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Front Yard Landscaping Tips: 350+ Gardeners’ Best Advice

Front Yard Landscaping Tips: 350+ Gardeners’ Best Advice

If you’re new to gardening, or even new to home ownership, you may be considering tackling your front yard landscaping. So… you may be wondering what are some of the mistakes that others have made before you get started. What to do… what NOT to do.

Recently, a survey of hundreds of gardeners revealed all of their tips and tricks for landscaping the front of your house.

I came across this really interesting post in the DIY Garden and Landscape Facebook group the other day. One of the group members asked,

“What is the #1 thing you wish you’d known before you landscaped the front of your house?”

I thought this was a great question! And I don’t think I was the only one that was thrilled to finally see a post that didn’t ask everyone to ID a specific plant.

There were HUNDREDS of responses to this question. At the time of writing this article, the post had over 350 comments on it. You can read the responses here, if you’re interested. Also, before you join, read this post about Facebook gardening groups: the good, the bad and the ugly.

I really enjoyed reading all of the advice. I also thought it would be fun to list a lot of these answers and also give you my own professional garden designer opinion on them.

Start with a plan for your front yard landscaping

Overwhelmingly the #1 response to this question was to PLAN FIRST. Whether the advice literally said “plan first” or the landscaping became overcrowded or plants were cited in the wrong location, many gardeners’ regrets were related to the fact that they didn’t plan for the full size of the plants.

  • “That i have added and changed my mind a million times. Wish i would have waited longer and truly figured out what i wanted.” -Cari W.
  • “[Add] top soil and pre plan everything.” -Jasmine F. (She likely means compost or good garden soil rather than topsoil. But yes, pre-plan!!!!)”
  • “We landscaped 3 times before it stuck. I suppose I would have done more research.” -Monja S.

Basically, when you don’t think things through and take into consideration ALL of the factors that surround the planting, you will regret it. It’s easy to forget this when you get to the garden center looking at all of those beautiful plants. But, you’ll see throughout this post that It’s a very expensive and time-wasting mistake.

Student garden plan and drawing
My student’s garden plan

Honestly, I’m not surprised that planning ahead was the most popular advice. I have made many of the same mistakes myself. It took me 6 years of ripping out my landscaping over and over again because I didn’t plan. Now I know that planning is the true key to success when you are tacking a landscaping project. Especially when you’re working on a space as prominent and visible as your front yard.

For some reason, my favorite advice, to “always create a plan first” is somewhat controversial. Some people are just not planners. I’ve just decided that these are not my people.

If you are my people, take a look at all of my garden planning courses and other resources I’ve created to help you properly plan your landscape design.

What Blooms with What?

Never know what to plant together? Find out with this FREE Plant Pairing Guide and become a pro at combining plants for the best garden design possible!

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Front yard landscaping DESIGN tips

Here are some of my favorite tips related to landscape design.

Know the mature size of a plant before you plant it

Notice how the landscape doesn’t just hug the foundation?
Choosing the right sized plants is important

Plant spacing and giving plant’s enough space to grow is really important. You need to check the plant labels for the actual full grown size of your plants. This means the height, the width and how tall it is while blooming and while not in bloom.

It’s a common mistake to plant too close or even too far apart. So, doing a bit of research first is well worth it. Should I emphasize the importance of making a plan, again? Nah, I think you’ve got it!

A plant may look small when you purchase it, but if it gets 8′ wide when full grown you’ll need to make sure it’s planted at least 4′ from every other plant in every direction. Otherwise you’ll cause overcrowding. You may even kill the plant because it doesn’t have enough space or light or is competing for nutrients in your soil.

In the beginning while my plants are growing to their mature size, I also like to add annuals in between to fill in the space while I wait.

Here is some advice from gardeners who didn’t think about spacing until it was too late:

  • “I wish the landscapers who did our landscaping would have accounted for how large things get and put in fewer shrubs.” -Kristen B.
  • “Spacing my plants are important!!! I mess that up big time over crowded.” -Plantlady S.
  • “The height of everything I planted. Some things got lost.” – Heidi T.
  • “I think spacing is key! Everything looks so small, but it will grow.” -Christy A.
  • “Take in account the size of mature plants. Read the label!! That tiny little plant could grow into a monster!!” -Andrea F.
  • “Read the tags, look up the plant online for the zones, the height and width and whether it takes sun or shade. Take an old yardstick with you to measure when planting and allow space for mature plants. I keep everything at least 12” at maturity off on the house or other plants to allow for air circulation unless you want them to grow together.” Pam B.

I really thought that Joshua made a great point, too, about the size of his garden beds.

  • “Wish I’d gone bigger. 1200 sq feet just isn’t enough room to layer in plants and all.” -Joshua D.

I always think foundation/front yard plantings are way too narrow. Your foundation planting bed should be AT LEAST 6 feet deep — more if possible. A lot of the spacing issues you read above are due to squishing and squeezing plants into a tiny strip that is not big enough. So, if you enjoy the look of a layered landscape with different rows and lush planting, you will need the space.

Try planting in groupings

Arranging plants in the garden is also really important and it’s an area where a lot of home owners get stuck. It’s tempting to buy one of this and one of that, but plants and flowers just look much better when they are massed together.

  • “I also like planting in groupings. The people who lived here previously did a great job of making sure something was always blooming in spring and summer, but I don’t like how there is one random plant that is different from a grouping.” -Christy A.

Actually, another member of the group, Cindy R., posted MY DRAWING in the comment thread as her best advice… which is very random. I’m not sure how she could post my advice and drawing as her advice? But, anyway, I was very excited to see it pop up! I feel a little famous now!

