Setting Priorities...

Hi, all.
I'm moving to a new house where the previous owners were fairly uninspired in terms of keeping up the property.
I want to redo a lot, but wonder about setting priorities. What should I tackle first, and what can wait?
As background, the green area consists of a small, somewhat shady front lawn about 30' x 10' and a backyard about 30' x 30' with a big maple (unknown species) about 3' in diameter, a lawn which looks like it has some ground ivy and other weeds mixed in. The whole property is surrounded by a fence and pretty tired hedge (unknown deciduous species). The back is fairly sunny right now, but I don't know how much shade our tree and the neighbors' trees will yield.
I'll be moving in early April. There is a stream abutting the property, and I have a toddler, so I want to avoid or carefully target pesticide and fertilizer use.
Here are some things I want to do:
-- Rejuvinate the hedge -- Remove some lawn for vegetables, herbs and annuals -- Plant some flowering shrubs (Rose of Sharon is a favorite of mine, wife likes butterfly bush) -- Plant a fig tree and possibly paw paw -- Weed and rejuvinate the lawn -- Add some kind of interesting landscape feature, such as a stone wall or raised garden area
The big question I have, though, is how to prioritize, given limited time to garden (alas).
Should I forget about the lawn for this year and commit to double digging the vegetable garden? Or am I better off digging out a big section of the hedge and putting in the flowering shrubs? How long should I wait to get a sense of the sun patterns? Maybe I ought to get the landscape feature in place first and then build around it? Or is it most important to get the weeds out of the lawn before they take over even more?
Obviously, there is no one right answer, and anything I do will be an ongoing process, but I'd certainly be interested in knowing how other people tackle a major garden/yard renewal project like this.
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As a landscape designer, I get asked this question often. There is a recommended protocol for sequencing landscape work, but it applies most appropriately to the proper sequence for installing a full NEW landscape. That aside, I typically recommend to clients to attack the problem that is most visible or bugs you the most first. Often that is redoing a front entry garden, as that is the first thing visitors see and enhanced curb appeal always perks up a home garden. If growing summer vegetables is high on your agenda, I'd do that early in the process as well.
Otherwise, I'd leave the lawn until the bulk of the new planting/renovating is done (same as is done with new landscapes). Newly seeded or reseeded lawns don't stand up well to traffic and hauling plants, wheelbarrows and soil products and amendments back and forth will chew up an already well established lawn. Wait until early fall to address this issue.
pam - gardengal
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