Congratulations! You’ve made the leap and purchased your own home. You’re no doubt spending lots of time cleaning, painting, fixing up, and decorating the inside with those personal touches. But don’t forget about the yard. It’s the landscaping that gives people their first impression of your house. Our guide to landscaping for new homeowners can help complete your dream house in Austin. 

1. Tidy Up

Spot-spraying weeds
Spot-spraying weeds helps tidy up the lawn.

First things first. You need to get your lawn looking clean and manicured. This will automatically add value to your home. Set a regular schedule for mowing, do any necessary leaf blowing, and trim your edges.

If you notice any weeds popping up, remove them before they spread. This can be trickier than it sounds, depending on the time of year. Learn to “read” your weeds — they say a lot about the condition of your yard. 

“Lawn weeds can often be an indication of other underlying issues compromising turfgrass growth and development. Issues may include environmental stresses — such as shade, drought, or heat — or stresses caused by improper management, including inappropriate mowing, fertilization, or irrigation,” says Dr. Rebecca Grubbs-Bowling, an assistant professor and turfgrass specialist at Texas A&M University. She wrote a guide to weed management for Texas lawns.

Dr. Rebecca Grubbs-Bowling, Texas A&M turf expert
Dr. Rebecca Grubbs-Bowling, Texas A&M turf expert

Pay close attention to any bare or brown spots. If you have problem areas, you may want to check with the Travis County extension office to find the root of the problem. It could be a simple problem, such as not enough or too much water. If that’s not a problem, you could be looking at pests or fungal diseases such as grubs, chinch bugs, or take-all patch. Brown patch and large patch are also fungal diseases common in Texas lawns. If you have trouble getting rid of it, soil testing by Texas A&M experts might help you solve the problem.

Once you’ve identified any problems, you can decide if you need to lay down fresh sod or reseed your grass. You will also have to determine if you want to keep the current grass or choose another turf type suited for Austin, its climate and your family’s needs.

2. Section Out Landscaping Zones

Most homes will include four potential areas that need landscaping: a front lawn, a backyard, and two side areas. Start by working with the front lawn, as all your neighbors and passersby will see it.

Create a drawing of your lot, either on your own or with the help of a landscape designer. It’s best to divide your home into sections to make it more manageable to work with. This will also help you figure out what kind of outdoor improvements you want to make.

3. Add Flowers, Shrubs

Yaupon holly
The Central Texas native yaupon holly produces North America’s only caffeinated tea. Credit: iloque, CC 2.0

Once you’ve chosen the type of lawn you want, you may want to section off an area near the front walkway for flowers or shrubs. Both will add a touch of color, and shrubs will give your house a bit of privacy. Consider growing plants that produce colorful blooms all season, such as marigolds and geraniums. These are inexpensive, look gorgeous from the minute you plant them and both help repel mosquitoes in the summer. Other options that will grow well in Central Texas are the yaupon, rosemary, and the primrose jasmine — just three of the plants that Texas AgriLife Extension lists as suitable for the Hill Country. Regardless of which groundcovers, flowers, and shrubs you choose, make sure you check the sunshine, soil, and water requirements of each plant. 

4. Practical Yet Pleasing

Backyard entertainment area
Backyard entertainment area

Determine how you want to use each area. This should be based on your preferences as well as the kind of aesthetic appeal you want. Do you want large areas to entertain? Or would you prefer to have a large herb and vegetable garden? Do you have a pet that will need a space to do his business? Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish with your yard, and then rank them by priority.

5. Install Low-Maintenance Features

No matter your design choices, make it easy to maintain. You want your landscaping to work for you, but you don’t want to spend hours working on the upkeep. Install a sprinkler or drip irrigation system to make your job easier.

Mulch around plants and trees to help conserve soil moisture and reduce your weeding chores. Consider growing perennials so you won’t need to replant each year. Keep in mind, native Texas plants and flowers need little care or water and repel insects.

6. Develop a Focal Point

Backyard water feature
Your backyard makeover may include a water feature as a focal point. Credit: F Delventhal, CC 2.0

Draw visitors’ eyes to your lawn by adding a show-stopping focal point. A focal point adds life and vigor to your lawn throughout the year, but especially during the winter months, when plant life may be scarce. Consider adding a sculpture, water feature, or a fire pit. This will give you something to enjoy all year long.

Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed by the vast opportunities your lawn presents. You want a beautiful yard, but you probably aren’t going to get there overnight. Take one small step at a time by adding a container plant, a hanging basket, or a small raised bed garden. Every little bit counts when it comes to boosting the beauty of your Central Texas landscape.