DIY landscaping is a rewarding and budget-friendly way to improve your front yard. Some projects may take just an hour, while others can be completed over the course of a weekend.
Adding edging to your flower beds and tree rings helps keep mulch in place, prevents erosion, and makes your landscape look professionally designed.
Xeriscaping is an eco-friendly way to help your yard thrive without supplemental water or maintenance. It includes reducing the amount of turf areas, adding more shade elements and choosing drought-tolerant plants. It also reduces the use of fertilizers and pest control chemicals, which inadvertently harm beneficial organisms or pollute air and water.
When designing your xeriscape, start by mapping the sun’s path throughout your garden. Identify which areas receive full sun and which are shady for much of the day. Then, consider what plants will thrive in those conditions and how they can be grouped together to reduce irrigation needs.
Look for native plants in your region that are known to be drought-tolerant. They have natural adaptations that make them easier to grow in your climate, such as deep roots, reduced transpiration rates and waxy leaves that prevent evaporation.
Once you have your plant selections, add mulch to keep weeds at bay and soil moist. You can use wood chips, pine bark, gravel or organic mulches. Organic options break down faster than synthetic ones and improve the soil as they decompose.
Then, consider adding a fire pit to your landscape for late evening outdoor enjoyment. Decorative rock, pebbles and flagstones work well as a fire pit border, as do evergreen drought-tolerant shrubs. If you have a sloping garden, build a dry creek or stony streambed to catch runoff and force it to soak into the soil instead of flooding streets and driveways.
To further reduce water use, install a rain barrel or incorporate a rain chain in your garden design. This can capture the rain and allow you to irrigate your garden with the collected moisture instead of using precious water from your city supply.
Dry creek beds add character and beauty to any garden without the hassle of water maintenance. They can help divert rainwater away from your home, preventing drainage problems and soil erosion. Plus, they can be a great alternative to (wo)man-made ponds and fountains. In this example, a beautiful dry river bed makes a stunning eye-catcher in this backyard, and it also helps direct the water flow of other features like the waterfall.
To create a DIY dry stream, start by evaluating the area to determine how wide and long it will be. Then dig 12-15 inches of dirt, tamping the surface to ensure it will not become a muddy mess. Then lay down landscape fabric, which will keep the weeds out and prevent erosion of the underlying gravel. Once the fabric is in place, cover it with a layer of gravel, which can be light or dark depending on your preference. Add larger rocks to the top layer to give it a more natural look and make sure the water will move in a natural direction.
If you want to enhance the look of your dry stream, you can use plants, small stones and other decorative pieces to uplift the garden and make it stand out from its neighbors. For a more whimsical approach, you can also add metal fish signs or figurines for an interesting and fun addition to your garden. However you choose to style your dry stream, it will be a beautiful and eye-catching feature that will draw attention from neighbors and guests alike. And it will definitely be a conversation starter!
Fire pits are the ultimate backyard focal point, drawing kids armed with marshmallows and adults ready for cocktails. These ambiance-enhancing outdoor features are easy to create, too. They’re also great for burning dry, dead leaves and branches that have piled up in the winter. The resulting ash makes an excellent fertilizer.
If you prefer a sleek look, consider a gas or wood-burning model with a metal cage surrounding the flames. This style is safer than a fully open wood fire pit and allows for more controlled burning. Many have a grill-like design, which lets you cook on the side as well as over the flames.
There are also smokeless fire pits, which burn a special gel instead of wood. These are a bit more expensive, but they can save you on fuel costs and require less maintenance. They’re available in both portable and permanent styles, so you can choose a setup that suits your space and lifestyle.
You can even turn your fire pit into a multi-functional seating area. Some models double as a coffee or bar table and can fit in with existing hardscape elements like patios, decks and retaining walls.
Some municipalities have rules about how close you can build a fire pit to combustible materials, so be sure to check your local codes before installing one. For safety, always keep a fire pit 10 feet or more from your house, and be prepared to extinguish it with water or a bucket of dry sand. Also, be sure to keep a garden hose and fire-safe extinguisher nearby in case of emergencies. You should also make sure your fire pit is a safe distance from trees, brush and other structures that can catch fire.
Segmenting your landscape into defined areas—flower beds, shrubs and trees, a lawn and other outdoor spaces—can help you achieve a more manageable project. You can then focus on each area’s individual needs to keep it looking good and functioning well. It also makes the DIY landscaping process easier since you can tend to each area more easily.
To add definition to a garden or flower bed, create borders with edging materials like bricks, stones, pavers and more. This simple DIY landscaping idea can help you create a clean line between grass and a garden or a flower bed and prevent weeds from spreading into your landscaped areas. Using different angular stone shapes and sizes is a great way to add interest to the edging, too.
Another DIY landscaping idea that can help you define a space is to plant a rock garden. This type of low-maintenance landscape can be done with a variety of rocks including flat and riverbed ones in a variety of colors, textures and shapes. You can also mix in easy-to-grow plants like knockout roses and native ornamental grasses to make it more appealing.
Adding a fire pit to your backyard is another simple and functional DIY landscaping idea. It’s easy to design with paver bricks or concrete blocks and can be used for family gatherings around the campfire and s’mores.
You can also use pavers to build a patio for seating and dining that adds visual appeal to your yard. This is an excellent option for homeowners who want to add seating for guests without having to tack on additional permanent structures to their property. This is a great project to tackle before a party or backyard barbecue, as it only requires an afternoon to complete.
Water features provide a relaxing and soothing element to your backyard. They are also great for entertaining guests and adding a focal point to the garden. Water elements are available in many different styles and designs to fit your budget. From small ponds to fountains, bubbling rocks to waterfalls, you can easily create a unique landscape design that will be the talk of your neighborhood.
Streams are often used in conjunction with other backyard water features for a more integrated look, but they can stand alone too. They are typically created by digging a hole that will be large enough for the feature you choose, and they require a pump to keep water flowing. Ponds are a popular backyard landscaping project that provides the relaxing sound of water and can be as simple or intricate as you like. They are usually created by digging a hole and using ground liners, rocks and pumps.
A koi pond is a beautiful and functional way to enjoy your backyard landscaping. Not only does it add a visual element to your yard, but it can also be home to fish and other wildlife. A bird bath is a fun way to invite nature’s visitors into your lawn and provides a place for them to clean up and socialize.
Creating walkways in your yard is a practical and attractive way to increase your home’s curb appeal. They can be made out of various materials, including gravel and mulch, or they can be more decorative and elaborate with stepping stones. You can also use brick, stone or concrete for walkways if you prefer a more permanent solution. Garden edging is another useful and affordable DIY landscaping project that can help prevent grass from spreading into areas you don’t want it to.