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May 24, 2018  |  Login
Assessing Your Current Landscape
By Bill Marken & The National Gardening Association

Your first landscape project is to assess your property as it is now by performing a site analysis. You need to determine your current landscape’s strengths and weaknesses, what you like or dislike about your yard, and what kind of problems you’re trying to solve in your landscape. (The image at the bottom shows a sample site analysis.) Follow these steps to begin your site analysis:

  1. Make a rough drawing of your property with paper and pencil.

    Be sure to include your house with windows and doors, existing plants, and general north/south directions. Try to draw to scale, but don’t worry about being too precise right now.
  2. Put the drawing on a clipboard and walk around your yard at different times of day, making notations of the following:
    • Sun and shade: Mark areas that are sunny or shady, and at what times of the day. When you’re ready to purchase plants for your landscape, this notation helps you match plants with appropriate light conditions. Noting sunny and shady areas may also give you ideas about creating more comfortable outdoor living space. For example, in midsummer, the south and western sides of the house will be sunniest and warmest.
    • Views: Note good and bad views — ones that you may want to preserve and ones you may want to block. Good views are easy to recognize. Bad views, on the other hand, take a little more eyeballing. Can the neighbors see in your yard or can you see in theirs? Do you have things on your own property that you’d rather not see? What will you see if you put in a raised deck? Does the view change when deciduous trees lose their leaves?
    • Prevailing winds: You may be able to block regular winds with fencing or plants.
    • Slope and drainage: Put in some arrows that give you a rough idea of your yard’s contour. Sloping ground or uneven terrain can be an interesting part of a landscape, especially if you accentuate it with walls or plants combined with stone to simulate a dry stream bed. High points may also provide some good views. On the other hand, sloping ground can also mean erosion or drainage problems that can threaten your house or yard. Be sure that water drains away from all of the walls of your house. Mark down any areas that seem overly wet or where moss or algae is growing; go outside in a rainstorm and watch where excess water flows.
    • Existing plants: Draw in large trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials that you may want to preserve.
    • Interesting natural features: If you’re lucky enough to have a small stream or handsome rocks protruding from the ground, they can become special landscape features.
    • Noise, smells, and lights: Let your senses go and write down anything that you notice — lights at night, noise from next door, and even unpleasant odors. You may be able to fix them.
  3. Make notations of what you see from inside the house:
    • Views: Look out your windows and note the good and bad views. Who can see in the windows from the street or next door?
    • Sunlight: Note whether the sun blazes through certain windows or casts pleasant light through others.
    • Lights: Check to see whether car lights or signs shine through your windows at night.

A completed site analysis notes significant features of the property.



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