How to landscape your front yard.


Written by Eric Carlson
Reviewed by landscape designer Bret Douglas of Iron Clad Landscape Management

Many new homeowners can relate to this experience: you've moved into your new home and settled in. However, something still feels missing. Every time you pull into your driveway, you remember: your front yard needs some work.

For first-time homeowners, landscaping can feel like a daunting job. Knowing what plants to cultivate and how to care for your lawn takes time and local knowledge.

This guide will help you landscape your front yard with confidence. We'll walk you through the basic steps of picking out plants and grass, getting the right lawn equipment and choosing features that can boost your curb appeal.

Read on to learn the essential steps for how to landscape your front yard.

Step 1: Assess your front yard's current condition.

lawn with brown patches in grassWhat does your front yard look like right now? What's the focal point? What looks good and what looks bad? Take some time to observe it. Write down notes about its overall appearance and charm.

Here are a few more things to look for:

  • Weeds, holes, puddles and brown patches in your grass
  • Overhanging tree branches and exposed tree roots
  • Broken or damaged fencing, decking, sprinkler heads, walkways, pavers, etc.

Now, make a list of elements you want as part of your new yard. Do you have plants you'd like to keep? Is the lawn in decent condition, or do you need to plant new grass? Do you even want grass at all? 

If you don’t know what types of elements you want to add to your yard, you’ll need to do a bit of research for ideas.

Step 2: Make a plan and budget.

woman sitting on the floor making a budgetYour budget will determine much you can accomplish. When making your plan, come up with a rough estimate of how much you're willing to spend. If you have lofty ideas for your front yard, you won't be able to make your vision a reality on a shoestring budget.

The cost of landscaping can vary. Some basic landscaping projects may cost as little as a few hundred dollars, while bigger projects can easily cost thousands. Contact a few landscaping services and tell them about your front yard’s condition. Ask them to send you price quotes for various landscaping features so you have a better idea of what your budget should be — and if you should DIY some elements of your front yard.

Related: 13 cheap, simple front yard landscaping ideas.

Step 3: Research front yard landscaping ideas.

front yard landscape design with boulders and edging around gardenOnce you know what you like and don't like in your front yard (as well as how much you’re willing to spend on upgrades), it's time to brainstorm some landscaping ideas. Here are a few to get you started:

  • If you have a small front yard, use a mixture of textures and levels in your garden design to draw the eye. Think: retaining walls, hedges, landscape boulders, a rain garden, etc.
  • If you live in a dry climate or want to save water, skip the water features, ornamental grasses and lusher plants. Consider xeriscaping your front yard instead. Choose drought-tolerant plants and hardscape features, like a rock garden instead of flower beds.
  • If you want to showcase your front yard at night, invest in new landscape lighting. Light up your pathways or shine a light on your trees.
  • If you want to create an outdoor living room, consider building a front porch, deck or patio. Invest in nice patio furniture for seating and dining.
  • If you want to boost your front yard curb appeal, think beyond your lawn. Paint your front door, add window boxes and pressure wash your driveway.

Step 4: Find out which plants are native to your area.

flowers and plants in the front yardResearch outdoor plants that are native to your region. Consider which colors you want to display in your front yard and how much maintenance you can handle. 

Depending on what types of plants, flowers, evergreen shrubs and grass you'll be using, it's important to properly time your planting and seeding. Consult a gardening expert (or conduct online research) for assistance with planting in your specific climate. Every region is different when it comes to planting schedules. A few weeks or months can often mean the difference between a failed garden and a thriving landscape.

You can also visit local greenhouses or nurseries in your area to see what your options are. Chat with the professionals to identify native plants, their watering needs and whether you need to buy seeds or purchase the plants that have already grown. Be sure you have a good idea of the spacing requirements and the sunshine/shade needs of every plant.

Tip: If you're out of ideas for native flowers, shrubs and trees, take a closer look at a few of your neighbors' yards. If their plants are doing well, they'll probably thrive in your front yard too. 

Related: 15 landscaping tips and tricks for beginners.

Step 5: Make sure you have good irrigation.

sprinkler watering the front yardWith your landscape design plan coming into focus, it's time to start thinking about your plants’ watering needs.

You have several options for irrigation. You could opt for basic sprinklers in the grass and use a hose for specific plants or beds. Or, you can install an underground sprinkler system that's timed to water your lawn and plants at specific times.

Installing an irrigation system may require a professional's help, so be sure to include this in your budget as well.

Related: How much does a sprinkler system cost?

Step 6: Decide whether to hire a landscaper or DIY.

landscaper or gardener installing drip irrigation in front yard of homeHiring a landscaper to take care of your plants, sprinkler system and other elements of your yard can be expensive. Fortunately, you can landscape some aspects of your front yard yourself. However, don't attempt anything too difficult or dangerous. For example, you can probably DIY a garden, lay down sod or install a few lights. But attempting to do major construction (like building a patio or retaining wall) is a bad idea.

Remember that the DIY route does come with an initial investment in tools and materials. A short list of equipment you'll need includes a shovel, a spade, good gardening gloves and a lawn mower. Though you'll have to spend a good deal at first, the DIY route can save you money. 

On the other hand, hiring a professional landscaper means you'll likely avoid making major mistakes that can be expensive to fix down the line. Plus, you'll save yourself time and energy — landscaping your front yard can be time-consuming and labor-intensive.

Remember: if you do decide to hire a pro, make sure the landscaper is licensed, bonded and insured.

Related: When to skip DIY and hire a pro instead.

Step 7: Create a maintenance plan.

person mowing the lawnDepending on your budget, you might choose to hire a regular landscaping crew for maintenance or just do it yourself. You may be an expert in lawn care DIY. If so, you're probably well-equipped to take care of the weekly, monthly and seasonal work your front yard needs.

Maintaining your front yard will include tasks such as mowing, weeding, regular mulching and sometimes aerating your yard. Trimming trees and bushes is also part of the ongoing maintenance. You'll want to get a good mower to trim your yard every week or two, as well as some shears for trimming bushes. 

You can also hire a gardener or lawn care service to take care of those tasks for you.

Related: How much do lawn care services cost?

Get started on your front yard landscape design today.

Front yard landscaping can be as straightforward or as complicated as you make it, depending on your vision for your property. From hassle-free xeriscaping and natural foliage yards to lush gardens with impressive displays of flowers, you can build the landscape that works best for your household.

If you need help from a landscape designer, Thumbtack is a great place to start. Download the Thumbtack app to connect with a landscaping professional and get a free estimate for your front yard.

A note about project costs included or linked in this article: Figures represent national average cost estimates using data provided by Thumbtack pros and additional research. These figures are provided for educational purposes only and are subject to change at any time due to various factors. Details about your specific project and local rates can impact costs.

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