Evaluate Your Site

One of the 1st steps of designing a landscape is to know what you have to work with. The following are areas to consider as you evaluate your site. You will need the answers to these questions to select your plants and create your design.

Base Plan
What are the size and dimensions of the area you will be landscaping? To make sure you get enough mulch, but not too much, and get enough plants to look nice, but not overgrown or sparse, you need a base plan to scale. You may be able to get a plot plan from the city or county or just draw one yourself. Go online to get ideas on how to create your base plan. To get started:
  • Add site data to the house outline, on the base plan, locating windows and doors.
  • Add fences, gates, sidewalks, driveway, mailbox, down spouts, utility boxes and other objects in your yard and on your house.
  • Locate utility lines, boxes and easements so you can design and build without any surprises. Utility companies will need to be able to access their equipment and read the meter.
  • Locate all your trees and other plants that might affect your design.
Site Conditions
Make a copy of the base plan and mark the site conditions on it. Mark the direction of any slopes. Answer these questions in your plan:
  • Does water drain from the backyard through the side and front yard to the street?
  • Does the water stand around the house after a rain?
    If so, make allowances for this in your design.
    Mark the sunny and shady areas of the yard and for how much of the day.
    Mark a north arrow on your plan.
    Note walking routes on this plan.
  • Do you wheel the garbage can over the lawn to the street?
    You will now need a path to get that trash out.
    Note views from inside the house that you do not want to block with new plantings.
    Also mark views you do want to block into or out of the house.
    Note views from the street that you want to screen from view.
  • What type of soil do you have?
    You want to plant high in clay/heavy soils.
  • Do you want to add any features like a sidewalk retaining wall or garden pathway to your new garden?
    Mark these with bubbles or arrows indicating their location.
Determine what planting zone you are in to make sure the plants you select will not freeze in your area. The best zone map to use to select plants is found in the Sunset-Western Garden Book by Sunset Publishing Corp.