You can use your garden hose to help lay out the borders of curved areas for gardens, flower beds, paths or small ponds. Just lay the hose along the proposed edge, check it for position, then mark out the curve by using a garden spade along the edge of the hose.
For home sites, the bottom line is pretty simple: You want soil that has good bearing capacity, exerts relatively low lateral pressure, and drains well, so that you can have a stable, dry foundation. The best natural soils for these purposes are sands and gravels. Silts and clays are fair, but the softest ones are poor. Then there are soils such as peat, expansive clay, and improperly deposited fill, which are so bad that they must usually be removed and replaced - often at considerable cost to you.
Before you apply fertilizer and lime you should know your soil nutrient values. Soil tests can be done at most Land Grant Universities for little or no fee. Others avenues for testing are County Extension Agents and maybe some of the better garden nurseries. An easy way to take a soil sample is to take an old golf club. Keeping the grip in place cut the shaft at a 45 degree angle about 2' down on the shaft. About 2" up from the angled cut, cut out or notch 1/2 of the shaft circumference. By inserting this into the soil it will remove a 2" core of soil. Take at least a dozen core samples from all over the lawn area. You will need about 1/3 -1/2 lb. of soil in total. You then remove the grass top from the core and place the remaining soil in a brown bag to be sent off for testing.
If you have bare patches in your lawn, prepare these areas for seed or sod. To care for your new and existing grass, be sure to water properly.
If your planning a backyard wetland, locate it where it is unlikely to attract unattended children. Check local safety ordinances and building ordinances for restrictions and permits.
Cultivate by hoeing to break up soil crusts and control weeds. Shallow rooted annuals are injured by deep, vigorous cultivation. Hoeing should be very shallow to cut weeds off just below the soil surface. As the annuals fill in, hand weeding may be the only practical alternative. Chemical weed preventers are available but they have a short life and must be reapplied. Most chemicals labeled for flowers do not give control of difficult perennial weeds.
Anything that was once alive will naturally decompose. However, some organic wastes should not be composted at home. DO compost these items: grass clippings, leaves, plant stalks, hedge trimmings, old potting soil, twigs, annual weeds without seed heads, vegetable scraps, coffee filters, and tea bags. Do NOT compost these items: diseased plants, weeds with seed heads, invasive weeds such a quack grass and moring glory, pet feces, dead animals, bread and grains, meat or fish parts, dairy products, grease, cooking oil, or oily foods.
If you don't have a soil moisture probe, some simple guidelines can help you decide when to water. Water when grass changes from a green to a grayish blue color, when grass leaves begin to roll, when the grass stays down after being walked on, or when you can't easily push a screwdriver down into the soil a half foot or so. Apply 1/4 in. of water and then check to see if the soil is wet down to 6 in. If it isn't, make another application just so the soil is moist, but not wet or sticky.
When winter is over and it's finally nice enough to venture out into your yard, the first thing you should do to ensure that your lawn will have a good head start for the growing season ahead is to clean up all the debris that built up over the last few months. A power blower will help you remove leaves, sticks and other materials.
Always buy "certified seed". This is identified by a blue tag saying certified. By spending a few extra cents up front, you will save many hundreds of dollars along with the added aggravation of controlling unwanted weeds later. Choose the right grass seed, sod or sprigs for your situation.