Landscaping Tips for Beginners (and When to Hire a Pro)

Landscaping Tips for Beginners (and When to Hire a Pro)

HGTV and other home design networks give landscaping tips and make it look easy. You plant some colorful flowers, add a few paving stones, or dig a small pond, and your home is transformed in no time.

In reality, great landscaping takes a bit more planning and time. And in many cases, you’re best served by calling in a pro rather than handling it all yourself.

Are you just getting started on your first home’s landscaping? Not sure if you should DIY it or hire out for the job? These landscaping tips for beginners can help.

Landscaping jobs you shouldn’t DIY

There are plenty of landscaping tasks you can DIY, but for some projects, you’ll need to hire a pro — at least if you want the job done right.

Here are a few jobs you won’t want to handle solo:

  • Excavation: If your landscaping goals require digging up a tree or excavating some area of your yard, this is best left to the pros. Doing this without the proper training could damage your pipes, sprinkler system, and even your home’s foundation.
  • Tree work: Have dead or dying trees in the yard? Want a tree relocated to make room for a new feature? This type of work is best left to a professional as well. (It can be very dangerous to DIY without the right training and equipment). 
  • Electrical or plumbing work: If you’re adding a water feature, lights, or some other more complicated element to your yard, you’ll usually want to consult a pro before moving forward.
  • Sprinklers and irrigation: Sprinkler systems are best left to those trained to install them. They’ll know how to lay out the system in an efficient and effective manner, and they can also instruct you on how and care for the system as well.

Generally speaking, if your job is going to require permits or getting permission from the HOA, it’s probably big enough to get a pro’s help. Just make sure you budget for this before moving forward.

Tips for DIYing your landscaping

If you’re sticking to small-scale landscaping projects, then you’re probably safe to do the work yourself. Still, that’s not to say it’ll be easy.

If you choose to DIY your landscaping work, adhere to these beginner landscaping tips to ensure you’re successful:

1. Study up.

Before you dive in, study up on landscape design in general, and thumb through magazines and blogs to get some real-life inspiration for your projects. This can also clue you into current trends — as well as projects that may improve your home’s value and marketability.

2. Know your budget.

Small landscaping projects might not seem very expensive on their face, but when you factor in all the purchases over time — soil, mulch, plants, tools that need purchasing or renting, stones, and more, they can add up to quite the pretty penny. Make sure you break down your costs well ahead of time and that you have plenty saved up to cover them.

3. Understand your terrain.

You need a good handle on your yard, its placement, and its terrain before embarking on any landscaping projects. Where is it sunniest? Where does the water run off? What areas are flat and which are sloped? All of these factors will impact where you can place things — plants, benches, patios, pavers, and more.

4. Ease into it.

As you mull over all these landscaping tips, just remember that you don’t have to achieve all your landscaping goals at once. Start small, and accomplish one little task at a time, gradually working up to the more transformative changes. This will allow you some time to get your feet wet, better understand your lawn, and hone your skills. Another nice perk? You can spread out the costs that way, too.

5. Think about overall balance.

While it can be tempting to cover every inch of your garden with colorful plants and shrubs, it’s important to take into account your lawn’s overall balance before planting too much. Planting five large bushes on the left and then some low-lying, sparse flowers on the right is going to look very off-kilter. Make sure you have an idea of how each plant will look once grown, as well as its height, width, and scale. Try to strike a sense of symmetry across the lawn if you can.

6. Have a focal point.

Every great landscape design has a focal point. Maybe it’s a cozy seating area under a shaded tree, or maybe it’s an amazing koi pond or water fountain. Whatever it is, make it something that draws in the eyes and adds visual interest. If it allows you to interact with your landscape (like a tree swing, for example), even better.

7. When in doubt, call in a pro

If you’re ever stumped or just want help picking the right plants and designing the best layout, don’t be afraid to call in a pro — even if it’s just for a consult and landscaping tips. Great landscaping can improve your home’s value and make maintaining your property easier in the long run. 

Need help covering the costs of your landscaping (or your landscaping pro’s service)? A cash-out refinance may be able to help. Get in touch with a loan officer in your area to discuss your options.

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By Aly Yale / July 26th, 2021 / Categories: / Tags:

Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.