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Some tips for effectively landscaping a yard—Part 3

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

For the past two weeks, we have been examining the process of transforming your yard into a beautiful planned garden. This week, we focus on the final steps in the landscape process.

Steps in the Process

Develop a plot plan

Conduct a site analysis

Assess family needs

Locate use areas

Design, construct, and plant

Assess Family Needs

Identifying personal needs and wants will help you design a landscape that is aesthetically pleasing, enjoyable and functional for your family. The following are examples of the kinds of landscape needs that you and your family might consider.

Checklist of landscape needs:

Access to the house: walks-width, drainage, appearance and lighting; driveways-type of surface and amount of turnaround space; parking-for family, guests, a camper, a boat or bicycles

Family activities: outdoor entertaining-cooking, seating and patio access; children's play area; sports, recreation; and extra parking for boat or recreational vehicle

Maintenance: Do you do your own yard work? Storage for garden equipment; specific gardening interests (for example, growing vegetables, roses, herbs, fruit trees, flowers or bulbs)

Don't forget space for garbage cans, clothesline, dog pens and firewood storage

Locate Use Areas

Refer to the list of family needs and decide where to locate the areas. Try to provide enough space for each activity. Following this step divides the site into several separate areas, each serving a purpose but all combined into the overall design.

Public, private (family), and service (utility) areas can usually be defined in residential landscapes. Try to develop each one according to your family's needs. When drawing the plan, use another sheet of tracing paper taped over the plot plan to locate the use areas on the plan.

Develop Use Areas

Public and entrance areas

The area most often seen by passersby and guests is referred to as the public area. It usually includes the front yard, drive, walks, and main entrance to the home. Where guests enter the house? If they come in through the garage and utility room rather than the front entrance, concentrate on redirecting them to the front door. This can be accomplished with several landscape features.

First, consider the width of the front walk. A minimum of 4-1/2 feet is comfortable for two people walking together. The front entrance can be enhanced by a walkway with an interesting surface texture such as brick, slate or aggregate concrete. Outdoor lighting is effective for directing pedestrian traffic after dark.

Try to add a focal point to the entrance area. You might use an interesting tree under planted with a ground cover or a planter with a specimen shrub. A popular trend in landscaping is low, indirect lighting. Remember: do not limit yourself to trees, shrubs and grass.

Your plan should include vehicles, too. If off-street parking is needed, consider locating these spaces where they are easily accessible. Parking can be incorporated into the landscape design.

Foundation plantings are often the first feature homeowners think of. Many home foundations are over–planted. Choosing and placing foundation plants is one of the most important landscape concerns. Foundation plants are always in the public eye. They greet visitors, add dimension to the area, and when properly chosen, accentuate the architectural lines of the house. Foundation plantings are often installed according to the old formula, “big ones on the end and little ones in the middle.” This approach is not completely wrong, but there are other design criteria to consider.

When planning the foundation areas, consider size, color, texture and number of plants needed to direct visitors to the entrance.

Quality plants are important to the success of the landscaping project. Instead of over–planting with small shrubs to give an effect of instant maturity, use fewer plants of these and add a few well-placed specimen plants. Choose a location to enhance the individual character of a plant so as it matures it will get better without major maintenance.

In modern landscape designs a small ornamental tree is frequently as close as 5 or 6 feet from the foundation. Good choices are dogwood, redbud, Japanese maple, crape myrtle, star magnolia, and sourwood. Tree form evergreen shrubs are also useful, such as waxmyrtle, burford holly, ligustrum or cherry laurel. Incorporate masses of ground covers or mulched areas. Remember quality enhances the landscape.

Family Activity Areas

When designing areas to be used by the family, refer to the needs identified in step three. What are your family’s landscape needs and wants? You can use landscape design to create private areas with attractive views from your patio or terrace. The outdoor living areas should be easily accessible to living and kitchen areas of the home. Decks, patios, and terraces should be considered an integral part of the residential landscape.

Various construction materials are available to the homeowner. The use of pressure-treated wood for decks and screening walls is popular. Brick and aggregate concrete make excellent terraces and patios. Hot tubs, container plants, raised beds, water features, and sculptures can all be combined to enhance an outdoor living area.

The recreation and sports area is naturally a part of the family activity area. Some sports require special planning. If you may someday add a tennis court or swimming pool to your site, be sure to leave enough space.

The needs of small children for landscape space should also be considered. Plan for sandboxes, swing sets, playhouses, and toys to be in the family activity area. Consider their removal when the children grow up.

Utility or Service Area

Every residential landscape requires an area where gardening equipment, garbage cans, firewood, bicycles, and other items can be stored. When designing your landscape, set aside space for these necessities. Try to provide space for an outside utility building that is easily accessible. Remember to keep the back of your site accessible to vehicles. Some day you may need to have a tree removed or a concrete patio installed.

Space for gardening activities, should be provided for this area. Also, locate any compost piles here. If unsightly utility areas are visible from your house or patio, a screening wall or hedge may be needed. Do not forget to screen off unsightly areas from the neighbors.

Checklist for Steps

Four and Five

Public or entrance area

Is your entrance adequately accented?

Is your house number easily seen?

Do your guests enter where you want them?

Does the walkway attract attention?

Are exterior lights required?

Is the house "over planted" with shrubs?

Have you considered using small trees and ground covers?

Do foundation plants vary in texture, form, size and color?

Family activity areas

Do you need a patio, deck or terrace?

Are there outdoor cooking facilities?

Are hedges or screening walls needed to provide privacy?

Do you need a children's play area?

What about accessibility?

Utility area

Is this area easily accessible?

Will it accommodate all the equipment to be stored?

Is screening needed?

Is the garden area, if any, located where it will receive maximum sunlight and have good drainage?

All that is left now is to finish drawing the plan and then install what you have designed. If you have any questions, contact us at the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension Service at 253-2610.