proceed in an orderly fashion.

Jay Sifford Garden in Charlotte, BC The Front Garden soon followed, replacing sparse turf with a wide gravel pathway edged by a seating wall, low conifers.
Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Revamping your landscape can be daunting, especially when you want to go about it in a DIY fashion. There's one helpful thing to know before you begin, though, and it will make every piece of landscaping work that follows so much easier. Before tackling a DIY landscape design project, you must remember that planning makes perfect.

From the first ideas to the final plantings, planning is essential. That's why you must break out the gridded graph paper and sketch a detailed plan for how you want your landscape to look. Having a map of your intended designs notated with plantings and plots will help you imagine what should go where and then bring your vision to fruition. (It's also a handy guide to keep nearby when you're elbow-deep in hostas and need help remembering how many rows you meant to plant.)

You don't need to be an artist to create a helpful rendering. As you're sketching your landscape designs—no matter how rudimentary the map might be—there are a few things you should be sure to include.

1. Define Areas

Segmenting the landscape into manageable portions—the yard, the flowerbeds, the garden—helps create visual interest and a sense of order. Defined areas make the DIY landscaping process easier to manage. Tending to these areas allows you to maintain control of the space and cultivate it according to each area's needs.

2. Draw Distinct Borders

When creating areas of defined space in your landscape, it's essential to establish and maintain borders. These borders are key because edging can draw the eye to different locations, keep things looking tidy and organized, and allow you to add some style to your materials of choice. Check out the Southern Living Plant Collection for border planting ideas .

WATCH: The Prettiest Plant You've Never Heard Of

3. Choose Precise Plantings

Choosing and placing plants is half the fun, though, during this process, it's easy to become overwhelmed with choice. This step is guaranteed to be much smoother if you do the research and planning in advance as you sketch your landscape map. (Bonus points for organizing your planting plan with a color-coded key!) If you need help determining where to begin, read through our picks for the Best Plants to Grow and the Best Landscaping Ideas .

4. Determine Potential Pathways

It's not all about flowers, though. Incorporating architectural elements and pathways into a landscape design is a good way—often overlooked but always welcome—to significantly impact a yard or garden. Paths and walkways can direct visitors through the space and allow you to enjoy the fruits of your DIY landscaping efforts more efficiently.

Are you considering a DIY landscaping project in your yard this year? Let us know if you implement a plan and what tips for DIY landscaping you learn in the process.

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