Your region's climate affects your landscape in more ways than you might think. The level of activity in your yard, the quality of your outdoor life, your choice of plants and building materials, and the success of plantings all depend on the weather and its extremes.
When planning a landscape, you need to be aware of a number of elements that influence the conditions in your area every day. These include patterns of sun, shade, wind, and precipitation. Keep in mind that these climatic patterns change subtly with time of day, season, plant development, and addition or removal of structures.
Depending on the region where you live, the weather can change constantly. In addition, conditions can vary from yard to yard within the same neighborhood and even within your own yard. These variations are known as microclimates. For example, a spot in your yard may be cooler or warmer, wetter or drier, and quicker to freeze or thaw than others. Most yards have several microclimates, which are determined by sun exposure and other factors.
By taking advantage of the warmer microclimates of your yard, you may be able to grow tender plants that would ordinarily succumb in an exposed spot. You can also change microclimates. For example, you can build raised beds in an area where soil drains poorly. This not only fixes the drainage problem but gives you a bed that warms up earlier in the spring. You could bring in the first crop of leaf lettuce and radishes days or even weeks ahead of in-ground plantings.
Explore the conditions in your yard and the way they're affected by climatic elements. Then use the drawing below as a guide for creating your own site analysis on a base map. Make up your own symbols and add to the list, if you like. Take the time to be thorough because you will refer to your site map many times.
Continued on page 3: Assessing Structural Elements