Cheat Sheet

Landscaping For Dummies

From Landscaping For Dummies by Phillip Giroux, Bob Beckstrom, Lance Walheim, The Editors of the National Gardening Association

Putting together your perfect landscape starts with making a wish list customized to your needs, planning out your landscaping, and purchasing plants best suited for your landscape plan and hardiness zone.

Create a Landscaping Wish List

Make a wish list when you begin landscape planning and use your imagination to customize your landscape around your family’s needs. Consider rain barrels, a fire pit or fire bowl, an arbor, or even a small greenhouse. Keep digging until you have everything you want in your yard. Consider these for your wish list:

  • Enough lawn to play catch

  • A brick patio or wooden deck

  • An outdoor barbecue

  • A privacy hedge

  • A fenced-in yard

  • A swimming pool or spa

  • A storage shed or potting shed

  • A compost pile

  • A fish pond or reflecting pool

  • A place where butterflies and birds come to visit

  • A private retreat with a hammock

  • A flower-cutting garden

  • A rose garden

  • A fresh herb plot or scented garden

  • A vegetable garden or fruit orchard

  • A rooftop garden

  • A bulb garden with flowers that announce the start of a new season

  • A patio garden with different pots full of colorful plants

  • Wildflowers

  • A drought-tolerant garden

How to Plan your Landscape

Planning your landscape helps to keep you on budget, find the right trees and plants for yous needs, and keeps you focused on your landscaping wish list. Use these steps when planning your landscape:

  1. Measure your current landscape and draw a rough plan on paper.

  2. Review your wish list.

  3. Determine your budget.

  4. Add potential structures (patio, deck, shed, bench, fence, pool, or pond) and pathways to your plan.

  5. Determine the sun, partial shade, and shade availability for each area that you plan to grow plants. Determine your hardiness zone.

  6. Add plants and trees to your plan.

  7. Check costs and availability of materials and plants.

  8. Call your local governing body and ask about permits.

  9. Enlist a landscape contractor, if necessary.

  10. Begin building and planting!

Buying the Best Plants for Your Landscape

Landscape plants can be expensive — they're an investment for your home. So, when you buy plants for your yard, seek healthy plants that fit your landscaping needs, beautify your property, and grow well in your area’s climate. These tips will help you get the right landscaping trees, flowers, and shrubs:

  • Plan your landscape on paper before you set out to purchase plants — you’ll know exactly how much to buy.

  • Establish a budget before you arrive at the nursery.

  • Choose plants suited to the amount of sun, partial shade, or shade in your garden.

  • Avoid plants that don’t grow well in your zone.

  • Buy plants that, when mature, are the right height, shape, and color for the scale of your landscape.

  • Choose plants that are compact, healthy, and (if applicable) just starting to flower. Avoid weak, spindly, or insect-infested plants.

  • Avoid buying plants that are rootbound or have outgrown their pots.

  • Note any special conditions before purchasing plants — soil requirements, watering needs, invasiveness, smells, and messiness (especially with berries).

Your Landscaping Hardiness Zone

When choosing plants for your landscaping, be sure to select plants suited for your weather zone. Most perennials are marked with a hardiness zone to indicate the minimum temperatures it can tolerate. Note the plant's hardiness for the best growing and ability to survive the winter. Use this table to find your area’s hardiness zone:

Plant Hardiness Zones for the U.S.
Fahrenheit Celsius
Zone 1 Below –50°F Below –46°C
Zone 2 –50°F to –40°F –46°C to –40°C
Zone 3 –40°F to –30°F –40°C to –34°C
Zone 4 –30°F to –20°F –34°C to –29°C
Zone 5 –20°F to –10°F –29°C to –23°C
Zone 6 –10°F to 0°F –23°C to –18°C
Zone 7 0°F to 10°F –18°C to –12°C
Zone 8 10°F to 20°F –12°C to –7°C
Zone 9 20°F to 30°F –7°C to –1°C
Zone 10 30°F to 40°F –1°C to 4°C
Zone 11 40°F and up 4°C and up
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