The plantings that surround your home contribute dramatically to your home’s value and appearance. The layout of the walkways, driveway, and outdoor living areas also plays an important role in your landscape design. Ideally, the landscape design creates a setting that complements and enhances your home’s architecture. Good landscaping also solves the problem you can modify sun, slow wind, block an unsightly view, and create lovely vistas with plants.
When attractive implemented and well maintained, landscaping increases a home’s value by 10 to 40 percent, according to real estate appraisers. Yet most homeowners feel helpless when it comes to designing a landscape. The skimpy landscape installed by the builder, however inadequate and inappropriate, often is left unchanged for the year, and it can come overgrown and unsightly.
Even if you started with a good landscape design and appropriate plantings, time changes things. Just as you redecorate your home’s interior from time to time, painting the walls and buying new furniture your home’s landscape needs renovation every 15 to 20 years to keep plantings in scale and compensate for trees growing larger and casting shade in the once-sunny area.
Where you live determines to a large degree how much use your outdoor living space, the functions the plants in your landscape serve, and which type of plants you can grow. In the Southeast, for example, you will want the deciduous tree that cast shade but are arranged to enhance rather than book breezes. In the Northern Plain, you will want to position evergreen trees to block strong winter wind, but allow the warning sun to penetrate. Gardeners along the coast will need a windbreak of salt-tolerant trees and shrubs to shelter areas for gardens.
The first step in developing a landscape plan is to assess the site as it currently existing.
Before beginning to landscape or garden in earnest, you need to assess the general climate in your region and the specific elements that affect the plant-growing environment surrounding your home. Although each region has predictable climate trends, the immediate area surrounding your home can have several small microclimates of colder or warmer temperatures, fluctuating wind patterns or differing soil.
- If you don’t already know, determine the following:
- Hardiness zone for plants for your region.
- Solid type (clay, sand, loam, etc.) in each garden area.
- Soil pH (the measure of acidity and alkalinity) for each garden area.
- Sun exposure for various parts of your property. This shift throughout the year as deciduous trees lose their leaves and the sun’s angle changes.
- Drainage patterns on your property, such as fast-draining slopes or low wet spots with poor drainage.
- Length of the growing season – the period of time between the last frost in spring and the first frost in fall
- Location of any frost pockets or microclimates of colder or warmer temperatures.
- The direction of prevailing winds.
- You can learn these climate and soil details through observation and through soil testing and research.
Surveying your landscape
Once you understand the growing conditions on your property, the next step is to make a plot plan to help evaluate the site’s potential. Size up how much space you have studying your property survey, then redraw the property’s dimensions and the house’s location in the large size on big sheets of graph paper. Use a scale that allows enough room to draw your entire property – such as 1 inch of graph paper equals 4 feet of the landscape (1/4 scale) or 1 inch of graph paper equals 8 feet of the landscape (1/8 scale).
Add to your emerging plot plan all existing structures, such as garages, tool sheds, decks, patios, driveways, and walkway. Mark all windows and doors of the house, indicate existing tree and planting beds. A scale rule or template of landscape symbols (available at most art supply stores) might e helpful in drawing these. Use a professional-type tape measure or stakes and long rope marked in 1-foot lengths, to take accurate measurements before marking these items on the plan. Mark the plot plan with direction north, then indicate any drainage, soil, or exposure extremes.
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This accurate view of your existing property is the starting point for change. When you know what you want your new or renovated landscape to be and the kinds of plants you can grow, you can use this plot plan test your ideas on paper. (See more)