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How to Landscape Your New Home

March 09, 2021
Fire pit and string lights in the back yard of Residence 1 at Haciendas in Chula Vista, CA

You’ve finally moved in your brand-new home and you’re eager to landscape your yard. The interior of your home is beautiful and you’re ready to make the outside just as stylish. But where and how do you start? Your yard deserves just as much preparation and thought as the rest of your home. Before you start digging in (literally), it’s smart to plan out exactly what you hope to accomplish and what you need to do to get there.

As you get started with your landscaping plan, here are some of the steps you’ll need to take when figuring out how to landscape your new home.

Outdoor room and privacy fence in Plan 3 at Prado in Chula Vista, CA

1. Get a lay of the land

Before you start digging holes and planting trees, it’s important to assess the layout of your new yard. An easy place to start is figuring out the relation of your space to the sun. Where does the sun hit? Are there areas that get more shade than others? How is your house oriented to the sun? Depending on the orientation, it’s possible the inside could get a little toasty. You may want to plan for some trees or a feature fence that can provide some shade and help lower those energy bills in the summer. The best part is, they also serve double duty and offer a bit more privacy.

Outdoor room in Residence 3 at Marigold at New Haven in Ontario Ranch, CA

If you’re eager to embrace your green thumb and want to start a veggie garden, you’ll want to stake out the best spot in the yard for the ideal sunlight. Wanting to grow your own herbs? You’ll want a space that gets at least four hours of sunlight. Ready to round out the dinner plate with some homegrown veggies? The fastest growing vegetables need full sun so you’ll want to find a spot without blockage from trees, shrubs, or fences. Make rough sketches of the layout and your ideas. Even if you’re not the most artistic, draw it out! Make note of areas that receive full sun all day, partial sun, where the water access is, and what kind of soil you have. Even if it’s just shapes or blobs, as long as you know what those shapes and blobs mean, that’s all that matters.

Friends enjoying food and drinks on the patio in Easton Park in Austin, TX

2. Think ahead

As tempting as it is to jump into your landscape project, take a minute and think about how you want your backyard to function. Do you want it to be the entertainment hub where friends and family can come enjoy dinner out on the patio? Do you want to have quiet, secluded spaces where you can retreat – perhaps a water feature to help you meditate? Or maybe a fire pit where you and your partner can enjoy a glass of wine after the chaos of the day has subsided? Think about the landscape as a series of movement and rest stops – where do you want to promote activity and where do you want to rest?

Outdoor dining area in Plan 2 at Prado in Chula Vista, CA

Consider how the space will evolve as your life does. If you’re planning for kids or pets in the future (or currently have them now), make sure you’re not planting anything thorny or toxic. Having a transitional mindset can help you “future-proof” your backyard. Go ahead and build in that sand pit for the kiddos – once they grow you can convert it into a veggie patch. Once the perimeter and foundation are built, minor cosmetic enhancements allow the space to grow with you. Even further down the road, you could convert the veggie patch to a fire pit giving the perfect finish to a space that served your family for years.

Outdoor living in Residence 2 at Juniper at Spencer's Crossing in Murrieta, CA

Think about how much work you’re willing and able to put into the maintenance and upkeep. If the prospect of mowing the lawn every weekend makes you cringe, you may want to go the route of artificial sod or desert-scape (or make sure your budget can accommodate a gardener). Be realistic about your expectations and your ability to meet them. Many people love the idea of gardening but simply don’t have the lifestyle or schedule to support it.

3. Decide on a budget

Generally speaking, 10% of a home’s value should be dedicated to landscaping including hardscape and plants. This is a very rough estimate and doesn’t mean you have to invest that much all at once and all upfront. You’ve just bought a new home and there may not be a robust budget leftover so it’s important to be realistic as well. If your budget allows, a landscape architect can be well worth their cost. Just be clear about what capacity you are hiring them – design and take charge of the project or utilize their talent and expertise for recommendations and design. Often times they can present you with a design, a listing of plants to purchase and plant yourself, and the sequence in which you can tackle the projects to be most effective with your time and money.

Outdoor lounge and water feature at Residence 3 at Haciendas in Chula Vista, CA

4. Installation

You’ve learned the ins and outs of your yard, you’ve planned out what you want to put in, and you assigned a dollar amount you’re willing to invest. What next? In general, hardscaping (patios, decks, fountains, etc.) gets installed first followed by irrigation. When it comes to your irrigation setup, think of your needs early on. Most plants tend to get overwatered – the only thing that needs consistent water is turf. If possible, consider drip irrigation to get to the root of the plants rather than just sprinklers since water doesn’t always penetrate as deep as plants need it.

Outdoor dining and seating area at Residence 1 at Agave at Spencer's Crossing in Murrieta, CA

Then it’s time to put in your plants. It’s easy to go to a big box retailer, wander the garden center, and choose plants because they’re pretty. But it’s important to think about how plants will grow in a year, then 10 years, and how they’ll look as the seasons change. If you envision becoming the grill master of the neighborhood and hosting everyone year-round, choose plants, shrubs, and flowers that bloom at different times so you’re constantly enjoying the look and scent of your space. Keep trees away from the foundation proportionate to how tall they will be when they’re matured. If a tree generally matures to be around 20 feet tall, it shouldn’t be planted closer than 20 feet to the house. There’s some wiggle room in this estimate, but over the long term the root system could cause some serious damage to your home. Once you’ve completed installation, don’t be surprised if your yard isn’t exactly as you envisioned right off the bat. Landscape is going to take time to develop, complete, and flourish. Just like your home, it’s not built overnight.

Covered outdoor living room at Residence 2 at La Vita at Orchard Hills in Irvine, CA

5. Make it yours

Much like the interior of your home, your outside space is a reflection of you. Once you have the foundational items installed, it’s time to make it yours. A great way to infuse some personality is with lighting. Create the perfect outdoor dining space for summer dinner parties with a few strands of string lights. Surround your fire pit with some lanterns to add some soft lighting that allows the fire to be the main feature. Add statement lighting for al fresco dining. The right lighting can make all the difference in your outdoor dining area.

Outdoor dining area with blue and white rug at Residence 3 at Summerset at New Haven in Ontario Ranch, CA

Choose accessories that add warmth and style but are also durable outside. Expand your living area by creating an outdoor living room with the use of a sectional and cocktail table. Soften up the hardscape with an outdoor rug and throw pillows in a variety of sizes and patterns. Add “window treatments” in the form of curtains. They frame the view, offer privacy, and help with shade. Go with a neutral fabric or add a pop of color then carry and complement those colors into the space with coordinating pillows and fresh florals.

Find your home

Creating your ideal backyard space starts with the right home. Let us help you find your new home so you can create your perfect outdoor oasis. We’ll be expecting you!