Question: I'm a beginner and want to work on my own landscape plan. How do I begin?
Getting started often the hardest part of a DIY project. So how should beginners begin...?
On paper. Take precise measurements of the areas of your yard, and draw a sketch of your property. Highlight in red areas with underground cables (get help from your local utility companies and/or by calling the Call Before You Dig phone number). Note which areas are sunny, which shady. Pay special attention to problem areas: areas with poor drainage, erosion problems, etc. As you set this information down on paper, a clearer picture of what needs to be done emerges.
Based on your sketch (particularly the location of sunny or shady areas), research which plants will grow best in the various areas of your property. Such research is critical to proper plant selection. Knowing what to grow where and executing your plans based on that knowledge will obviate many potential problems.
The next step -- again, to be carried out on paper -- will be to include plants and hardscape features (patios, walkways, etc.) in your sketch. For examples of planting plans, please consult Landscape Design Plans.