The Q&A Archives: Where do I start

Question: Where do I start? I'm a 1st time home owner and I have the inside of my home looking how I want it. Now its time for me to start outside. My father & I dug out the flower bed this fall which was full of ivy type vines and we removed the termite infested wood surrounding it. Winter has come and gone and I don't know what to do. I would like to add some kind of bush/shrub (2 or 3 depending on the size). What kind do I add? I want some very low maintainance. What else would I add to make it attractive, but low maintainance. I would like to add some mulch, what kind? I would like to add an easy to install boarder; something I can do on my own if necessary and won't take a lot of time. Right now some kind of yellow bulb flower is growing and sometime some purple flower will grow around my stairs. Should I dig those out or add a boarder around them? I would also like to add some mulch around my trees. I live in an older neighborhood, so the trees are large. Any suggestions? And, I did not remove my leaves from this fall (my fault) and now after racking all day yesterday I realize I have no grass. What is the process of seeding. Please indicate what to use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on. I have noticed in the places I do have grass there is some weeds (I think its called crabgrass) can I seed and get rid of that at the same time? There are a lot of questions, but I really need some help! I walked into Home Depot today afterwork and I felt overwhelmed. The people where friendly, but I didn't even know where to start, so I decided to fill this out. Please HELP! Thanks,

Answer: Wow! You have quite a task in front of you and it's okay to feel overwhelmed. Just make a list of the things you'd like to accomplish and do one project at a time. It may take a year or two, but in the end, you'll have an attractive new yard.

Let's start with the flower beds. Rototilling or digging each and removing stones, weeds and plant debris will give you a clean slate. After doing this, spread several inches of organic matter over the entire bed and dig it in to a depth of about 8". This will make the roots of your new plants very happy. After planting (you can get some ideas by visiting your nursery or visiting Monrovia Nursery's website ( and selecting plants from their database. You'll find a plant search option where you can enter the criteria - sun or shade, flower color, etc. and the database will list appropriate plants).

As for the lawn, rake the bare spots to roughen up the soil, then overseed with a grass mixture for shady areas (read the package label to find the right mix). Sprinkle a light coating of peat moss over the newly broadcast seeds to help retain moisture and water as often as necessary to keep the seeds moist. They should sprout in 7-10 days. After the lawn is well established you can spot treat for weeds and feed your lawn to promote lush, thick growth. A lush, thick lawn will crowd out weeds.

As for border materials, you can leave the areas alone for an informal look; simply use the edge of a shovel to keep the grass from encroaching on your flower bed. Or, you can dig a shallow trench and line the area with plastic border, wooden border or even a single layer of bricks set end to end. I'm sure you'll find just the right material to give your garden the look you want.

So, my advice is to start slow and finish each project before you attack the next. Feel free to stop by and ask questions as you proceed with your new landscape.

Best wishes with your project!

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