Once you have inventoried your landscape, it's time to take a more in-depth look. Consider the environmental aspects and structural features of the site in terms of pros and cons. Note what you like and don't like -- what works and what doesn't.
Record your findings on copies of the base map. Make separate maps to study the various sun and shade, wind, and drainage patterns of the landscape, if necessary. Whether you're analyzing the entire site or seeking to improve only part of it, this process helps you understand how all the parts work together.
In time, you'll get to know the lay of the land, as well as how each of the landscape's elements fits or whether it needs to be remodeled or replaced. You'll start to see problems and opportunities in a new light. Maybe you can turn a drainage problem into an attractive feature. You might reconsider planting fruit trees at the back of the lot, for example. Or perhaps dwarf trees would fare best along the sunny west side of your house where they would provide a space-saving way to improve privacy, add evening shade, create year-round interest, and provide fruit for the family.
If possible, evaluate the site over a year before you start to change any of it. Note, for instance, how the sun moves over the property, where shade occurs or water collects, if areas lack privacy or lighting, and where you'll find the best sunset views or the most convenient spot to store your gardening tools.
Ideas abound in other people's yards. Tour local gardens, taking notes and photos as you see design ideas that might work in your garden. In addition, stroll through the home and garden shows that occur in most cities. You'll find everything you need for a landscaping project, from professional services and building materials to plants to scores of adaptable ideas.
Continued on page 2: How Climate Affects Your Yard