Top 10 Landscaping Tips

We almost named this blog post “How Not to Kill Your First Landscape”, but at Nature Hills, we like to focus on the positive. Whether you are getting started with Houseplants, live in a cute little condo, or rent/own your first house; caring for plants makes life better. 

Growing a successful garden is a rewarding experience. However, it can be tough to know where to start, especially if it’s your first time.

Our 10 helpful tips for developing a successful landscape design will set you up for long-term success. You got this!

1. Know Your Space

It might sound strange, but the first thing you need to do ISN'T choose plants. Instead, the first step is to get to know your physical space.

All plants have special requirements for light, air, and water. Take a look and get familiar with your own unique climate. If you aren’t sure, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which direction does your yard face? (north, south, east, west)
  • How much sun does your yard receive and when?
  • Is your yard on a slope?
  • Does water run through your yard fairly quickly, or are there areas where puddles develop?
  • What is your garden’s current state? Is it full of weeds, a lush grassy lawn, or a total clean slate of dirt and gravel?
  • Do pets or children have access to your yard?
  • Are there any garden hazards, like neighborhood deer, or a tree that drops branches?
  • Lastly, in which USDA zone is your garden located? (Not sure? Look at any product page and enter your zip code into our Zone Finder above the Plant Highlights.)

2. Stay In Your Comfort Zone

We all enjoy staring starry-eyed at the beautiful gardens on Instagram and in magazines, but there is no need to go all-out right away. In fact, your new garden landscape will be easier and more fun to maintain if you start smaller and build up over time.

Doing too much too soon can cause burnout and frustration. Take the time to map out your setting. Use paper or look for a garden design app.

Take time to think about your garden goals. What kind of space do you want to create? An outdoor Yoga Room, or Meditation Garden? You can create a Victory Garden, a Time-Capsule Garden, Flower Gardens, Zen Gardens, modern, industrial-chic, you name it.

Edible Gardens are a gigantic design trend. Nature Hills has a huge inventory of fruiting plants to help you grow your own food in your yard or balcony. 

Build out your own personal paradise in stages for the best results. Get a taste of success with a big container garden or two. Add some shrubs behind it, then place a perfect focal point tree or two to satisfy your soul.

3. Think Long-Term

A garden bed full of annuals (those flowers that only live for one season) is beautiful, but it’s only temporary. Truly sustainable beauty in a garden requires long-lived perennials, shrubs and trees that reward you with beautiful foliage and flowers for years, and even generations.

Trees and shrubs are easier to maintain in the long run and boast other great benefits, too. They’ll boost your home’s value and can even lower your utility bill by casting helpful shade.

4. Choose Plants Wisely

Not all plants will be suited to your new landscape. For best results (and a lot less work) choosing your garden plants based on how well they grow in your area will make all the difference.

Pro tip? Look for hardy, low maintenance plants that work in your growing zone and sun conditions.

Have a bunch of shade in your space? Use shade-tolerant plants. 

5. Prepare Your Garden Soil

Put on your “Science Kid” hat and get your hands dirty. Or, invest in some pretty, funky gardening gloves to protect your manicure.

Healthy soil is the foundation of a beautiful garden. Plants live in dirt. Their roots push through the dirt to establish themselves and gather nutrients from the rainwater and the soil. 

One of the biggest goals of landscaping is to improve the health and quality of your soil over time. Compost, mulch and other dirt “goodies” will do the trick for you.

We love “Lasagna Gardening”. In fall, use layers of trimmed cardboard (hello Amazon boxes, we’re looking at you…) to shape a new garden bed. Then add layers of shredded leaves and grass clippings, layering dry, brown material between fresh, green material. Top the whole thing off with a nice, thick layer of mulch and let it sit over winter.

Be prepared to be ecstatic next spring when you see the results of your work. You might need to use your shovel to cut through the lowest cardboard layer before you plant, but your new Lasagna bed should be well on its way to becoming actual, incredible soil!

Nature is so amazing!

Be sure to buy a bag of our Root Booster for each plant you install. Pat the whole thing all around the roots of your new plants before you plant. The magic ingredients will help your plants root systems grow in nice, strong and better able to absorb nutrients and moisture from your soil.

6. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch

We love mulch! It breaks down over time to improve your soil. It also looks great and keeps your plants foliage clean.

Mulch, done right, is the secret to success for many beautiful gardens. Add a thick, 3-inch layer over the entire root zone of your plant. For trees, spread it out 3 feet past the leafy canopy.

Just be sure to pull mulch away from the trunks and stems of your plants. Give it a good 6 inches of space. These important “plant parts” need good air circulation to perform beautifully for you.

  • Mulch protects against moisture loss, so plants dry out more slowly
  • Mulch keeps the soil at a more even temperature, protecting against extreme hot and cold temperatures
  • Mulch helps suppress weeds
  • Mulch looks good! With so many options to choose from, you can find a quality mulch that will fit your garden’s color scheme.
  • You can even use rocks and colored glass as mulch! Get creative to make a very personal statement.

7. Plant Carefully

Here are some tips to make planting time a little easier. We have videos on planting, too.

  • Follow our planting guide on your confirmation email for every plant you choose.
  • Don’t plant too deeply! Roots go in the ground, and the trunk and leaves go up in the air.
  • Water your newly planted perennial or tree very well. Dried-out roots after planting is a common reason for failure.
  • Don’t go overboard with water. See the next section for more info.

8. Water Just Enough

One of the most common reasons for garden failure is improper watering. For the first season after planting, and throughout any dry spells, your plants will need deep watering each week in order to remain healthy.

Be sure to read the Plant Highlights to understand the water requirements for your new plants.

The trick is to water them properly: not too much, not too little. In general, you should allow plants to dry out slightly, then give them a deep soaking.

Use the “finger test”. Actually poke your finger into the ground by your plant. Is it still a little moist? Skip watering that day.

Baby your plants the first season. If the Plant Highlights says that the plant needs Moderate water, provide an even amount of water on a regular basis all through each growing season.

Oh, and prep your plants for winter with a nice, long drink in late fall. This is really important, especially for evergreen plants with foliage that stays on all year-long.

9. Ask For Help

Did you know there are local garden experts near you who are ready to provide advice? Available at your local county extension office, these volunteer Master Gardeners are specialists in your local garden climate.

They are familiar with everything from local plant species to common pests. Many county extension offices also host educational events throughout the year.

It is a great way to gain some local garden expertise. Contact your local county extension office for more info.

10. Anticipate A Little Failure

It stinks, but every great gardener has lost some of their beloved plants, without exception. It’s simply a part of working with nature.

There are so many reasons why a new shrub or favorite perennial might die, from pests to bad weather, or even just bad luck. The trick is to learn from the experience and take the plant loss in stride.

Experienced plants people actually look at plant death as an opportunity to just buy another new plant! There are just so many gorgeous trees, shrubs, perennials, roses, grasses and vines to choose from, after all.

The art of gardening is all about the journey, not the destination. Enjoy the process, get your hands dirty, and before you know it, you will be nurturing an Instagram-worthy landscape all your own.