1. Describe your yard. Include: adjoining property including natural features and opportunities for links to neighboring habitat; location of the house, window views, neighbors, structures, sidewalks, utility lines (both above and below ground), mature trees, weak or diseased trees, vegetable gardens, current shrubbery and flower beds; sun including number of hours of direct sunlight; topography including slopes and aspects (facing directions); soils including drainage, pH, fertility and texture (have a soil test done); water such as natural seeps and roof runoff.
2. Think about your preferences. How will the site be used? (entertainment, play, public, private, and quiet areas) How long do you plan to stay in this house? What wildlife species would you like to attract? How much time is available for gardening? What kinds of trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses do you desire? Consider colors and appearances at different times of the year.
3. Determine how much money you want to spend.
4. Develop a design based on your answers to the above questions. Consult references, visit gardens and landscapes using native plants, modify this plan. Be realistic about the size of your landscape project. Start small and add to it.
5. Prepare garden/landscape site. Use a method appropriate for your site and preferences. Options include newspaper and mulch, selective use of herbicides, sod removal.