With its variety of microclimates, unpredictable rains and presence of pests, the Bay Area can be a challenging place for landscaping. Don’t have a green thumb? Read on to learn more about how you can still create a lush, vivid and environmentally sound garden.

Let’s start with some basic guidelines for optimizing your gardening experience.

Plan for all seasons. While many assume gardening is only for the spring and summer, if you plan correctly, you can keep yours looking beautiful through the fall and winter seasons as well.

Remember, plants grow. A common mistake gardeners make is installing plants that don’t fit within the schemes of their gardens. Don’t be a victim of “cute in a gallon can” syndrome—just because a particular plant looks good at the nursery, that doesn’t mean it’ll be right for your garden.

Plan for ecological balance. Any gardener knows healthy crops attract harmful insects in search of sustenance. However, instead of going on the offensive by applying insecticides, you should allow these unwelcome guests to stick around for a while. Once there are enough of them, they’ll attract beneficial insects that will restore ecological balance.

Focus on functionality. A garden can be a lot more than a place to situate plants—it can also be an ideal setting for leisure and entertainment, so be sure to keep this in mind when designing yours. Additions like landscape lighting and hardscape features (such as a stone patio or barbeque) can transform your garden into a functional outdoor living space.

Be kind to the earth. From design to installation and beyond, be proactive about employing ecologically friendly methods and materials at every step of your gardening experience.