University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

News Article


By Dr. Leonard Perry. Extension Professor
University of Vermont


Careful landscape planning can increase your family's enjoyment of your property and add significantly to the value of your home. Far too often homeowners begin landscaping without a plan. They plant a few shade trees here and there with a scattering of evergreen shrubs around the house's foundation.

This haphazard approach rarely looks good, often does not fit in with the family's activities, and can cost as much as a well-planned, professionally designed landscape. Most important, an unorganized planting can increase the time and money needed to maintain the plantings.

Consider your landscape as an outdoor extension of your home. Be sure to look at the view from the windows in each room in your house. Walk the property and note both good and bad features of the landscape. Consider the location of walks, drives, utilities, and existing plants.

Look for good views you wish to keep, as well as bad views you would prefer to hide. Examine how the sun and wind strike the house and decide whether you wish to modify these. Look for ways to increase privacy in certain areas of your landscape.

Once you have identified the major features of the yard, you are ready to put your ideas on paper by making a plan. A scale drawing will provide a bird's-eye view of your property and should accurately locate the major features of the landscape. Measure carefully using graph paper. A surveyor's plan, if available, will be a helpful reference.

Some of the items that should be part of the plan are property lines; the house, drives, walks and fences; utility poles, lines, and meters; underground utilities, pipes, or septic system; the roof overhang, water spigots, windows, and doors; and compass directions. Locate and record all existing features.

Once you have a scale drawing, analyze the environmental features of your property. This can be done most easily by laying a clean sheet of paper over your plan and tracing onto it.

Study the way the sun moves across your property. Mark very shady areas where shade-tolerant plants can be used. If the sun shines on the house too much during the summer, mark spots to plant deciduous trees. These trees will shade the house in summer but allow the sun to shine on the house in winter when they drop their leaves.

Do you need to protect your house from winter winds? Mark the direction of the prevailing winter wind. Keep in mind that a windbreak must be at least one and one-half times its height away from the object to be protected.

Make a note of areas where snow drifts onto walks and drives. A planting of shrubs may be able to act as a living snow fence.

Be sure to mark areas where water collects, so you won't put in any plants intolerant of poor drainage there. Or better yet, correct drainage problems before planting.

Finally, are there areas where unwanted traffic is killing the lawn or compacting the soil? Perhaps a planting of low shrubs or a ground cover can direct traffic to walks.

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