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A home landscape

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The results are in: Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow which means an early spring. This leaves many gardeners itching to get their hands in the garden. Before diving in head first, make plans to map out the landscape. This ensures that a home’s landscape grows correctly and is thoughtfully organized.

Developing a Base Plan

To start creating a plan, develop a base plan, which is an inventory of everything pre-existing in a landscape.

David Koon, an Alabama Extension home grounds and gardens regional agent, said there is basic idea for creating a base plan—no matter the size of the area.

“The process of starting a site analysis is the same for both a large or small yard,” Koon said. “Start with a site plan, know your intent for the area and incorporate what you have that fits the site and use.”

Make a sketch of the yard, including plants and other existing structural features, such as a house. Sketch this in a plan view, as if a person is looking down on the property from the sky. Create a measurement scale, and draw the features of the yard to this scale. Keep in mind this base plan can be completed on graph paper, with each square representing a foot.

Factors Affecting a Landscape

There are several factors that can affect a landscape. Gardeners should keep the following in mind when creating a site analysis.

  • Property boundaries. Measure and draw out the location and dimension of a house within property boundaries. Locate the northern point on the property, as this is needed for plotting direction of the sun and winds.
  • Utilities. Record the position of utilities, both above and below ground, on the base plan in order to plan around them.
  • Existing plants. Name the existing plants if possible, then estimate the size of the space they occupy. Draw them to fit the scale and decided whether to keep or replace them.
  • Areas with specific uses. These include play and recreation such as sandboxes. Areas can be designated specifically to store tools as well. Also, note where there is current direct foot traffic or where there will be in the future.
  • Environmental factors. Observe sunny areas, as well as shady areas, to note what specific plants will thrive in those settings. It is also helpful for choosing plants to indicate soil characteristics. Read the Extension publication Home Soil Testing: Taking a Sample for information on how to perform a soil tested if needed.

“Landscapes are not instant. When you look at beginning or changing a landscape, it is important to remember that what we install or change now will grow or fill in over time,” Koon said. “A site analysis is helpful to understand what we do today will not be what it turns into in the future.”

More Information

More information on mapping out a landscape is in the Extension publication Residential Landscape Design. For further information visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.

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