Create a lovely landscaped yard that will welcome visitors to the front of your home and be a wonderful retreat in the backyard. You can do this quite easily with some advance planning and a little budgeting. Unless you are in a hurry to spruce up the yard for a wedding or other formal occasion, you can complete this project on weekends over the course of the year. Cut the expense considerably by doing the garden prep and planting yourself. Labor is the most expensive part of any project.

Designing the Landscape

Sketch what you want to do with each part of the yard. For example, in the front yard you may want the front walkway lined with flowers; bushes in front of the windows; a small hedge along the property line to frame flower gardens or an expanse of green lawn. You might design the backyard with tall hedges for privacy, a barbecue pit, a kitchen vegetable garden and a cutting-flower garden with a birdbath. Look through gardening books for inspiration. Start compiling a list of what you want.

Make note of problem areas with the yard such as bare spots under trees, areas that are always shaded or gullies that collect water when it rains. You may also want to attach trellises to the sunny side of the house to cool it down.

Decide what statues or birdbaths you would enjoy having in the garden and add them to your list. You can mix garden styles by separating them with hedges. Some garden styles that may interest you are a rock garden with a waterfall, a wildflower garden, an informal garden with a circle or hexagon shape, or a woodland look with ornamental grasses.

Decide where you will place the compost bin. The average size yard only needs a small bin. Today's compost bins are well constructed and do not release odors that would bother you or the neighbors.

Preparing and Planting

Pick up around the yard including rocks, large sticks and anything else that would interfere with planting.

Go through the entire yard with a metal thatch rake and pull out all of the dead growth and matted areas. The metal rakes work better than the plastic ones.

Add dirt to level any gullies in the yard. If your yard has several dips in the landscape, then a truckload of soil may be cheaper than buying individual bags.

Test your soil so you will know which fertilizer to buy. You may need different fertilizers for the lawn, flowers, vegetables and dwarf fruit trees. Your local garden center can offer guidance for the particular plants and trees that you will be growing. If possible, buy fertilizers that are a combination of fast-release and slow-release. This will give your yard an immediate boost in nutrients from the fast-release, and then a steady supply of nutrients throughout the season from the slow-release part of the fertilizer. By the end of the season, you should have enough compost that you will not need to buy fertilizer very often.

Prepare the ground for your bushes and flowerbeds. A rototiller makes this work much easier than digging with a shovel. Go down about one foot to encourage deep root growth. (You can rent rototillers from tool rental places and sometimes from garden centers.)

Mix the fertilizer or compost into the garden beds and wherever you will be planting hedges or bushes. Do not fertilize the lawn yet since some fertilizers will prevent grass seed from sprouting.

Plant the hedges and bushes to frame the yard and house.

Build the barbecue pit, waterfall and rock garden, if there will be any. Create your walkway with bricks or paving stones.

Attach the trellises to the sunny side of the house, or wherever you want additional privacy. Plant the vines for the trellises.

Plant your flowerbeds, ornamental grasses and other greenery according to their mature height. Place the tall plants in the back of the garden so they will not block sunlight from their shorter cousins.

Some species of ferns do very well in shady areas under trees. They will reproduce and eventually cover the bare tree roots in addition to looking pretty around the tree trunk.

Buy a bag of mixed grass seed that is native to your part of the country. Mixed varieties of seed will help to keep your lawn looking lush throughout the year. This is because some varieties have good tolerance to heat while other varieties have natural immunity to pests or disease. In addition, different types of grass have different life spans so your yard will not die out within a short span of time.

Toss the seed by hand over the entire lawn. Immediately cover the lawn with sheets that are held in place with rocks. Birds like the taste of grass seed. Wait until the seedlings are more than one inch tall and then fertilize the lawn.

Keep everything watered and watch your garden grow as you lay in the hammock with steaks on the barbecue grill.