Ideas and Resources for DIY Landscaping Projects

Colorful courtyard patio with annuals and other plants growing in pots.
Annuals can further enhance the color in an already spectacular patio. Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images

Landscaping projects suitable for DIY homeowners range from very simple jobs anyone can tackle to complex projects that take substantial work and resources. Therefore, the first step in tackling any DIY landscaping project is understanding what's involved, in both the planning and the execution. Learning the essentials up front will help you decide whether a project is suitable for your own skills and ability, or whether you're better off hiring it out to a pro. The initial steps of dreaming and planning are fun and helpful no matter who ends up doing the work.

  • 01 of 09

    Outdoor Living: Privacy, Safety, and Enjoying the Good Life

    Family looking out onto their plant-adorned patio.
    Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

    Why do we divide our indoor living spaces into separate rooms? The need for privacy is part of the reason. But just as is the case with indoor spaces, outdoor living spaces need to be furnished and decorated in a manner that is appropriate to the use of the space. Indoors, a component suited to installation in a kitchen might be out of place in a bedroom. The same is true for outdoor living spaces. A swimming pool area, for example, should be tailored to the activity it will see—your needs in that space are quite different than, say, your needs in a garden area.

    An important principle of landscape work is to learn how to create outdoor rooms, as well as how to stay safe while undertaking DIY landscaping projects. Discover ways to achieve curb appeal and privacy in your outdoor living, plus how to decorate for the holidays.

  • 02 of 09

    Water Features, Rock Gardens, and Flower Beds

    Circular water garden with water lilies, shrubs and perennials.
    This water feature is as much about the plants as about the hardscape. Jason Smalley/Getty Images

    Water features are not only visually appealing, they also fill an outdoor space with soothing sounds. Using pre-formed liners, durable pumps, and flexible tubing, water features can be much easier to install than you might think. Once you have experimented with ponds, you may even decide to advance to the next level: simple waterfalls. Either way, install water-loving plants around your water features to further their visual appeal.

    Rock gardens, by contrast, are usually planted with vegetation that thrives in drier conditions, such as desert or alpine species. If neither water gardens nor rock gardens suit you, plant a flower bed instead.

  • 03 of 09

    Patios and Walkways

    Stone walkway made in sections of three interrupted by grass.
    Cora Niele/Getty Images

    DIY landscaping projects can greatly enhance your enjoyment of your yard. Features such as patios and walkways can add beauty but also lend functionality to your landscape. There are numerous kinds of materials you can use to build a beautiful patio, like brick, flagstone, concrete, and even tile.

  • 04 of 09

    Fences, Decks, and Arbors

    Back deck of cottage
    Trinette Reed/Stocksy United

    Like patios and walkways, these "hardscape" elements bring structure to your landscaping. Traditionally made of wood, decks, fences, and arbors are now sometimes composed of other materials. Composite wood is an option to consider for decking and deck railings, while vinyl fences and arbors have become very common. It's also important to consider the landscaping that will surround a fence or deck.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Raised Beds and Stone Walls

    Insert a niche into your stone wall (image) to accommodate a shrub. The latter will soften the look.
    David Beaulieu

    Building large retaining walls is not considered a DIY project. If you need a tall wall, chances are you have an erosion problem just waiting to happen and should consult a professional. By contrast, low retaining walls or even simple terraces make excellent DIY landscaping projects for beginners. After building small stone retaining walls, you can plant behind them, as you would in a raised bed.

  • 06 of 09

    Pest Control

    Groundhog in profile, with green grass in the background.
    www.anitapeeples.com/Getty Images

    Chances are your attitude toward pests is similar to your attitude toward weeds. For some people, weeds are deemed merely "wild plants" and are tolerated in the yard; likewise, insect and animal pests are enjoyed as "wildlife," and the damage they cause is accepted as part of nature. This can include moles, voles, rabbits and many insects

    But for those who shun such a laissez-faire approach to landscaping, there are plenty of resources and ideas for deterring and controlling pests. For example, deer (and the ticks they bring) are a major pest in some regions, but you can stay organic and humane while still keeping the deer at bay, by using fencing or restricting yourself to deer-resistant plants, such as lavender.

  • 07 of 09

    Solutions to Drainage, Erosion, and Other Soil Problems

    Wilton's Carpet (photo) is a type of creeping juniper.
    David Beaulieu

    Drainage problems can be a real drain on your time and energy. Solving drainage problems sounds easy, in theory: Find out where the excess water is coming from, then take the necessary steps to channel it away. Some drainage solutions are complicated and require a pro, but there are also plenty of DIY options, like installing French drains, building dry creek beds, and ensuring a proper slope for water runoff. 

    When dealing with erosion problems, the source may be a bit easier to figure out, although the solution is not necessarily any easier. In minor cases, you can try a DIY remedy, such as black plastic mulch and juniper ground covers.

    Still other soil problems are due to the chemistry and composition of the soil, such as garden soil with an acidic pH.

  • 08 of 09

    Where Should Beginners Start?

    Closeup image showing what bleeding heart's flower looks like.
    If you crave whimsy in the landscape, bleeding heart may be the ultimate fun plant for you to grow. David Beaulieu

    One thing that most everyone can do (if they are so inclined) is planting. But buying plants and dropping them in holes is only a small part of creating a living landscape. Just as house decorating requires careful planning and knowledge of design concepts and decorating elements, successful landscape design starts with an understanding of plant types and how to use them for the best effect.

    Expert tips can help any beginner get started, whether they're starting a garden from scratch or needing to spruce up a planted landscape by adding seasonal color, defining boundaries, or incorporating special elements like water features. Perhaps most helpful is information about common mistakes to avoid, since bad planting decisions can be both costly and long-term.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    When You Need a Pro

    Stump grinders (image) are great when you can afford them. They save you time and energy.
    If you have the money -- and don't have the time and energy -- hire someone with a stump grinder to remove your stump. David Beaulieu

    Some tasks are too dangerous to be considered DIY landscaping projects. In other cases, you may lack the time, energy, or skills required to do the job. There is a lot to be said for knowing when to call the pros—assuming, of course, you have the money to pay for their work.

    Sometimes, it makes good financial sense to call in a pro in order to avoid costly property damage from falling trees or drainage or erosion problems, or to prevent major headaches from issues with a driveway or a new gate. And there are cases where calling in a pro simply allows you to avoid backbreaking work (for example, hiring a stump grinder rather than digging out a stump yourself). But calling in a pro does not mean turning over responsibility—always do some research first, to be as informed as possible.