Having your own yard and open garden area is a wonderful thing- you can grow healthy organic fruits and vegetables, make the outside of your home look lovely with elegantly placed plants and flowers, and decorate to your heart’s content. If you lack natural landscaping and gardening savvy, though, having a yard can quickly turn your dream come true into a nightmare. If you are looking for a little bit of landscaping 101, here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Assess what you have to work with 

Not all lawns are alike- that’s where the fun of designing your landscape comes in. However, if you only have 500 square feet to work with, you cannot map out a 100 acre pasture. You need to scrutinize the grounds you have to work with (including types of natural vegetation and soil already there) and plan accordingly. This will allow you to develop a fundamental master plan for the finished product that’s sure to please. Also know what your budget for home landscaping is- some plants are incredibly affordable, whereas others can prove rare and ring up a hefty price tag.

2. Create your master plan 

This is the time when you get to dream up what your yard is going to look like. Take time to look up plants and flowers that grow well in your climate. Research other landscapes to see if there are any ideas you might want to borrow. Remember, this part of landscaping 101 is all about imagining and having fun. If the phrase “master plan” is too daunting, go with a long-range plan or list of potential projects.

3. Get some time hands on…before you DIY 

Some portions of landscaping require practice, and you don’t always want to make your own yard the guinea pig. If you hear of a friend who is planting an heirloom garden or building a deck and needs help, volunteer to pitch in. Not only will you get some well-earned brownie points with the friend (and maybe an IOU that you can cash in when you are doing your own landscaping), but you’ll learn skills that you can apply to your own outdoor decorating. Find out what works and what doesn’t by helping someone else- it’ll pay off big time.

4. Prioritize and go for it!

You have your budget, your master plan, and a brand new skill set- time to put them all to work. Decide on one of the projects from your master plan or long-range plan and get going. For first-timers, it is important to pick a task you feel you can accomplish. If you have to choose between planting an herb garden and building a gazebo from scratch, better to pick the job you can feel good about having accomplished in quick order. Psychology is part of landscaping 101 too, and it is important that you feel capable of accomplishing your master plan; otherwise, you may give up on a worthwhile project!