HOMEGROWN Life: The Basics of Landscape Design

| 1/11/2013 12:40:38 PM

This post originally appeared on HOMEGROWN.org. 

mWhen looking to lay out your property, there are several things you need to consider. The most important aspects of landscape design are sun/shade patterns throughout the year, slope, drainage, and what your proposed uses will be.

Vegetable gardens, for example, need good drainage, minimal slope, and a lot of sun during the growing season. West-facing slopes tend to get more moisture than east-facing slopes, while north-facing slopes will get a lot less sun than south-facing slopes. Most livestock need a place with sun and shade all year to really be happy. You’ll also want to consider placement in relation to how often you’ll visit the given usage. Areas that you’ll visit frequently, such as a chicken coop, should be closer to your home than something you’ll visit less frequently, such as fruit trees.

100_1330 I’ll be using our property as an example of some basic site issues and how we accommodated them. We had few real obstacles compared to some folks, but this case study should give you the basics.

When we moved into our home, the very first thing I did was to create a site plan of existing conditions. Our property, just over a quarter-acre in size, is a narrow, long, rectangular lot running east to west. We had some obstacles to deal with, including some old, dead, and dying fruit trees and two large black walnut trees on the western end. We also had an oddly placed 6-foot wooden fence right off the back stoop (see those posts in the photo above) and no fence or gate on the side of the house, so anyone could enter our backyard.

The next thing I did was to create a list of the things I wanted. I knew I wanted garden beds and fruit trees. We needed a place for our chickens and we needed to be able to add more animals into our system in the future. I also needed a large patio for entertaining and a way to keep our dogs out of the garden (though that effort has been largely unsuccessful, since Squeak is agile enough to jump fences). We had two things in our backyard that we could not change: the water tower and a large oak tree centered on our southern property line. Our lot sloped gently towards the western end, away from the house. Even in the winter, and even with the big oak tree, most of the yard got good sun exposure all day, which was definitely a bonus. In the summer, only the area directly under the tree gets all-day shade.

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