By: Alex Miller

The purchase of one’s first home is an exciting experience. The pride that comes with homeownership is the result of hard work, and you deserve all the good feelings that come with being handed the keys to your very own house.

However, as most first time homeowners are keenly aware, big changes come with signing that deed. When you’re renting someone else is responsible for most of the upkeep and maintenance; now those tasks fall to you. Unless you already have experience with home repairs and maintenance, you might wonder how you’ll ever tackle it all effectively.

One of the biggest challenges can be lawn and garden maintenance. Unless you’re planning to hire a professional to take care of your landscaping, these tasks fall to you. If you’re a first-time homeowner who can’t tell weeds from roses or a shovel from a hoe, these five tips can help you learn the basics of lawn and garden care, and you may just end up with the nicest yard on the block.

1. The Basic Tools

Keeping your lawn and garden in top shape requires some hard work and the proper tools to get the job done. You might be tempted to simply borrow tools from your new neighbors but that’s not exactly the best way to fit into your new neighborhood.

Head to your local home improvement store and admit to the salesperson that you’re a complete newbie. He or she can help you choose the right tools for your project. Some of the basics will include a lawnmower, an edger, a shovel, a rake, a hoe, and watering tools such as hoses and watering cans. If you plan to tackle a bigger project you may need more specialized tools.

2. When to Plant

Plants are complex beings and even experienced gardeners struggle with their finicky needs. One of the biggest mistakes a new gardener can make is planting specific species at the wrong time. To add to the confusion, many plants require a specific planting time depending on where in the world you live.

Thankfully there are trusty almanacs to help you out. Once seen only on dusty bookshelves of yore, online almanacs are now your best resource to ensure that you’re not planting tomatoes too early or that your pretty pansies simply wither and die in the hot sun.

3. Landscape Design 101

If you’re lucky your new home already has an existing form of landscaping. However, if you want to tackle the job, you can make your yard look any way you want. Whether it’s a vegetable garden or a riot of flowering plants and shrubs, the choice is up to you.

Luckily, there are several online garden planning tools that let you simply drag and drop plants and trees to create your perfect landscape design without risk. Combine this with your newfound almanac skills and you can easily create your mockup garden, which can be extremely satisfying during the winter months.

4. Caring for Your Grass

The grass in your yard may seem like the easiest part of first time gardening; just mow it when it needs to be mowed and forget it, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The grass and the soil beneath it requires specialized care, including fertilization, aerating, and more.

This may be the one part of your gardening regime that you should relinquish to a professional. Aerating the soil and fertilizing at the right time is crucial to the health of your lawn, but it’s also tough work. Perhaps stick with the flowers and the vegetables and let the pros handle the grass and provide you with natural lawn care that makes your yard beautiful without all the fuss.

5. Keeping Your Plants Alive

For some people, the idea of keeping a plant alive seems harder than keeping a pet alive! At least with a pet you have some obvious visual clues when they’re not feeling well. Plants, on the other hand, are nonverbal mysteries that may just die for no apparent reason.

Over- or under-watering is often the culprit when one of your plants dies, but pests, too much or too little sun, and lack of nutrients can also be to blame. When you’re designing your landscaping and putting your plants in the ground, be sure to learn more about the water and nutrient needs of each type of plant. It might also be helpful to create a calendar to keep track of watering and fertilizing times.

Creating the garden of your dreams at your first home is definitely a labor of love. However, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these lawn and garden tips to make your first garden one to remember.