Here’s the drawing:

Arrange plants in the garden Infographic
If you want to give your plants enough space while arranging them so they’re aesthetically appealing, my post about arranging plants will show you how to do this.

What’s above, below and behind your plants?

This came up pretty often as well. In addition to spacing out your plants so they don’t become overcrowded, you should also look around the area.

This means above the planting (power lines, roofing, other trees, etc). It also means below the planting (sewer lines, water lines, electrical, gas, etc.).

It ALSO means behind the planting (home siding/windows, retaining walls, foundation). Also make sure that you’re thinking about your sight lines — will the shrubs block a window or make it difficult to pull out of your driveway?

  • “My shrubs got so tall that they blocked our windows!” -Jen V.
  • “The trees that were previously planted are all in the wrong spots. Against retainer walls and over sewer lines. ” -Lynne M.
  • “Don’t plant trees or shrubs so close to house.”-Deanna W.

Lots of warnings about where you shouldn’t place your plants. I hope that you’re learning something from all of the advice you’re reading here. I struggled between creating a separate section for these or putting them in the “create a plan” list. Almost every comment in the thread could end up in the create a plan section, though.

Know the sun/shade requirements

Stunning shade plants for your woodland garden
Some plants need shade in order to look their best.

Planting shade loving plants in full sun and visa versa is another common mistake I see. Different plants need different amounts of light and a lot of times if your plant is looking sick or sad it’s caused by it being in the wrong location (too much/not enough sun or some issue with your soil).

  • “I wish I paid more attention to which plants do best in morning/afternoon sun and shade! I could move them all but I’ll have to redo my entire beds.” -Tara B.

Choose hardscaping materials wisely

Here is some great advice from other gardeners who didn’t think about the materials before they chose them. There’s nothing wrong with any material here, they just weren’t right for this particular gardener’s situation — and that’s really the point here.

  • “Not to put dark rock. It will burn your plants….” -Lindsay S.
  • “That decomposed granite will be tracked in just like sand can be. And it leaves bigger scratches.” -Laura L.

The materials you choose for your hardscaping as well as your mulch and edging are really important. They all have their pros and cons so it’s not something you should do on a whim. Learn about the products your are using and think about your own personal needs before you choose the wrong thing.

As an example, if you are choosing materials for a pool area you’ll want to make sure that it’s non-slip. You’ll also want to make sure that the surface is ok to walk on barefoot — i.e. it won’t hurt/cut your feet and it won’t burn your feet. These all seem like common sense but you’d be surprised how many people choose a very dark composite decking near their pool and don’t think about how hot that will get on someone’s bare feet.

I’m also forever trying to steer people away from black rock as mulch in garden beds. Black absorbs heat and will make your soil warmer and therefore your plants will be warmer. Especially if you live in an already warm climate, black rocks are not a great idea in a garden bed. Maybe you can use them for aesthetics in another area of your landscape away from the plants, though!

Plants bloom at different times of year

The way use evergreens to create structure is to combine them with other plants in your mixed border.
Evergreen shrubs add year round structure

Plants often only bloom for a week or two so in order to make your landscape look professional, you need to add plants for structure like evergreen shrubs and plants that have really nice leafs and foliage.

  • “Definitely how long/when your perennials bloom (mix it up), the height (tallest in back), and how much they spread. Also, you can always add/take away… if you don’t like something where it is or it gets too big.. move it!” -Nicole S
  • “That some flowers only bloom for a week or two then die. Don’t make those your center pieces ?” -Lindsey S

My Design Your 4-Season Garden Course covers this topic in great detail and will teach you how to choose plants for each season of the year. For a quick read, check out this article: how to make your flowers bloom more… and longer.

A trick to get [free] help from the pros

This is something I always recommend if you have a lot of work to do and don’t know where to start. Lynne had kind of a cool hack here. While I often do this for renovation projects but never thought to do it for landscaping.

  • “I am getting free quotes from local companies to learn how to lay out my yard properly.” -Lynne M.

Also try to avoid crowdsourcing opinions in Facebook gardening groups. You will often get bad info or you’ll end up with so many options that you’ll be even more confused than when you started.

And, if your project doesn’t warrant the help of a professional, you can check out this post for some tips to get started.

Front yard landscaping PLANT CHOICE tips

Not surprisingly, a lot of advice that rolled in was about specific plants that people had planted. Most of these were warnings about plants that they shouldn’t have planted. Or that they didn’t know were bad, or spread or looked funky. Here are some of the best.

Choose some native plants

conflower native plant
Coneflower is a beautiful US native plant

This is also something I wish I knew when I was a beginner. I didn’t know anything about native plants or invasive plants and their impacts on the environment and the local wildlife in your area.

  • “Native plants are good too.” -Sandy H

You can check out this post to learn more about natives and how you can start to incorporate them into your gardens.

Grass is high maintenance and not all that good for the environment

I feel like this next comment is an advanced tip. I definitely agree and every year I’m shrinking my grass areas more and more to make more space for gardens. Planting a grass lawn is actually a really weird custom here in the United States. It’s not natural and it’s also probably the thing that creates the MOST maintenance in your yard.

  • “There are other ground covers besides grass, that are easier to take care of, better for the environment, and actually have a purpose.” -Chasidy C
  • “A garden without grass is a lot easier to keep…” -Tina H.

If you want to take the advice here, check out some groundcovers I really like.

