|Even on a new lot, an inventory is helpful for identifying existing slopes, exposed areas, and soil conditions. Photo credit: Larry Sagers|
One of the first steps of landscape design is taking an inventory of your yard. This is particularly important when creating a water-wise or xeriscape landscape.
Knowledge is Power
Would you feel comfortable having a car dealer choose a car for you based on price alone? The dealer doesn’t know the size of your family or what kind of car you want. They only know how much you want to spend.
Often times, homeowners go to a local garden center and buy plants they regret later because they only considered price, color or availability.
Taking an inventory of the yard helps you consider all the important factors needed to create the landscape design and the plants that will be used in it. It means putting in some effort up front to avoid headaches later on.
What do I need to look for?
The landscape inventory provides information that will assist in analyzing the site later on. Some general elements to pay attention to when taking an inventory for a yard with a water-wise goal in mind include:
Microclimates —These are areas in the yard that may differ from the norm
- An area that is completely shaded during the day and remains wet most of the year
- An area on a west side of a house that gets abnormally hot in summer afternoon
- A nook that is sheltered by a fence and building
- Existing water-wise plants—If you have an existing landscape, the trick here is to recognize plants (typically trees and shrubs) that are already established and seem to be doing well. Knowing water-wise plants for your climate is a benefit. However, some that may not be thought of as water-wise can also survive with less water once established. For example, Red-twig dogwood is often thought of as a shrub found on stream banks. However, dogwoods can be drought-tolerant once established.
- Slopes —On areas with extremely steep slopes, water runs off quickly and infiltration is significantly less than normal. These areas should be accounted for when planning for plant needs.
- Soils —Experts say that up to 80% of plant related landscaping problems are related to soils. This area of landscaping is often ignored or poorly understood by homeowners. A soil test and even simply going out and looking at drainage and soil composition will be beneficial to you as you start to plan ahead.
- External factors—Elements such as prevailing winds, shade from off site trees, and plant access to nearby water should be part of the inventory. These will also affect water availability.
What time is best to take an inventory
I can’t draw well. Can I still take an inventory?
Florida - Site Inventory and Analysis (slide show)