The New Home Yard Makeover: From What Now? to Oh Wow!

March 01, 2021

March blog
So, you’ve moved into your new home and chances are, the yard is in need of a little TLC and quite possibly a makeover. Do you know where to start? Or maybe the better question to ask is, do you know what you want your new yard to look like?

If you don’t have an immediate answer, that’s ok. Most new homeowner’s don’t—whether it’s your first, second or third home. And until you have lived with your yard for a season or two, you may not know all the issues that need to be addressed, or even how well it functions for you. But who really wants to wait through four seasons to find out?

This last question is one reason why you should consider hiring a pro to not only help you with a design that suits your lifestyle, but who can also assess your yard and give you expert advice. To help you out, here is what we tell our clients after they have purchased a home:

  1.       Work from the bottom up, not front to back.

The common thought is to work from front to back, taking care of the front yard and what your neighbors see, then move to the backyard where you will spend most of your time. We prefer to work from the bottom up, starting with what lies beneath the surface–irrigation and lighting systems, soil quality, drainage, stormwater collection points, run-off, and slope reinforcement. You want to address any potential issues before installing any hardscapes or plants. Otherwise, you may find yourself tearing things out and starting over. 

If you do decide to work from front to back, then be sure to think about access to the backyard after the front or side yards are fully installed. We’ve seen this all too often, arriving on a site only to discover there is no way to access the backyard without causing damage to the front or side yards. 

  1. landscape plan      Have a complete plan for the front, sides, and back before digging in!

This follows (or maybe precedes) our first tip. When you plan your entire yard before digging in, you not only end up with a more cohesive design, but you will save yourself a lot of trouble. Again, this comes back to the points mentioned above.

This is where hiring a professional landscape designer can really pay off. Even if you are a DIYer, working with an expert on your design will save you time, money, and frustration down the road. Most homeowners don’t know what they don’t know, and an experienced designer will be able to point out potential problem areas and offer practical solutions. To help you get started, here are more tips on planning a yard makeover.

landscape actual

  1.       Install hardscapes first.

Your hardscape is all of the hard surfaces: sidewalks and pathways, patios, decks, retaining walls, structures, and fencing. Think of these elements as the backbone of your yard. They help define the different spaces, provide structure and order, and support your design—both literally (think retaining walls and terraces) and figuratively. Ideally, all hardscapes should be installed before you begin planting. This will allow for crews to work without damaging plants and will give you better-defined boundaries for your flower beds and lawn areas.

There are a plethora of design elements to consider from practical solutions to artistic enhancements and everything in between. You can browse our blog or visit our design gallery for inspiration. Spend some time investigating different design and materials options so you can make the best selections for your yard. And when in doubt, ask an expert!

  1.       Install irrigation and lighting systems next.

Even if you will ultimately install your new landscape in phases, we recommend installing your complete irrigation system all at once. Sprinkler heads can easily be turned on when needed, and you will avoid having to tear up your yard again to extend your lines. This is also why we recommend installing electrical wire for landscape lighting at the same time. You may not be sure yet if you want lighting in your landscape, but it won’t add much cost to do this upfront and you will save money later if and when you decide you do want to add lights. Plus, you will avoid disrupting your yard yet again!


If you are not sure what type of irrigation system would be best suited to your design, your designer can help. You can also check out our blog for more articles and tips on installing and maintaining irrigation systems.

For lighting inspiration and tips, check out these articles on outdoor lighting.

  1.       Amend your soil before your plant.

Soil quality is what makes the difference between a lush and thriving landscape and one with unhealthy or diseased plants. Before you begin planting, or lay down fresh sod or grass seed, test your soil. You can buy a kit and do this yourself or have a pro come and test your soil for you. This is a service we offer at Landscape East & West, and we can provide guidance as to what your lawn or garden is lacking and how to properly amend your soil.

We also recommend tilling your soil. This will help mix organic matter into your soil and can help control weeds. Tilling will also serve to break up crusted soil or hard-packed dirt, making planting that much easier.

  1.       Choose your plants wisely.

People make plant selections based on a whole variety of reasons, but it usually comes down to a matter of personal taste. And that is fine, in fact, that’s how it should be. We do offer this bit of advice though: know your plant before you put it in the ground. How big will it get? Will it outgrow the space? What light, soil, and water conditions are ideal for your plant to thrive? Will it get what it needs? If you have pets or young children, are any of the parts of the plant toxic? You get the idea. Here’s the good news though, if you have fallen in love with a plant and it turns out not to be a good fit, your designer can help you with alternate selections that give you what you want and will be a good match for all of the conditions in your yard.


  1.       Plant and enjoy!

This last step is the most fun. Adding all the softscapes of grasses, trees, shrubs, and flowers is like icing on the cake. And if you have done all the steps above first, you can simply step back and enjoy your newly completed yard when you are done.

Our professional design team at Landscape East & West has years of experience helping new homeowners with yard makeovers in the Portland Metro Area. We know the climate and all that mother nature can throw at us and we know how to create landscapes for year-round enjoyment. If you would like help with your yard makeover, let us know!