Some plants can take over; do your research

If you’re new to gardening it’s important to know that there are a lot of plants that will spread aggressively in the garden. I think this is something that every gardener learns… eventually. Unfortunately, the difficult thing about aggressive spreading plants is that a plant’s ability to spread really depends on where you live and the conditions you have. Certain plants will really take over in one area while in a different climate they will do just fine. So, just do your research first!

  • “Not to let the Bishop’s weed grow before I knew what it was. Now it is everywhere.” -Anita M.
  • “Not to plant so much ivy.” -Michele M
  • “That swamp hydrangeas could take over my yard!? i think they are pretty though. Just not much room for anything else.” -Jennifer H.

Unfortunately there are many, many, many, many more plants that are very aggressive and can not only be a pain to eradicate but can also cause some serious damage to your home.

In addition to aggressive plants, there are invasive plants, which are non-native and harmful to the area that you live. These plants can be real huge thugs in the garden and wipe out native plants and habitat for animals.

Here are some of my favorite apps that you can use to identify plants you like that you see “in the wild.” Choosing plants that you see growing in your own neighborhood is a great way to help you decide what will work in your own yard.

Front yard landscaping SOIL & DRAINAGE tips

Lots of helpful advice popped up in the category of either soil, draining and grading. Honestly, I think water problems are the absolute WORST problem to have. Any pooling water near your foundation is such a huge problem to have and should be corrected immediately. So before you go digging out beds next to your home’s foundation, you should definitely read through these useful tips!

Dirt/soil matters more than you think

flower growing in poor soil

It seems strange that many people neglect the soil, which is where you are putting your plants into the ground. The main thing to know here is that different plants like different types of soil. So, if you are not sure what your soil is made of and you are choosing plants blindly, you are probably wasting a lot of money. This is a big reason why plants die — because they aren’t suited for the conditions you have.

  • “The type of dirt I have! Which is red dirt, clay, and lots of limestone” -Nyshelle W.
  • “That all the dirt the builder left was crap and we should’ve brought on topsoil for all the beds before we planted a damn thing!” -Michelle S.

I have heard Michelle’s issue a lot in my career. I don’t have a new build but if you do you should dig down into the soil a bit to see what’s going on there. You can also get your soil tested to see if it’s any good. In general whenever I’m making a new garden bed I always add loads of compost and organic matter to it to resolve this.

Check out this article about soil for more information about soil types and how to amend the soil.

I also cover this in my free video training about my 3 gardening secrets — it’s actually Secret #3.

Address any drainage problems, first

Create a dry creek bed french drain
Create a dry creek bed french drain (Source)

The type of soil you have can also lead to more serious issues, like drainage. If you have a heavy, clay soil that will not drain, the water will end up pooling in different areas of your yard. Pooling water near your foundation is a big issue.

I suppose that’s why two of the most popular posts on my website happen to be about drainage: How to grade a yard and how to install a french drain. It seems to be an afterthought for a lot of home owners.

Poor draining soil can also sit in your flower beds and kill or damage the plants you purchased.

  • “Wahhhhhh that we needed to build in some sort of drainage in our flowerbed…. so we will be redoing that!” -Angie R
  • “I’ve recently learned from a friend that landscaping too close to the house can cause drainage issues around the foundation and may lead to basement flooding or water getting into the walls.” -Shannon C.
  • “To grade it so the water wants to run away from the foundation, and that if trees are planted too close to the foundation, you’ll just end up ripping them out. And if you are planting both grass and trees, consider whether the grass can live under the shade made by the trees. Oh, and don’t rely on hand watering. Irrigation is key. Oh, and try to get the hardscape in first.” -Caitlin J.

When you end up having to fix a drainage problem like Angie’s, you’ll have to dig up all of your foundation plantings, too. Most of the homes I see with this problem don’t have healthy plants here anyway because they are all drowning in water.

I always recommend hiring a professional landscape architect or a contractor to come out and look at water and drainage problems

Landscape fabric doesn’t prevent weeds

How to prevent weeds from sucking the life out of your garden

Many home owners think that putting down a layer of landscape fabric will resolve weed issues in the garden. This simply is not true. The reason is that they don’t ONLY come from the ground. Weeds are also carried through the air by birds and even the wind. So, a layer of landscape fabric isn’t going to do much to help you with that. It can also be difficult to remove if you change your mind later. It’s equally difficult to keep it covered.

  • “Not to use landscape fabric, I spend more time each year trying to cover it up. From the wind blowing the material on top of it off.” -Jessica C.

Although Jessica is more concerned with the aesthetics of landscape fabric, It’s also terrible for your soil and for your plants to smother them with fabric. Earlier we touched upon how important the soil is for your plants. With a layer of landscape fabric over the soil, how will you feed the plant living in the soil? Covering it up is just a band-aid.

  • “If I’d known I wanted to plant sunflowers, I would not have put landscaping fabric down. Now they can’t root deep enough.” -Sonya R.

Sonya also made a good point about weed fabric. Some plants will not be able to grow with the fabric down. They also will have trouble naturalizing, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on who you ask. I personally love a naturalized garden.

Use weed fabric under hardscaping; not garden beds

So, what is landscape fabric actually good for? I never use it in my beds with plants. But, it can be a decent solution for any kind of patios or walkways that you have. It’s also useful as a layer between the soil and decorative stone.

  • “I only use landscaping fabric around my house where I have shrubbery. It too will eventually get weeds sown on top. In flowers beds I use layered newspaper or cardboard. If you have new soil make sure and amend the soil to have some good dirt to grow in. Most of all, relax and have fun, they are just plants.” -Pam B.

