Site Specific: Assessing Your Yard

Knowing whether your garden is shady or sunny, wind-battered or sheltered will help you determine a design plan.
Ready for a Makeover

Ready for a Makeover

A wonderful space that has great lines and deep borders. This backyard has great potential.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

A wonderful space that has great lines and deep borders. This backyard has great potential.

Once you work out what you need from your outdoor space, look at styles you like, and learn a bit about general garden design principles, it’s time to take stock of what you’ve got to work with. So, before going any further, take a good look at your yard. Your discoveries will help you to create a design that really works, both on an aesthetic level and as a practical, functional space.

The process of assessing your site is the same, whether you’re redesigning a garden that has been nurtured over a long period, upgrading an established site that you have recently purchased, or creating a landscaping design for a newly built home. 

The first stage is to look at what your yard offers in its present state. Is it sunny and warm, and ideal for a terrace or patio, or is it in shade for most of the day? A shady garden needs more careful scrutiny to see when and where sun falls throughout the day; if you have the patience, take notes in both summer and winter, when the sun is lower in the sky. This information tells you where to site your patios and seating areas, and what type of plants will thrive in your garden. 

If your plants are to flourish, you must also get to know your soil. The yards of new properties will probably have been landscaped by the developer, and although you can’t expect the design to be of the highest quality, it may have a veneer of beauty. But the soil is unlikely to be in a healthy state—in many cases, construction rubble is buried just below the surface, and the topsoil may have been compacted by machinery. 

Another important consideration is the topography of your yard—is it a hilly, windy site, or a low-lying frost pocket? 

Do you have a wonderful view that can be integrated into your garden design, or is your yard overlooked, or marred by an eyesore? Take time to assess all of these factors before you start measuring up your garden for the scale plan.

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