Landscaping 101


Everyone want’s to landscape their own yard, however many don’t have the time, energy, ability, or money.  For those people that do have some time to learn and apply what they learn, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to ensure that your landscape is happy and healthy.

Know where the sun rises and sets on your property.

sun altitude and Azimuth during the year This means that you have to establish where North, South, East, and West are.  The sun rises in the east and sets up in the west.  Also the suns height varies during the year.  In the winter the sun is lower in the sky casting larger shadows and therefore less sunlight reaches parts of your yard than it does in the summer, when the sun is almost directly overhead midday.  Certain plants are more sensitive to light changes than others, and each has their optimal light requirement.  These light requirements can be full sun, part shade, part sun, filtered sun, and shade.  It is best to observe the full day’s sun and shade characteristics of your property during each of the seasons.  Then you will be able to select a plant based upon those characteristics.  An excellent resource for homeowners is Monrovia’s website which they list the light conditions as well as many others (click the link on the bottom of the home page).


Know the soil characteristics of your property.


  All properties are different, some have clay soil, some have sand, some have high organic peat, some have mostly rock, etc.  There are many hundreds of specific combinations of soil and soil quality that a particular property can have.  Also there are many factors that can contribute to soil characteristics such as the presence or absence of evergreen cover, presence of absence of deciduous tree cover, water tables, and so on.  It is important that you or your landscape professional know what kind of soil you have or take a soil sample to determine what type of soil you have.  After all the type of soil you put a plant in will dictate how it grows…. or doesn’t.  Tip- Most plants prefer well drained soil (soil that contains sand) in order for them to grow properly, with the exception of marsh/bog plants.



Know the water requirements of the plants you wish to have.  You should be familiar with the water requirements of the plant you are choosing for a particular area.  For example if you are planting a Sedum (which prefers dry conditions) next to a fern (prefers moist conditions), one of them is going to die.  Your plantings should be grouped according to these conditions as well as other conditions as mentioned above if you want your planting to thrive.


Know the mature height of the plant.TreePlantingGuide 

Generally it is also useful to know the mature height of the plant you are using, as you don’t want to plant a specimen that will grow to 10 feet in front of a specimen that will only reach 3 feet.  Landscapers and people wishing to plant on their own should be aware of the plants mature height when planting so that the larger plants are placed towards the back of the planting and the lower growing plants are placed towards the front of the planting so that you can get the maximum viewing pleasure.


Know when to trim your plants.  Many people are able to get the hedge shears out of the garage and go nuts, however doing so may interrupt the bloom cycle for the following year.  For instance if you decide that your Rhododendron bush needs a trim and you decide to trim it in May or June, you will trim off all the flower buds that would have opened in short time.  It is best to trim in the weeks following a plants bloom so that if the plant must regrow buds for next years bloom it can do so before winter hits.


Mulch your  

Mulch is one of those preventative measures that if you do it as a habit you are rewarded, if you skip it you are toiling later on with those pesky weeds.  You will still get some weeds pop up through the mulch, but not nearly the volume that you would if you left the soil bare.  Mulch also adds a protective barrier to help plants retain moisture, and be somewhat insulated during cold winters.