Lawn Landscaping Basics

lawn with stepping stones and bushes
  • 2-100 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-10,000

You don’t have to go to a lot of trouble to have amazing outdoor areas. Get to know a few lawn landscaping basics and simple tricks and you get all the beauty without all the trouble.

Choosing Plants

What's your soil pH? Is it sandy or loamy?

What, do you have to be a chemist to plant a few flowers or whatever? Yes, you can spend time thinking about your soil nutrients and soil type and study the way the shade patterns hit your yard.

But you probably don't have time to do that. It's great if you do and you can spend a lot of time really planning where to put drought-tolerant plants and shade-loving plants but it's more practical if you simply choose plants that are likely to thrive in your particular geographic region and you try to plant them in a nice, sunny spot where they can get the water and light they need.

You can get as intense or as simple as you want when it comes to choosing plants. Unless you live in southern Texas, California, or Florida or you're right near the Canadian border, you live somewhere within hardiness zones 8 through 4.

There's a selection of plants and flowers that grow well in all of these hardiness zones. They don't need a lot of time and attention, and they are hardy enough to grow in a variety of different climates and weather conditions.

If you’re not sure what to plant, choose flowers and plants that will grow in a big range of hardiness zones because these will end up thriving just about anywhere.

Cannas, crocus, lilies, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips are great all-around plants that look good in flower beds.

Plant coneflower, hibiscus, and peonies in bright, sunny spots. These plants add a lot of color to the landscaping.

In shady spots, plant ferns and hostas. These shade-tolerant plants will add life and color even to shady outdoor spaces, parts of the lawn that are often left neglected and bare.

hosta plants growing in shade

Simple Landscaping Hacks

No one wants to spend a ton of time on landscaping and you might not always have time to sit and draw a whole plan for your yard. Lots of people want to talk about creating focal points and using complementary colors and choosing plants based on soil type and that all sounds really amazing, but sometimes you just need to hack it and make things easy on yourself.

When it comes to lawn landscaping basis, all you really need is a few tricks that will really make things look good but really don't take a whole lot of work or time. It is possible to have a nice yard without drawing up a battle plan like it's a Roman conquest.

Layer the Beds

One simple trick that looks really pro is to layer the flower beds. Put the tallest plants in the back (or in the middle if you're doing a border), place the medium-sized plants next to or in front of them, and then put the shortest plants on the outside.

This will create a layered look that gives these areas texture and a lot of color and life. It looks really good and it’s really simple to do.

Consider Groundcovers

If you don't want to spend a lot of time mowing grass or you don't really like mulch in flower beds, consider using a ground cover. These low-lying plants can add beautiful foliage and bright color to your landscaping.

Groundcovers require a lot less maintenance than grass and they're a lot more colorful and natural-looking than mulch. If you’re looking for a really low-maintenance and basic option, this is a really good one.

flowering groundcover

Plant a Tree

A small flowering tree is a beautiful, low-maintenance addition to your landscaping. They don't take a lot of work but they do add a really nice pop that can really dress up your landscaping overall.

Ornamental trees are fairly easy to plant and once they’re in the ground and growing, they’re going to do their own thing and you can just go back to doing everything else you like to do.

Add Lights

You don't need to spend a lot of money or hire an electrician or any of that to get beautiful outdoor lights. Forget about running wires and plugging things in and use solar-powered lights that harness the power of the sun.

There are lots of different styles, from stake lights that stick down into the ground to lantern styles, even lights that look like rocks if that's what you want. Place a few lights around your landscaped areas to light them up and really create that professional, finished look.

Use a Border

You don't need to be an expert landscaper to put up a border that will create a nice line and really give your landscaped areas a clean, finished look. Use anything you like, from stacked wood to natural stone to pavers to bricks.

Any border will look better than no border at all, and it's easy to add this feature to any landscaped area. Even ordinary rocks you gather can create a nice, natural-looking flower bed border.

lawn with flower beds

Build Flower Bed Surrounds

Make your landscaping look super fancy with a simple trick: surround everything with flowers. Plant some in a ring around the mailbox and the base of trees and now you're really adding some color to your outside areas.

This looks really pro but it's also very simple to do. Choose some low-maintenance flowering plants that stay close to the ground, weed and water them as needed and they will look positively stunning and add a ton of curb appeal.

Hide the HVAC Unit

This is a hack that's definitely worth doing. Large HVAC units on the side of the house are necessary but they're also ugly.

Put up a small fence around the unit to hide it. A white picket fence or a wooden fence is a lovely addition and in a small size, it's relatively quick to put up.

