There comes a point when you realize that your back yard is neither pleasant, nor useful, nor even particularly safe. The rusty old bicycles and swings and ancient guinea pig runs have served their purpose and should now be allowed to move on. Plans are growing at the back of the mind and it would give both you and the yard a new lease of life if you could actually bring the plans to fruition.

The first stage is to hire a junk removal service. Alternatively, get a trailer and make several trips to the dump. At this point, you need to be completely ruthless. Keep any trees, but almost everything else will need to go.Backyard Makeover Avoid the 'this might come in useful one day' mentality. That is what got our yards into the mess in the first place. Do a clean sweep. Some things will go that may later cause a twinge of regret but better that than not being able to create a new backyard because you are still falling over the contents of the old one. So, out it all goes, the old bathtub, all these bits of timber with nails in them that might just come in handy, the old clothes line, the old chicken coop, the shed that is leaning drunkenly to one side, granny's old footbath, the broken chairs that are waiting to be mended, the pram whose occupants have long since left the nest. Throw it all out.

When you have got rid of a lifetime's junk, start clearing the vegetation. Leave any trees as they are for the meantime but strim down everything else to ground level. It is essential to get the area clean and clear if you are really going to give it a thorough makeover. Rake everything, after you have strimmed or scythed it, into a great heap and either burn it off or take it to the dump. Later on, you will horde every blade of sweet grass, every fallen leaf, every old tomato plant, and turn them into compost. At this stage, however, you want to get rid of weed seed and to get the area ready for your five year plan. While you are still at the planning stage, keep the ground under control. Keep strimming it and once it is possible, mow it. The taller weeds and undesirables will give up if they are constantly mown and the ground covering plants will gradually take over, so that you will eventually have a pleasant turf to walk on.

Before going any further, look at your fence. If it needs replacing, do it now, before you start laying out the ground or doing anything else.

Make a plan on paper. Mark the dimensions of your plot, mark the positions of any trees, and make a list of what you would like to put in. Think about the requirements. A vegetable plot needs full sunlight. Fruit bushes can tolerate a little shade. The compost heap should be in a shady corner far from the house. A pond for fish or a damp area for newts and frogs should not be directly under a tree. You can build a bench around a mature tree. Are you going to keep a few chickens? Or is the backyard to be designed as an adventure playground for the young (except that the adventure playground all went to the dump)? Do you want a patch of green lawn to sit on or to play ball games on? Draw everything you want onto the plan; you will probably find that you need a backyard three times bigger, but at least you now have a plan to work on.

Now take your plan outside and mark out the key elements on the ground. Keep in mind the relationships between the elements. You don't want an area you are going to sit in to be too far from the house. If you are building a shed to keep garden tools in, it should not be at the opposite end of the yard from the vegetable plot. Nor should the compost heap.

If you want your lawn surrounded by flower beds, it cannot double up as a football pitch –well it can, but it isn't advisable.

Be prepared to change the plans as you start putting them into execution. Often a garden plan can only really be seen clearly as you start to do it on the ground. That is, of course, part of the fun.

Where Can I Buy Supplies For My Backyard Makeover?

While there is a seemlingly endless number of things you can do to update and renovate your backyard, most of the necessary equipment can be found in one of just a couple locations. For building materials for fences, patios and walkways, and lighting, a hardware store is usually your best bet. You will likely find that the employees at hardware stores have dealt with customers with similar projects to yours in the past, not to mention their own personal experience. If you have taken the time to draw up a plan for your backyard (it will help - really!), sharing it with a hardware store employee might result in some excellent tips and guidance in terms of building materials, quantities, and maybe even suggestions to make your backyard even more beautiful.

For gardening supplies, you can check the gardening section of your nearest supermarket: Target, WalMart, Costco (and if you don't have one near you yet, just wait a couple of weeks). If you prefer avoiding the big box store, there should be at least one local garden shop in your area as well. The selection might be smaller, but the staff will also be more passionate about gardening and will be glad to point you in the right direction.

You can also find most of the necessary supplies online, but in the case of a backyard makeover, this should be a last resort. Unless you only need one or two items (in which case makeover probably isn't the operative term), you will probably need to use a number of different online stores, pay a small fortune for shipping, and wait for the supplies to actually arrive. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, and it may be necessary for some, if you are able to go to your local stores you will save money and probably end up more satisfied with the result.