You've just bought a house…or maybe you're about to sell one. You look around your property and realize it's less than attractive. The grass is patchy and yellowed in some areas; the shrubs that came with the property look overgrown or spindly; and there's no color anywhere. So how do you go about making your yard an inviting oasis--a place that you or a potential buyer would like to spend time in? You start with the base--the soil. An inexpensive home soil test kit will tell you if your soil is too acidic or alkaline. Depending on the results, you can add a lime or a sulphur mixture to obtain the correct pH. Another factor is your soil's composition and texture. The best soil has the perfect proportions of clay, silt and sand and has some organic components as well. If your soil is so dense you can barely get a spade into it, you need to to loosen it up with a good hand tool and some loam. Loam is basically "perfect soil", with the correct proportions of sand, clay and silt. Loam is available at your local landscape supply business and is sold by the cubic yard. You can mix it into your existing soil or--if your soil is very poor and rocky (as is often the case here in New England), you can remove it and replace it with loam. The other important component of soil--especially if you plan on planting flowers and/or vegetables is organic nutrients. There are two ways to enrich your soil: on the surface and in the soil itself. The best way to add nutrients from the inside out is with compost, which is organic material that has been partially broken down. Old-fashioned composting takes time and work. You need a bin, lots of organic material (leftover food, leaves, grass clippings, etc.), time for the material to break down and someone willing to turn the compost frequently (mixing it up). There is an easier method, however: recycling yard waste. Many landscape suppliers will take your branches, limbs and clippings and turn them into compost for you. Typically, you drop off your yard waste and drive off with someone else's that's already been turned into compost--everyone benefits. Once the soil is good, you can then go onto to the fun part--choosing and planting flowers, shrubs and trees.