As a homeowner, you are often involved in competitions with your neighbors over which house is the best of the best. Sometimes, this type of passive-aggressiveness is encouraged by your homeowners’ association through awards for Yard of the Month.

And you would rather eat live bugs than see your neighbors that send their obnoxious brats to prep school win it for the seventh time in a row. With all of that in mind, here are some tips that will help your home and yard rise to the top.

● Follow the instructions on the tag. Just like what your elementary school teachers said, following instructions is the key to success. It applies to all aspects of your life, and it definitely applies to ensuring that your yard impresses the judges’ panel enough to give you the award. As such, for each and every plant that you buy, you need to carefully look at all of the instructions that are helpfully written on the tag. These contain details such as how much sunlight it needs, when you should water it, etc. Make sure your foliage is in good health so your yard really pops when the judges come to see it.

Be creative, yet conventional, with the placement. Let’s be perfectly honest here - your homeowners’ association may not be a bastion for genuinely creative thought. As far as they are concerned, this type of competition may only exist to ensure that resale values remain high. So before you start on this endeavor, look at the houses around you and see what type of landscaping works the best. In essence, do what Hollywood does what it comes to storytelling: take bits and pieces from what worked for others, assemble it together, and then make it as conventional as possible to appeal to the lowest common denominator. And also like Hollywood, top it all off with a centerpiece that is uniquely yours and yours alone -- they may not appreciate it, but you’ll establish your home as your own in a way your neighbors are sure to envy.

Without a doubt, consider the climate and time of the year. I know what you are thinking, “Oh come on, this is Florida! It’s probably one of the wettest states in the country!” To which I reply, “Yeah, but this is Florida, where there are some major dry spells during summers that always have brain-baking heat during the day.” Among other things, this type of climate ensures that watering all of your plants between noon and 4:30 will forever be a bad idea. From a biological standpoint, your best bet with most plants is to plant them around March and April, often depending on how much rain you get around that time.

When it comes to pest control, leave no stone unturned. This is by no means saying that you should overdo the pesticides, as that type of stuff can do more harm than good. Rather, you need to both practical and thorough when it comes to using pest control for your lawn. The first course of action, well before you buy any plants for the yard, would be to hire a pest control service for your lawn. Lawn and pest companies also have a good perspective for offering advice on how to take care of your yard between service calls, and they would be happy to offer their insights as to what plants will work well and how to keep them healthy and protected from pests.