Landscape Design Tools


So you’re ready to transform your yard into a water-smart, native plant paradise, but don’t know where to start? Here are some tips and steps to take:

  1. Measure the yard area you want to transform – this will help you decide how many plants/what size plants to get.
  2. Check your USDA zone (I’m in zone 5) and consider doing a soil test. Local garden stores or nurseries sell soil test kits and some even come out and do the test for you.
  3. Prep and amend your soil. Clear away any undesired plant material and add compost or other amendments based on your soil test results.
  4. Select or create a plant design (see pics and links below for ideas). Too overwhelming or expensive? You can also start small and scarce in the spring, and add a few more plants every month or so. If you consistently add plants that are in bloom throughout the growing season, you’re guaranteed to have a colorful yard all year!
  5. Buy or order your plants – planting trees, shrubs and perennials in the spring after the last hard freeze date is a safe bet, but others can be added throughout the year. Bulbs should be planted in the fall.
  6. Plant! Get some dirt under your nails and then sit back and enjoy your plants all summer. Perennials may take a season or two to fill out, but are worth the wait!

The Center for Resource Conservation’s Garden in a Box program is a wonderful tool for garden designs; you can order a set of hand-picked plants that come with suggested layouts and planting tips. Choose a themed native or veggie garden like “Xeric Greatest Hits,” “Butterfly Dream” or “Spaghetti Dinner” then select a pick-up site and get planting!

Plant Select’s website offers free downloadable garden designs from award winning horticulturalists, and they recommend local retailers for plants as well as landscape professionals. Implement a design as is, adapt them to fit your space, or use them as a template to create a custom garden bed.

garden ideas

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