A couple of years ago I wrote about my yard, and my outdoor living space. For an urban lot, it is relatively large and
had been neglected for years. We decided to start with a clean slate, with the expectation that within five years the
majority of improvements will be done.
A budget was set (and given the current economic environment, adjusted - dramatically) and things started growing
(plants) and shrinking (budget). We are excited about the space - small lawn, ever-growing beds for fruits and
vegetables, lots of space for plants and a dedicated space for the kids' playground.
Over this time span, things have definitely changed. A hillside that was a neglected spot has been transformed into
terraced vegetable beds and a couple of plum trees. The lawn has gotten slightly smaller so to fit in potatoes. I built
a willow arbor for my kids' quiet space and reading rock.
Lastly, and most surprisingly, I have had to alter some ornamental beds for my elderly dog. Maggie has her pathways,regardless of what is in her way - alliums, fringed sagebrush and buffaloberry be damned.
But all of this is part of the process, and every time I create a new space it gives me an excuse to buy more
Many of you have also gone through the landscape design process, with or without professional help, and it can be
daunting. But there should be a method to your madness, and if you follow the steps that are discussed here and in my
next column, the development of your own outdoor living space may become easier.
The first step (of six) is to develop a site analysis that identifies the potential and the limitations of your
landscape. A warning: This step can be the most time-consuming and challenging. It is easy to go overboard and examine
every minute detail of your space. Don't - think macro, not micro. The most important component of the site analysis is
determining the quality (we call it tilth) of your soil, as 80 percent of landscape plant problems are soil-related. A
soil test is a great place to start and provides a baseline for you to work from. This test can tell you organic matter
content, pH, salts and nutrients. Feel free to share the report with me and I can give you some advice as to what
should - and shouldn't - be done to modify it.
What the test won't tell you, but what you should also examine, is soil structure, compaction (what has happened on
your property) and soil texture (sandy, silty or most likely clayey).
Also look at the grade and drainage of your property. Where does the water go after a big storm? Are there low spots or
standing water on the property? If you have a steep grade (slopes greater than 10 percent are hard to walk on and
require year-round plant cover to prevent erosion), it may require re-grading structures.
In the next column, we will discuss additional issues with site analysis, the family analysis, and the next four steps
for your yard improvement.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6464.
Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.