I’m not sure if I’d even use fabric under shrubbery, to be honest. Although, I like Pam’s other ideas!

Instead of landscape fabric, try using the no dig method for creating garden beds. This is kind of what Pam is talking about with layering newspaper or cardboard. It’s also called sheet mulching.

Step by step NO DIG flower bed Pinterest image
Click the image for all the steps to the no-dig method.

And, as I’ve said, no matter what method you choose, you’ll always get weeds due to wind and birds. Learn how to prevent weeds from sucking the life out of your garden.

You will make mistakes… and that’s ok

While there were so, so many great tips and responses. There were a few cringe-worthy ones that I didn’t care for. I’m not including them in this post… but I think it’s important to point out that not all advice is good advice. So, take everything with a grain of salt.

I’ve really slammed you with a ton of information here. And what I think you should take out of this is the bits and pieces that will help you.

And just know that making mistakes is part of being a gardener. I like to say that if you’re not killing plants you’re not growing as a gardener.

  • “Landscaping is ever changing. Know something might die or fail. Try again or try something else!” -Pam B.

It’s important to acknowledge that landscaping changes. Plants die even when you don’t want them to and/or did nothing “wrong”. Shrubs grow bigger than you think. Other shrubs don’t grow nearly big enough. Flowers go in and out of bloom. Some years the garden looks great. Some years it looks like crap through circumstances you can’t control (usually the weather; drought, frost, etc).

What I love the most about gardening is that it’s full of surprises. And full of new challenges. And full of opportunities to make a landscape that’s uniquely you. Aren’t you excited to get planting?

Wrapping Up

I’m curious what your #1 tip for a beginner that’s looking at landscaping the front of their house for the very first time? Do you agree with some of the other gardeners’ suggestions or would you have said something different?

My #1 tip is always to start with a plan. And that’s why I’ve created so many articles and tools to help you to do that. From my garden planning worksheets, to ebooks, to online courses about garden planning… I really do try to provide home gardeners like you with all of the tools you’ll need to design a beautiful 4-season landscape that’s uniquely you — the first time.

Here are a few articles about planning your garden that you may want to check out next:

350+ gardeners share their top front yard landscaping tips
Don’t forget to pin this post for later!

More Gardening Inspiration!

Get beautiful landscaping on a budget with these tips

Get beautiful landscaping on a budget with these tips

Creating beautiful landscaping on a budget sounds like an impossible task. But, it’s a common question that deserves an answer. Although landscaping can be expensive, there are ways to offset the costs. So, if you have huge landscape dreams but shallow pockets, here are some ways that you can get through this!

The balance between time and money

When trying to landscape on a budget, you need to be aware of the balance between your resources of time/effort vs. money. You can save money by spending more time and effort doing it yourself. Or you can get it done with less time and effort by hiring out the job. It’s all about maintaining the balance between how much time and effort you can spend and how much money you can spend.

Maybe you don’t have a large budget, but you have some money to spend. Are there some landscaping tasks that you really aren’t comfortable or capable of doing on your own that you can outsource? It may be cheaper to hire someone to do those specific tasks than if you hired out the entire project. This is a good way to save some money on your landscaping project without having to sacrifice quality or your precious time.

What Blooms with What?

Never know what to plant together? Find out with this FREE Plant Pairing Guide and become a pro at combining plants for the best garden design possible!

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Prioritize your projects

Now that you understand the balance between time and money, let’s talk priorities. Landscape projects also consist of a balance between beauty and function. When working on a budget,  I recommend that you prioritize your functional needs over your aesthetic desires. You may need to sacrifice some beauty to make your landscaping functional. Before you make it pretty, you have to make it work.

Here are some ways to determine what’s most important on your landscaping to-do list.

beautiful landscaping on a budget
What’s already working in your landscaping? Take those ideas and run with them in other areas… like this beautifully naturalized meadow of daisies.

What parts of your landscaping are already working?

Are there spaces in your landscape that you already really love and enjoy? Consider how you can improve upon areas you already love. With a few slight tweaks, could make these spaces even better? This may be an easy budget-friendly project that will take a minimal amount of effort and money but produce a great result for you.

Also think about ways you can apply what’s already working to other areas of your landscape. You can you take pieces from the areas you love to create more function, beauty and comfort to other areas of your landscape.

If you’re landscaping on a budget, consider using leftover materials from the original project to complete your new project.

What’s definitely not working in your landscape?

Are there areas of your landscape that you really just hate? This is a good place to focus your time, effort and budget as well. To save money, you can consider just blocking the view to this unsightly area until you have more time and money to dedicate to fixing the area. Can you block, hide, cover or camouflage an area instead of actually landscaping it?

Quick Tip: Read my post on how to start landscaping your yard to learn how to get started with your first landscaping project.

Where do you spend the most time?

What are some of your most used spaces? What to do you walk across the most, relax in the most, view the most or experience the most? Prioritize the spaces you use most in your landscaping budget.

For example, consider how you access your front door from the street or your parking area. Is the walkway wide enough?  Do you enjoy walking to your front door? Are there any tripping hazards? Is there proper lighting? Is it clear for guests how they should get to the front door from the parking area?

Your property entry is a great place to start if you are landscaping on a budget. Improving the function and aesthetic appeal of your entry is something you can enjoy every day. It will also improve your curb appeal and increase the value of your home (more on this in the next section).

What landscaping projects will increase the value of your home?

