Look all around your home. If all you see is barren dirt, you're probably in a new home. Most builders only provide a very basic landscaping package for the front yard and nothing for the backyard. Before you hire a bulldozer to come in and clear the lot, take a few minutes to think about what you want from your landscaping.
Kid Friendly Backyard
There is no place like home when it comes to kids playing. It's not hard to turn your backyard into a kid-friendly play area. A small patch of lawn serves as an area for lawn bowling, croquet or kid-sized badminton. A circular track made of decomposed granite surrounding the lawn offers a place for bike riding or pulling a wagon. A kiddie pool filled with sand becomes a spot for digging. Rubber mulch under a swing set or play equipment will help prevent injuries from falls. Kids who love to garden will enjoy an area all their own for planting vegetables and flowers.
Trees take longer to become established and take longer to grow than other plants. It's important to decide what kind of trees you want and plant them as soon as possible. Deciduous trees lose their leaves for at least part of the year, so they might not be the best choice for privacy. Evergreens or pine trees keep their foliage all year. Some trees provide lots of shade because of their dense growth habits, broad spreading branches and large leaves, which works for a large yard. Ornamental trees or shrubs are more appropriate for small yards.
A water feature adds a focal point to the yard. A fountain's falling water can catch the sun's rays as it's surrounded by flowers like geraniums, miniature roses and Shasta daisies. Preformed liners allow fairly easy installation of ponds that nurture water plants like water lilies and water hyacinths, as well as bog plants such as Dwarf papyrus and cattails. A small space can accommodate an aboveground pond made with stacked bricks and a water proof liner. Flowers in containers dress up the base.
Lawn from Seed
Instant lawn from sod means instant backyard. The downside is sod is expensive compared to seed, has to be delivered and is a chore to plant. Sod also requires, in most cases, a minimum purchase. The sod is heavy and most likely will require rolling to make firm contact with the soil. Regardless of whether you plant sod or seed, preparation of the ground remains the same. That's something you can do yourself in a weekend or two depending on the area of lawn.
Perennials take a few years to become well-established and reach peak blooming. Filling borders and beds with fast-growing annuals means quicker color for the yard. Choosing varieties that self-seed prolifically, such as larkspur, mean you won't have to plant as much the next year. Other choices include petunias, which come in a vast array of colors and bloom prolifically, or pansies, a member of the viola family, which provide early spring color. Marigolds add a bright note of oranges and yellows and grow from 6 inches to 36 inches high. Taller plants include cosmos, daisy-like flowers in purples, pinks and white. on feathery foliage up to 4 feet high.