The cool days and mild nights
of autumn are ideal for planting trees, shrubs, and perennials. Although the
cool weather has not quite arrived it is a good idea to begin planning what you
would like to do.
Planning and designing a landscape to be beautiful, and more importantly useful, can seem a bit daunting. There are many resources available to assist you in this process; magazines, books, the internet, your local garden centers, and landscape architects; to name a few. No matter what you use to assist in the design of your landscape there are a few basic considerations to take into account before you begin the plan or meet with a designer.
Space - Measure and sketch the footprint of your home and hardscapes on the property. Measure the size and location of each window. This helps to define the views from within the home. Also, measure the height of each window from the ground. It is no fun to fight with the height of a shrub to keep it below a window pane. Instead, select a plant that will not get taller that the space. Be sure to note overhead power lines and phone lines as well.
Movement - Determine how people (and pets) move through the landscape. For example, what paths are taken to the mailbox, garage, driveway, swing set, etc. Incorporate traffic flow and dog runs into the landscape.
Existing Plants - What do you have now that you want to keep? Note the location, size, and type of plant. Consider why you want to keep it (or not). This will guide you in selecting other plants.
Sun Exposure - This should be determined when the trees are fully leafed. Where are your hot areas, cool areas? How much sun/shade do they get? Remember, the north side of the house will be the coolest and the south side is typically the warmest. Full sun is considered to be 6 hours of direct, burning hot sunlight. Part Sun occurs when an area is shaded for 2 – 6 hours a day. The time of day an area receives sun is important as well. Morning sun is milder that afternoon sun.
The Lay of the Land - Steep slopes and deep gullies can be difficult to establish and may cause water runoff problems. If you do adjust the grade make sure you slope away from your house to avoid a leaky basement.
Problem Areas - Is the soil well drained? Do you have boggy areas or extremely dry areas? Will grass not grow where you want it? To solve these problems you may need to consult one or more of the resources mentioned earlier. Collect as much information about the problem areas as possible using guidelines 1-5 above.
If you decide to go to your local garden center and consult with someone, take some current pictures of your home and yard along with all the information above. The more pictures the better so the consultant can give you the best possible recommendations.