Getting to Know Your Yard BEFORE You Landscape!

Getting to Know Your Yard BEFORE You Landscape!

backyardWhen you decide it is time to landscape your property there are many things about your existing property that should be taken into consideration. These things, while they may seem trivial at first, can have a big impact on how you final landscape thrives in your environment (yard). Creating this list will paint a picture of what your yard looks like and functions like – is it a damp and shady space? Is it very sunny and hot? Do your neighbors have large trees that put your backyard in total darkness after 2pm?

If you work outside the house these things might pass you by, you might not really know what goes on in your backyard. Or if you just bought the house in February, come May you likely have little idea what the sunlight is going to be like in the back corner. The best time to carry out this project is on a weekend when you have some time to set aside and explore your yard, preferably one when the sun is shining!

A notepad, pencil and a measuring tape are all you will need to complete this task. Photographs might be helpful if you run across something you can’t identify and need an expert’s opinion (then you can take the photo to your local garden center). Begin by drawing out your property, include the fence lines, the house, existing trees, sheds, etc. You don’t have to be exact – this is a rough sketch where you will mark in the areas below.

Below is a recommended list of questions to ask before you start to plan your landscape. I recommend marking these items on your drawing and making coordinating notes (ie: A = wet areas. Circle wet areas on drawing then make notes about those wet areas).

  • what direction does your property face? (North, South, East, West) Are there any prevailing winds?
  • how much sunlight does your property receive? less than 3 hours? 3 to 6 hours? more than 6 hours?
  • are there any snow patterns on your property (ie: does the wind deposit the snow in a particular area?) Where do you pile your driveway/walkway snow?
  • are there any large trees on your property? What is the condition of these trees?
  • Do any of the existing trees on your property require pruning or other maintenance?
  • do the neighboring properties have large trees that may impact the sunlight on your property?
  • are there any areas that overly wet? Think about after a heavy rain; are there any areas where water collects and pools for hours or even days? What about after the winter thaw? Another telltale sign of a damp area is mushrooms growing are there mushrooms growing anywhere.
  • are there any catch basins on the property
  • are there any existing right-of-ways or easements?
  • are there any existing electricity, cable or telephone boxes that need to be addressed?
  • are there privacy concerns? Do neighboring properties sit higher such that their decks overlook your yard?
  • are there views that need to be hidden/disguised? Things like a neighboring shed, a busy road, an unsightly wall?
  • are there any natural gas outlets, water bibs, etc that you want to maintain access to?
  • is there existing irrigation on site?

The answers to these questions will help point you in the direction of the overall design your new landscape will take. Knowing the sunlight patterns will help you to select the right plant materials. Knowing the drainage will help you to select the right soils ammendments and the correct mulches.  Like with any project, your local landscape contractor, garden center or other horticultural professional has the knowledge to help you get the job done where you have questions.


For more information on:

Lighting Conditions – Sun vs Shade visit –

Tree Pruning –

Image courtsey of: vmiramontes

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