Answer: What an adventure! Rather than try to give you all the answers you are looking for in a brief email I am going to suggest that you borrow or invest in two paperback books: Gardening for Dummies by Michael MacCaskey ISBN 1-5-6884-644-4 and Lawn Care for Dummies by Lance Walheim ISBN0-7645-5077-2. These books offer basic straightforward information and are in my opinion just perfect for new homeowners in your situation.
In addition, I would suggest that you run some basic soil tests before you do anything else. The reason for this is that lawns and landscaping are built from the soil up, and the soil will affect everything you plant. The test results will tell you what you need to do to improve your soil to grow a good lawn and will help you select the right kind of turf grass and appropriate shrubs so they will grow well for you. Your County Extension (654-9854) can help you with the tests and with interpreting the results. They may also have information about plants that do particularly well in your local area.
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