If you like, plant some climbing plants around the base of the fence and this will become a living wall that completely and totally transforms the look of that HVAC unit. Now it’s actually a feature of the landscaping instead of an ugly spot in the yard.

sprinklers watering lawn

Lawn Landscaping Basic Maintenance

Lawn maintenance is a great reason to not have a lawn. If you have one, you definitely want it to look nice, but no one has time for a lot of maintenance.

Luckily, it doesn't take much maintenance to keep your lawn and landscaping areas looking nice, but it does take regular maintenance. Get used to performing some lawn landscaping basics once a week and it will look nice all year long.

Water your lawn at least once a week if no rain or not enough rain has fallen. If you don’t have sprinklers, just get out there and spray water from a garden hose.

It takes less than 10 minutes to water the lawn because you don't need to get it soggy, just a bit damp. That's enough for the grass and plants.


Weeds will ruin the look of landscaping and quickly destroy the health of plants, too. Weeds rob nutrients from the plants you'd actually like to have in your outdoor areas, so you don’t want them hanging around for too long.

During the growing season, from spring to early fall, pull weeds once a week by hand if you see them. The best defense against weeds is to grow healthy plants so the more frequently you pull weeds, the less frequently you will eventually need to pull weeds.


During the growing season, you'll also want to mow your lawn once a week or maybe once every 10 days depending on how much rainfall you get. Regular mowing is a necessity because long grass will only encourage bugs and weeds and you don't want that stuff in your lawn.

If you just hate to mow at all you can always replace your lawn with a low-maintenance groundcover, like ivy. You can also use decorative rocks, flower beds, and plants to fill up the lawn, but remember to use a lot of low-lying plants or it will look overgrown.

Ornamental grasses are another option if you want a lawn you don't need to mow. Otherwise, plan on doing it around once a week to keep everything looking good.

Don’t cut the grass as low as you can. You want a little bit of growth because this makes the lawn nice and soft and mowing too short will dry out the grass and soil.


Unless you're using groundcovers or decorative rocks, you will want to put mulch in your flower beds and around shrubs. Mulch not only creates a nicer look than bare dirt, but it also helps hold moisture in around landscaping.

You will want to rake out old mulch and get rid of it every single year to replace it with fresh mulch. Old mulch looks bad and new mulch is relatively cheap, especially when compared to some of your other options.

hands pruning roses


You definitely don't want to be outside with shears cutting pieces off plants every day and luckily, you probably won't need to. Prune your decorative trees, shrubs, and other plants around midsummer and again in fall and this will usually suffice to keep everything looking well-trimmed and healthy.


Once a year, rake your lawn and all grassy areas to get rid of old growth and make way for new fresh grass. You want to do this in late winter or very early spring before the grass begins to grow again.

Beautifying Outdoor Areas with Lawn Landscaping Basics

You don't have to do a ton of work or install some wild water features to create a really nice outdoor space. Use a few simple tricks and person some basic maintenance about once a week during the warmer months, and you're going to have some really beautiful spaces.

Lawn Landscaping FAQ

lawn with curved border into bush and tree garden

Should you use herbicides and pesticides?

Instead of spending time pulling weeds by hand, you might consider taking a shortcut like using herbicide. Chemical treatments like herbicides and pesticides may be harmful to animals, including household pets, and many environmentalists cite concerns about these products and their effect on the health of the soil and the planet's ecosystem.

However, there are several animal-safe and even organic or natural herbicides and pesticides you can use in your landscaping. You can DIY your own plant treatments with stuff you probably already have in your home, in fact.

How do you plant flowers?

Adding new plants and flowers to your landscaping is not a difficult task. Just about anyone can DIY their own flower beds with a little hard work and some strong gloves.

Most flowers are planted less than 6 inches deep into the soil, so you can dig out a planting hole with a hand shovel if needed. Even shrubs and trees are not planted very deep into the soil, so it does not take a lot of digging.

How do you keep deer, rabbits, and wildlife away from landscaping?

There are a few simple methods for keeping pests from eating your flowers and other landscaping plants. Try shaving little slivers of soap into garden beds, sprinkling them around plants.

The soap won't hurt the plants but it is unattractive to rabbits, so it will keep them away. You can also use hot pepper spray to keep both rabbis and squirrels away.

Plant marigolds to act as a natural repellent for small critters. Squirrels do not like the smell of these flowers.

Further Reading

4 High Impact, Low Cost Landscape Projects

7 Big Landscaping Projects to Finally Tackle

10 Essential Landscaping Tools

Flowerbed Edging: What to Know

How to Clean a Landscape Stone Wall

How to Landscape Around Decks

How to Landscape on a Slope

Landscaping Rocks: Which Rock is Best for Your Block?

Ornamental Grass: Low-Maintenance Alternatives to Traditional Lawn

Sustainable Landscaping 101