What landscaping projects will give you the biggest return on investment (ROI)? A beautiful, well-kept landscape is the very definition of curb appeal. If you are landscaping on a budget, consider focusing your priorities on the areas that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Notice how the landscape doesn’t just hug the foundation?

Improving your front entry and foundation planting will boost your home value more than any other landscaping project. According to landscape economist John Harris, a beautiful and well-kept landscape can account for 28% of your home’s overall value.

Take the time to create a plan

My printable project planning worksheets will help you stay on budget during your next landscaping project.

So, you’ve decided on a budget. You’ve determined how much time and energy you can dedicate to your project. You’ve even prioritized your list so you know what’s most important. Now, you need to create a plan.

Many times, in an effort to save money, home owners will DIY their landscape project and actually create more issues. Before you fall into this trap, create a plan for your project and take the time to understand how to tackle the project.

Quick Tip: My printable project planning worksheets will help you stay on budget during your next landscaping project.

Pick your plants last

Notice that I didn’t say pick your plants first! Plants are kind of like the icing on the landscaping cake.

  • Start with a good plan (a recipe)
  • Execute the plan (bake)
  • This will create a solid foundation (cake)
  • Once all of this is done, you can ice and decorate (plants)

If you have a crooked cake you may be able to disguise some of the issues with the frosting… but it will probably look kind of crappy. But, if you didn’t follow the recipe or bake it long enough, it won’t taste good. It’s really hard to fix this without starting over. And starting over can cost you not only money… but time and effort.

Yarrow, catmint and salvia complimentary garden color schemes

I believe I’ve made my point! Start with a plan. Execute the plan. Choose your plants (LAST). Working with a plan will ensure that you do the project right the first time. I’m sure this sounds obvious, but it’s really important. Low maintenance and durable designs are more cost-effective and time-effective in the long run. So, invest in the knowledge you need to do the project right the first time. Otherwise, you’ll be spending your time maintaining or money replacing your mistakes.

Quick Tip: Check out my article on Landscape Layering when you’re ready to choose plants.

What Blooms with What?

Never know what to plant together? Find out with this FREE Plant Pairing Guide and become a pro at combining plants for the best garden design possible!

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Start with a small landscaping project

beautiful landscaping on a budget

If you’re landscaping on a budget or are intimidated by starting a large landscaping project, there’s nothing wrong with starting a small project first. Instead of tackling your whole front yard, start with a front porch flag or a mailbox garden. Once you gain more confidence, you can continue to build upon that first small project.

Even when you start small, start with a plan. Dream big at first then break down your big dream into smaller, manageable projects that you can accomplish one at a time. Maybe you can’t afford a $10,000 landscaping project, but could you break that project down into phases that you could work on over the course of four or five years? This brings me to my next tip… working in phases.

Work on your landscaping in budget-friendly phases

When you break your landscaping project into smaller projects, you’ll be able to achieve your landscaping goals at a pace and price you can handle. Start small and only take on what you handle. This is a little bit of a tortoise vs. the hair analogy. Slow and steady CAN win the race.

There is a risk involved with taking on a project in phases: weeds. Make sure that you don’t tear up too much of your landscape at one time. Remember… phases. Cover any areas of bare soil in order to prevent weed growth. There are many options for covering the area. One of the easiest, aesthetically pleasing and budget-friendly options for this is mulch. Use the mulch as a placeholder to prevent weed pressure in your garden until you have time to finish the project.

DIY front yard landscaping ideas on a budget

Using railing boxes is another great small garden idea if you are short on space

Your front yard is the best place to start if you are landscaping on a budget. That’s because curb appeal can increase your home’s value and is the most visible area of your yard. If you’re looking for some DIY landscaping ideas for your front yard, try starting with these budget-friendly projects:

Budget-friendly backyard landscaping ideas

Brick paver walkway ideas

A beautiful backyard doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a little effort and a lot of creativity, you can create a beautiful outdoor space without being house-poor. Here are some budget-friendly backyard landscaping ideas that are cheap, easy and guaranteed to turn heads.

Free materials to fit your landscaping project budget

With a little bit of effort you can find tons of resources and materials that are free or very low cost to help you have a beautiful landscape on a budget. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Wood chip mulch: A lot of local tree services are looking to get rid of their wood chip mulch and may offer it to you at little to no cost. So, I’d recommend contacting a pro in your area. You may see some sticks or dried leaves in this type of mulch, but from a distance you really can’t tell the difference.
  • Compost: Consider making your own compost. This will provide you with a great fertilizer for your garden beds and it’s also great for the environment. If you don’t want to get into composting, there are many local areas that give away or sell compost at a very low cost. So, check your local township or city resources to find out if this is available.
  • Leaf mulch: You can also collect leaves and use those as mulch. People bag them for you and put them on the curb. If you want to save money and aren’t easily embarrassed, just go around the neighborhood and pick up the leafs. Run them over with your lawn mower a few times and you’ll have beautiful leaf mulch. This will also add nutrients back into your soil and help your plants to grow up happy and healthy.
  • Education: If you invest in learning about landscaping and gardening, you’ll gain more knowledge and confidence. You’ll also be able to tackle more projects without the help of a professional. Explore your curiosity by taking courses, listening to podcasts and reading blogs, books and magazines. This is a fun and rewarding way to invest in yourself and also save money in the long term.

Wrapping Up

I hope you’ve found this budget-friendly landscaping tips and ideas helpful. Remember that in order to save money you may need to invest more time into your landscaping project. So, dedicate the budget that you do have to things that are really labor-intensive or you don’t have the skills to complete yourself. Once you understand this balance, you can set priorities for which projects will be the most important to you. There are many factors you can use to determine priority, like where you spend the most time, what will increase your home’s value or general likes and dislikes about certain areas of your landscape.

