If you look at a bare backyard, it may be tempting to simply load with plants from a nursery to start digging. With a little planning, however, you can create a thriving backyard landscape that’s easy to care for and enjoy for years to come. Small or large, the yard will benefit in the long run from preparing you before you put down hardscape and install dicotyledonous plants.
Analyzing the Site
Look at the backyard at different times of the day to determine which areas receive the most shade and which areas receive the most sunlight. The amount of both changes with the time of year, whether deciduous trees are in or near the property.
Find the sunniest spot in the garden, and flower beds, and plant beds there.
A backyard that blazes with hot sun in the summer benefits from planting trees of shade on the southwest corner of the house.
A nice view of the surrounding landscape is something to preserve or frame, not to be disguised with large plants. Check what you see from the backyard and from inside the house. Unwanted opinions or privacy issues are often corrected by introducing the right plant in the right place.
Calling “811” number to mark underground utilities before you dig not only notably reduces the risk of a line buried utility remarkably but also helps determine where garden features can or cannot be installed.
Start with the bottom
To succeed in planting your landscape, it is important to determine what type of soil your backyard has.
Take a handful of moist soil and pinch it. If the ball from the bottom collapses easily with little pressure and has a grainy texture, then it is sandy. Silt clay feels smooth and keeps its shape, but can be reformed. If the bottom feels smooth and a sticky ball remains in your hand, it’s clay. Placing a 3- to 4-inch-thick layer of compost on planting areas then breaking and integrating into the soil to a depth of 6 inches improves most soil types.
Testing the Drainage Rate
Testing the soil for proper drainage will help you determine how to proceed.
Dig a hole in moist soil, making the hole 12 inches deep by 12 inches wide by 12 inches long. Dig extra holes of those dimensions in different areas of the backyard.
Fill each hole with water. Ensure the water extends to the top of each hole. Note the time that you fill each hole with water.
Wait for the water to drain. Water can drain from a few holes faster than from other holes.
If the water drains from a hole within three hours, then the soil at that location has very good drainage. A drainage time of three to 12 hours means that the soil has medium drainage, which is fine for most landscape plants. A drain time of more than 12 hours gives poor drainage.
If no physical barrier cannot drain water underground, the problem of poor soil draining can usually be corrected by adding compost to the soil as previously mentioned. One option is to build raised beds that include individual plants or gardens.
Most county cooperative extension service offices offer soil testing, which will help you determine which soil conditioners, if any, are required to record with the soil before planting.
Create a Design
Start with a list of your needs and desires when designing and landscaping your backyard. Such a list could include playground equipment, dog walking, cut flower garden, vegetable patch, and quiet retreat.
To incorporate these elements into the landscape, create a plot plan that is to scale. A plot plan shows the location of the house and its boundaries, plus all other existing features, including hardscaping, such as a concrete patio and plants.
Design software programs available for this task, but you can measure tape, a pencil, ruler, and graph paper draw an aerial view of your backyard from zero. A 1/8-inch scale is usually used, meaning every 1 foot on the property translates to 1/8 inch on graph paper.
Then plug in your desired landscape elements to scale, keeping in mind sunlight, shade, and other factors that are obtained from the site’s analysis. Add the desired hardscaping, such a flagstone hiking trail.
Choosing plants that are right for your U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone. Not only do plants consider the color, texture, and seasonal importance but whether they should direct exposure to the sun or shade and their adult sizes.
Small trees – no larger than 25 feet at maturity – can be planted 6 feet from the house. Plant medium-sized trees that grow no more than 40 feet high, 15 feet from the house. If a tree has a mature height greater than 40 feet, it should be 20 feet or further from the house.
Once your design elements are installed, water your new plants regularly while they establish their root system. Newly planted trees and shrubs require daily irrigation during the first month.
To control soil moisture, dig a small hole outside of a plant root ball and extend halfway down the root ball. Scoop out the bottom and squeeze. Well-moist soil remains in a ball in the hand. If the soil drips when pressed, the plant gets too much water. If the soil crumbles when pressed, the plant is not getting enough water. Then stick the plant root ball with your finger. It should feel damp. If not, adjust your watering can get more moisture.