In many places the temperatures are still below freezing, but that doesn’t mean you should procrastinate your spring landscape and hardscape projects any longer. It may seem counterintuitive to be thinking about your yard while it’s still frozen, but winter is the perfect time to begin prepping for the upcoming season so you can hit the ground running with projects.

Here are a few helpful steps you can take to make starting your spring to-do list as easy as possible.

1. Decide What You Like. This step is the most crucial part of starting your projects. Determining the style you prefer makes the design process a lot more smooth. You can find inspiration in many places:

a. Pinterest. It’s not just for recipes. Take a look at yard inspiration and save a board full of images that inspire you.

b. Houzz. Similar to Pinterest, this website can help you see pictures specific to houses and yards.

c. Other yards. Hop in your car and take a drive to find things you like or dislike in the yards around you. Visiting friends and family to check out their backyards is a great way to see more ideas of things you might want to put in your own yard (or things you may want to avoid).

Visiting friends and family to check out their backyards is a great way to see more ideas of things you might want to put in your own yard (or things you may want to avoid).

As you start paying attention to different yards, you may start to notice a pattern in what you like. Perhaps you’re very drawn to pergolas. Maybe flagstone patios have a special place in your heart. Bright-colored florals may speak to you. There’s no wrong answer.

Whatever it may be, figuring out the aesthetic you like in advance will help you as you plan and implement your yard renovation plans.

2. Set Goals. Figure out what you want the space used for. If entertaining is important to you, scoping out the space for maximum gathering capacity should be a priority. If you are big into gardening, making sure you have adequate room for grow boxes might take precedent. If you’re looking to turn your yard into a tranquil escape from the world, finding a spot to hang your hammock might be the most important part of your design.

Establish early on what you want to get out of your yard, and you’ll better be able to work toward it.

3. Call Your Landscaper. If you plan to have a company install your landscape or hardscape instead of doing it yourself, you will want to call well before the flowers start blooming. Once spring hits, a lot of custom landscaping companies have their entire spring and summer booked. Calling early in the year can help you get on the list. If you wait too long, you may be looking at a spring installation for the next year instead of the upcoming one.

4. Determine Your Budget. A waterfall, pickleball court, greenhouse, and hot tub all might sound nice in theory, but determining how much money you can reasonably spend on your yard is helpful in keeping your plans on track. Getting ballpark prices for different elements can help you separate your needs from your wants.

Keep future costs in mind, too. A wood fence may fit your design aesthetic and budget, but remember, it will require regular staining and sealing. Don’t forget upkeep costs as you plan your budget.

Budgeting in advance can help you have a more realistic idea of what your money can buy you instead of being blindsided after things start moving.

5. Consider the Limits. It might be nice to have an outdoor kitchen in the far corner of your yard, but keep an open mind as you work through logistics with your hardscape company. An outdoor kitchen will require gas hookups, power, electricity, drainage, and more. An experienced landscape designer can help you determine the most efficient place for the different elements you want.

Experienced hardscaping contractors may also be able to spot potential problems with drainage or sun coverage. Starting the conversation with them while it’s still winter can help you have enough time to make decisions before a shovel can even hit the soil.

While you’re out shoveling the snow, let your mind wander into spring to see the potential in your yard. You’ll be better off in the long run if you can plan your Richmond area backyard renovations early.