When you’re on a budget it’s important that you create a plan and stick to it. While you can dream big in your plan, try to chunk this down into small and manageable projects. Also look for ways to break down the project into phases so that you can space out the amount of work you have to do and also give yourself more time to save money for it. In addition, you can save a lot of money by simplifying your planting scheme and choosing plants that will naturally grow and fill up larger spaces. You can also use free or low-cost resources in your project…. Such as leaf mulch, wood chip mulch, compost, blogs, podcasts and even friends to help you with the work!

Are you a budget-savvy landscaper? I’d love to hear about some landscaping projects that you proudly completed on a budget. Comment below with the details or any more budget-friendly landscaping tips.

More great landscaping posts

beautiful landscaping on a budget
Improve Your Landscape in 5 Simple Steps (Beginners Guide)

Improve Your Landscape in 5 Simple Steps (Beginners Guide)

I’ve been teaching garden design for a long time now and I’ve noticed that most homeowners can tell when something is “off” in their landscape.

But, they usually don’t know what is off… or why it feels off… or how to actually fix it.

It’s definitely a frustrating problem to deal with. You can’t improve your landscape because you don’t know what needs fixing.

Instead of learning more, I find that most gardeners will brainstorm a bunch of excuses as to why they don’t love their landscaping…

I don’t have a clear vision for the space…
Nothing grows in this awful soil
The deer will eat anything I plant anyway...

The truth is that these excuses are all symptoms of the actual problem… that no landscape exists in a vacuum. So, in order to improve your existing landscape, you need to

(1) figure out what’s causing the problem and

(2) develop solution(s) based on your climate, conditions, personal taste and a level of maintenance that suits you.

Yes… I know it feels like a lot.

You probably need a hug and a glass of wine. Hit me up… I’ll be right over! Then, we’ll get to work!

Let’s walk through some common scenarios and my simple process for seeing your garden with fresh, new eyes 👀 (spoiler alert: this is the KEY to everything).

Then, you’ll be able to troubleshoot problem areas and come up with a plan to make your garden beautiful. Sound good? Cool.

Common Landscaping “Problem Scenarios” Facing Home Gardeners

Most beginner DIY gardeners I talk to are dealing with one of these common scenarios. They’re likely what’s stopping you from having the beautiful 4-season landscape you’ve been dreaming of. Which one do you resonate with?

Scenario 1: You bought a new home and have to deal with an existing, sucky landscape.

Even if you purchase a new home there are likely already trees, shrubs and hardscaping in place that you have to work around. Or maybe all of it is ugly landscaping that you wish you could change. Or you simply have a different style than the previous home owner.

Scenario 2: Your landscape used to be nice but over time, things went really south. Now you hate it.

If you’ve been living in your home for some time, maybe your landscape used to be beautiful and harmonious… but it certainly isn’t now. Perhaps over the years some plants changed in size or shape, trees grew up, or the harsh winters killed some of your plants and left you with lots of empty spaces to fill.

You’re left wondering what happened to your beautiful landscape. And, although you don’t want to start from scratch, you’re not sure how to tie the new plants into your landscape with what’s already there.

This scenario can be a bit more difficult to deal with than that of a new home owner simply because you’re attached to your home and the nostalgic moments you may have had in your garden throughout the years. But… no worries… it’s certainly fixable.

Scenario 3: You have a brand new house or no existing landscaping and you don’t know how to get started.

If you are starting with a blank slate, this post isn’t for you. Hop over to my article about landscaping from scratch to get help with starting from ground zero.

Or, if you’re ready to get it done right, you can dive right into my Design Your 4-Season Garden course. This will give you my step-by-step approach to designing a beautiful landscape that looks great all year… without all of the trial and error and years of waiting for your landscape to “eventually” look great.

Some good news:

Regardless of whether you’re updating someone else’s landscaping or trying to tame your own unruly garden, the approach is the same!

So how do you fix and/or expand upon your landscaping when you really don’t know… anything… about landscaping? Just follow my simple 5-step process.

And, if you are still feeling overwhelmed, I’ll share some other ways that I can help you at the end of this article.

Step 1: Edit the Noise

My advice to all beginner landscapers as you tackle a new landscaping project that feels really daunting, is to EDIT. As E.E. Cummings said,

“To destroy is always the first step in any creation.”

E.E. Cummings

So, editing is the very first thing you are going to do.

You have to destroy that familiarity blindness that makes us not actually “see” what’s going on. Only then can you see your landscape the way that other people see it. So, take a walk around your landscape and remove anything you possibly can.

This means removing all of the noise.

All of the garden tchotchkes, wind spinners, gnomes, fountains, benches, planters.

Remove anything that’s distracting that you can physically pick up and move. Set these items aside so you look at just the plants and the hardscaping (like walls, paths, fences, trellis, etc.).

And, that’s it for step 1. Not so bad, right?

Step 2: Remove Unnecessary / Dying Plants

remove the dead, sick and unnecessary plants

Removing ANY plants can be a difficult step for a lot of gardeners, including myself. That’s because gardeners (like us) are nurturers… caretakers.

And, I’m sure that with some extra TLC we can “save” our struggling plants and bring them back to life. Nurture is half the battle with gardening. But, trust me on this one and save yourself the headaches.

So, remove all of your unnecessary plants; i.e. plants that are half dead, plants that are struggling and even the plants you don’t really like.

