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Backyard Landscape Design

Every good backyard landscape design begins with a plan. One of the best things about planning your backyard landscape is you can do each portion as your budget allows. It also lets you see how things grow for a bit before you add the next part.





Your landscape plan should include a drawing showing what plants and features will go where. It should also include a plant list that includes all the pertinent information about each plant selection.

The plan should show any changes that will need to be done to existing walkways, structures and plantings.

What is your Backyard Landscape Needs and Wants

When planning your backyard, consider what you need and want in your backyard.

Do you need a pet area? A play area or playground for children? Do you need a backyard shed or utility area? How about a vegetable garden? Do you want to add some landscape structures to your backyard?

Some of the more popular structures for a backyard are pergolas, gazebos, fountains, backyard ponds, hot tubs or a swimming pool.

Are you thinking of a backyard theme?

Themes can be based on your senses of color, sight, smell and touch. There are structure themes that can come from a focal point.

Other garden or landscape themes are southwest/desert, cottage garden, or a japanese rock garden. This will give you an idea of how many areas you want to break your yard into with your landscaping.

Here are some more backyard design questions to help you plan your landscape.

Do a Landscape Site Analysis

A landscape site analysis is necessary so you know what needs to be done and what can stay the same.

Do any trees need to be removed? Will an existing tree affect what plants you select or where you can plant vegetables? Do you need more shade somewhere?

An analysis will also let you figure out what you want to mask. Perhaps you get a lot of traffic noise or you'd like to cover up the view into your neighbor's window.

Take some time to figure out which direction the prevailing wind blows; this can sometimes affect your landscaping plans.

Do you have any changes in elevation to deal with? How about changes in elevation you want to add?

If installing retaining walls, berms and large areas of concrete or stone that alters your existing ground area, you must consider the drainage of water. Make sure that the water will flow away from your house and low lying areas in your backyard.

Find out ahead of time where all the utilities are so there are no unfortunate discoveries later. Check for any City or State building codes and know your property boundaries. Also check any home association rules.

Now is a good time to become familiar with the basic elements of landscape design and the principles of landscape design.

Create a Backyard that is Functional and Pleases You

Think of your backyard landscape design like interior decorating, only outdoors.

You want to create useable spaces outdoors that will give your children places to play, give you a place to enjoy the good weather, and maybe create an outdoor eating space.

Don't worry about pleasing anyone but yourself. You're the one who will be using the space. The entire goal of a backyard landscape design is to create a livable outdoor space that you like.

Think of it as adding outdoor rooms, if you like. There are many types of outdoor furniture and even ways to build an outdoor kitchen that you may want to consider.

First, decide what is most important.

Is it a new deck? A fence? Planting a screen to hide the awful view next door? Take it one piece at a time.

There is no deadline for finishing. Don't start three different projects at once. When this happens, usually none of the projects get finished. Pick one and finish it completely. Then begin the next. It is the best way to complete your vision.

Hardscaping – Landscape Structures for your Backyard

Think of this as the bones of your backyard landscape design.

Hardscaping is anything that isn't growing. Water features, fences, decks, arbors, gazebos and pathways are some of the possibilities.

Perhaps the fence along your property line forms the basis for some of your plantings, or that water feature you've always wanted will be perfect in that quiet little corner where you envision enjoying your morning coffee.

Plan where these elements will go, and start working with them.

Another thing to consider is how to create vehicle access to the backyard if necessary. Someday you may want a delivery of gardening soil or a utility company may need access to something back there. Do you need to add a gate?

Plan for Trees in your Backyard Design

Trees are another big element.

The right trees can not only improve your property value, they can offer you shade in the summer, mulch for winter, and something beautiful to look at.

Choose your tree sites carefully. You don't want them to look stranded by themselves in the middle of the yard, but you don't want them filling up your gutter with autumn leaves, either.

Plan to plant your trees in the fall or spring while the tree is dormant for the best results.

Choose the Right Plants for your Landscape Design

Choose plants that you like and that will thrive in your climate and soil.

You can do a quick soil analysis with tests available at your local extension office. If you're not sure what to select after you have the results, ask the staff at the nursery. Most are very knowledgeable and happy to help.

Amend your soil as needed to make the best growing conditions possible for the new plants.

Don’t forget about natural light for your plants. This is critical in plant selection by choosing the right plant for sun or shade you are insuring good growth of that plant.

Decide if you want plants that pretty much care for themselves or if you don't mind doing some maintenance. Some choices will require more frequent work on your part than others. Pruning, digging, weeding and dividing are chores that may need to be done with some plants.

If less work and more free time is what you are wanting in your landscape, you should make your landscape low maintenance.

Plant for all four seasons, many landscapes will look spectacular during the growing season but when Fall or Winter comes, there is hardly anything left to see. Choose some plants that won't lose their foliage or when the foliage is gone the structure of the plant or tree leaves you an interesting look.

For more information about using plants in the landscape read the landscaping plant guide.

More Features to Consider in the Landscape Design

If you are planning on backyard lighting put it in the design now. Then when you start to install your plants and hardscapes you can run your wires easier.

Will you install a sprinkler system or haul out the hose when you need to water? How much lawn do you need?

While lawn can be very nice, especially if you have children or pets, you will need to mow it, feed it, aerate it and water it.

Take Your Time with the Landscape Design

Don’t be in a hurry with the design. Remember, you don't have to plant everything at once. Put in a specimen plant here; add a few perennials to the border in a few weeks.

Taking your time not only spares your budget, you get to see how things grow together and by choosing one project at a time, you don't get overwhelmed by trying to do the entire yard all at once.

After you have made your backyard design, keep your plans handy so you can study them in the off season and get excited for the changes you'll make when the weather improves. You may decide to change a thing or two as time passes. This is fine.

There is no rule that says you must stick to your original plan forever. Plan each individual project accordingly.






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