I like to think that if you’re not killing plants, you’re not stretching yourself as a gardener

It may be hard to “destroy” your landscape, but you will feel so much better when it’s done. It’s kind of like decluttering your closet or your dresser drawers. Once you get rid of all the crap you’ll be able to find the good stuff.

You don’t want to be on the next episode of “Garden Hoarders” do you?

I’m just kidding, that’s not really a show… yet 🙃. 

Ok… we’ve gotten rid of all of our trouble plants… leaving lots of space for new plants and making things BEAUTIFUL!

Next, I’ll show you a trick for figuring out WHAT to improve.

Step 3: Take Pictures of Your Garden

Now that you’ve removed all of the garden accessories and the struggling and/or ugly plants, you need to take some pictures. This is a very fun and easy step.

From this day forward, your camera is your new best friend.

It doesn’t matter what type of camera you have. Whether it’s your camera phone, an old digital camera collecting dust in your drawer or even a polaroid.

Simply walk around your landscape and take photos of the parts in your garden that you feel could be improved.

If you’re trying to fix an existing landscape, the key is to break your landscape down into smaller pieces so its less overwhelming. Your camera will do this for you. So, don’t take pictures of your  whole garden, or even an entire garden bed. Just take pictures of sections of your garden beds. Closeups… if you will.

The other cool thing about “freezing your garden in time” is that it will eliminate all of the distractions around you. You know… the barking dog down the street, your neighbor popping over to chat… those weeds here and there that you will unconsciously begin to pull.  

All of these distractions are preventing you from really seeing your garden. But, once you take some pictures, you can really focus on your landscape and see it in a new way.

You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to look at your garden through photos when you have a few peaceful moments to do so.

You may be wondering what, exactly, you’re “looking” for in these photos. Well, let me show you!

➡️ Quick Check In: Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed?

👋Hi there… I see you! And, I know that feeling. Sometimes binge reading articles and watching zillions of gardening videos can make things so much worse. So I’m just here to remind you that gardening is supposed to be FUN!

Honestly, I didn’t start seeing success in my gardening efforts until I stopped piecing together all of the wildly differing approaches I found in gardening books, online articles and YouTube videos. 

As much as I love free resources (& create many of them myself), this hodgepodge learning didn’t get me ANY closer to realizing my dream garden.

So, if you’re tired of hearing different approaches and conflicting opinions and you just want to know the exact steps to take… please check out my online courses. I created them to cut through all of the online noise and give you a clear path forward so you can find success faster!

Step 4: Analyze Your Pictures

Analyze photos of your landscape
Turn your photos to black and white and use a colored marker to circle any boring, empty or blobby areas.

Next, you’ll need to print out the photos or pull them up on the computer so we you can take a good hard look at what you’re dealing with.

When I’m doing this step, I turn the photo to black and white. This sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Removing the color removes even MORE distractions. It will improve your focus. So, print (or photocopy) your photos so they are in black and white. Or, use a computer program or your phone to change them to black and white.

Then, just “go to town” and circle/highlight all of the parts of the photo that could use improvement.

Don’t overthink this.

And, I’m aware that you’re a beginner… so please don’t be worried about how you’re going to fix the areas you’re circling. Just circle anything that looks empty, drab, blobby or unappealing to you. This is more than half the battle!

Knowing exactly what areas to focus on is much less overwhelming than staring down an entire yard and trying to “guess” about what to do next!

Step 5 – Come up with a Plan

Now that you know what areas to focus on, you’ll need to come up with a plan of attack. As you’ve learned, turning photos to black and white make the problem areas of your garden abundantly clear.

Do you know why that is?

Because it shows you where you need CONTRAST. If you have too many plants of the same color, texture or form it blurs together and you lose the magic.

When you can’t distinguish shape and form in the garden, your eyes don’t have anything to focus on. It can be unsettling to look at a garden like this… and it’s likely why you don’t like your own landscape.

Adding Contrast

Choosing plants or structures that will contrast these “blobby” areas will bring more clarity to your garden. Here are a few ways you can use contrast in the garden:

  • Color contrast: Combine plants with dark colors and light colors. This can be through blooms (good) or foliage (better)/
    Note: color contrast can be effective (sometimes) but it definitely isn’t a fail-proof method as we learned with ‘black and white’ test.
  • Size contrast: Please little leaves next to big leaves
  • Texture contrast: Pair plants with fluffy foliage and spikey foliage
  • Form contrast: Put a vertical plant form next to a horizontal one.
infographic of how to use contrast when combining plants
The easiest way to combine to plants is by choosing contrasting features. Some of these features are color, texture, leaf size and plant form. Illustration by Pretty Purple Door.

Quick Tip: If you want to learn more, check out my article on using texture in the garden.

The Secret to Beautiful Landscapes

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The key to a beautiful landscape is not actually plants. It’s not color, either. It’s not the hardscape. It’s all the things. It’s what we call “harmony” in the design world!

It’s the bumpy, knotted, old oak tree standing tall and proud, even in the most cold and desolate days of winter. It’s the sound of ornamental grasses rustling in the breeze, stirring up the lovely scents of nearby sage and rosemary. It’s the pops of hot pink poppies in a sea of pale yellow dailies, inviting you to come over and join their party. It’s discovering a beautiful stone sculpture nestled deep into the forest green foliage around the bend.

Ah, harmony in the garden is like an absolute dream come true. Can you see it?

When improving your garden, try to consider the whole space when you make every choice. How do different elements combine & contrast with others? Try to come up with ways to accentuate the positives and diminish the negatives. Try to tie different areas together. Remember: no garden exists in a vacuum! So, you have to consider your space as a whole with every decision you make!

Quick Tip: If you’re ready to start planning your dream landscape, check out my online gardening courses to get a head start.

Finding the Perfect Plant

Always remember that the perfect plant will not ‘cure’ your landscape. When you start to look at your yard as a whole design, instead of as individual plants, that’s when you’ll start to understand that garden design is a form of art and a way to express your creativity.

Gardens are always evolving. They are 3D in nature and can be seen from all different angles in all different seasons. Trees grow up and create shade where there was once sun. Plants sometimes struggle and all of them will eventually die. Your own likes and needs will change. So, you’ll have to work on your landscape over time. And, as these things change you may need to revisit this list, again.

And, that’s the beauty and magic of gardening… so don’t let its impermanent nature discourage you! Create a space that’s as unique as you are. One that makes you smile when you see it. One that changes with the seasons and brings you joy and peace.

What’s Next?

Following the steps above, you’ll be able to uncover the “true” problem areas in your garden. Armed with a plan, you should be in a much better position to update your existing landscape!

If you enjoyed this article and you’re looking for the next steps, I’d highly recommend watching the 3 Gardening Secrets free video training or enrolling in my Design Your 4-Season Garden course.

Here are some articles that may help you, too:

Happy Gardening!


Learn 4 simple, actionable steps to improve your existing landscape, even if you're a beginner at gardening and don't know where to start.
How to start landscaping your yard when you don’t know anything – Pin it for later!
My front yard landscape plan this year & ideas for year-round color in your garden

My front yard landscape plan this year & ideas for year-round color in your garden

Last year I posted my perennial garden plans for partial sun or shade. This plan has been working out great for me. I’ve spent the last few unseasonably cold weeks researching new plants to add to my landscape… trying to build it out from the house and add more texture!

My front yard landscape plan

So here is the front yard landscape plan I came up with. Pretty, isn’t it? I like the combination of yellows and blues, along with the pop of red to add some more interest in the winter months.

Forever Goldie Arborvitae Narrow Evergreen
Forever Goldie Arborvitae
  1. ‘Forever Goldie’ Arborvitae (zones 3-7) grow 15-20 feet tall and 3 feet wide. I plan on putting this on the corner of my house to anchor it. It has year-round seasonal interest with it’s golden yellow/green color, and as temperatures drop, the foliage takes on an orange cast, and red stems appear in fall and winter.
  2. Parry Agave (zones 4-11) grows 2-3 feet tall and wide. Native to regions in Arizona and Northern Mexico, this is a desert plant. However, this particular agave is one of the most cold-hardy species, giving gardeners in other regions (like me!) the opportunity to grow a living desert sculpture. I think the blue spikes will add great color and texture.
  3. Red Twig Dogwood (zones 2-7)Red Twig Dogwood in the summergrows 7-9 feet tall and 12 feet wide. In the picture, I have the dogwood stems in a bucket, but I’m planning on planting the actual shrub. The cool thing about this bush is that in the spring is has beautiful green leaves with white flowers that blossom in the summertime. As the fall comes, the steams and foliage both turn a brilliant crimson, and when the leaves fall off in the winter you are left with this beautiful red stems. It’s basically like a burning bush on fire.
  4. Heuchera ‘Coral Bells’ (zones 4-8) Heuchera is a perennial shade plant with 3 seasons of interest. It comes in over 50 varieties. the yellow/green and purple varieties I have pictured are what I’m interested in, but they also come in many other colors such as orange and pink.
  5. Blue Star Juniper (zones 4-8) grows 1-2 feet tall and 3-5 feet wide. I planted several of these evergreens last year and so far I think they are very beautiful. It’s a low growing, rounded shrub with very rich, silvery-blue needles year round.
  6. Emerald & Gold Euonymous (zones 5-9) grows about 2-3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. The green and golden colors of this plant fit really nicely into my scheme. I planted these last year next to the Blue Star Junipers and they are doing quite well.

What Blooms with What?

Never know what to plant together? Find out with this FREE Plant Pairing Guide and become a pro at combining plants for the best garden design possible!

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Color all year round

The hardest aspect of gardening for me is to find plants that will give color, texture and visual interest in all seasons. It’s quite difficult to find a list of plants for the beginner gardener that will look nice all year. Lucky for you, I’m going to share some “basic” ideas I’ve found to help you get started! If you have pets like I do, make sure you check out the ASPCA list of toxic and non-toxic plants before you shop!

  • A simple example of a nice perennial collection that would work in most areas of the country would be daffodils for late winter, a daylily or hosta for summer, garden mums for fall, and iris or Artemisia for winter texture.
  • Colorful Flower Choices for any Season
    • Spring: Gold narcissi and daffodils. Forsythia shrubs are also one of the earliest spring bloomers. Lilacs, mountain laurels, and hawthorns will bring color in late spring.
    • Summer: Long-blooming Rose of Sharon, Amber heleniums and golden crocosmias (all give late summer color)
    • Fall: berries and fruits, sumac shrubs10 shrubs and vines for fall colortrees for fall color
    • Winter: Snowdrops are perfect companions to hellebores, cyclamen, winter flowering shrubs or heathers, top 10 list for winter landscapes
  • The Four-Season Landscape: Easy-Care Plants and Plans for Year-Round Color: I just picked up this book and I absolutely love it! I have actually read it cover-to-cover! There are photos, garden plans, and countless lists of plant recommendations for any (and usually all) seasons no matter what you are looking for!

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