Landscaping For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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Putting together your perfect landscape starts with making a wish list customized to your needs, planning out your landscaping, and purchasing plants best suited for your landscape plan and hardiness zone. This Cheat Sheet can help you keep track of these details.

Creating a landscaping wish list

Make a wish list when you begin landscape planning and use your imagination to customize it around your needs. Think about including rain barrels, a fire pit, an arbor, or an herb garden based on your desires. Consider these items for your wish list:

  • A brick patio or wooden deck
  • An outdoor barbecue area
  • A privacy hedge
  • A fenced-in yard
  • A swimming pool or spa
  • Enough lawn to play catch
  • A storage or potting shed
  • A compost pile
  • A fish pond or reflecting pool
  • A place where butterflies and birds come to visit
  • A private retreat with a hammock
  • A flower-cutting garden
  • A rose garden
  • A fresh herb plot or scented garden
  • A vegetable or kitchen garden
  • A bulb garden with flowers that announce the start of a new season
  • A patio garden with different pots full of colorful plants
  • Wildflowers
  • Fruit bushes and fruit trees
  • A drought-tolerant garden

Need help winnowing down this list? Cross off the items that aren’t compatible with small children or pets in your yard, like, for example, a water garden or reflecting pool. Skip those that will take more time and effort to install or maintain than you want to invest, such as a rose garden or raising fruit trees. Have a sunny yard? Circle the ones that tempt you (an herb or butterfly garden). Wanting to prioritize raising food or flowers? Focus on veggies, fruits, herbs, cutting garden ideas.

How to plan your landscape

Planning your landscape helps to keep you on budget, find the right trees and other plants for your needs, and keeps you focused on your landscaping wish list. Use these steps when planning your landscape:

  1. Measure your current landscape and its elements and draw a rough plan on paper.
  2. Review your wish list.
  3. Determine your budget.
  4. Add any potential structures (patio, deck, shed, bench, fence, water feature) and pathways to your plan.
  5. Determine the sun, partial shade, and shade availability for areas where you plan to grow plants and determine your hardiness zone.
  6. Add plants and trees to your plan.

Plant plants that are native to your region or climate zone. They’re well-adapted and easier to care for, less vulnerable to pests or diseases, and proven to prosper.

  1. Check costs and availability of materials and plants.
  2. Call your local governing body and ask about permits.
  3. Enlist a landscape contractor or other helpers, if necessary.
  4. Follow your design.

Stake out or mark the outlines of incoming hardscape items (like a patio or deck) as well as incoming larger plants (trees and shrubs) and new beds (flowerbed, kitchen garden, herb garden). Make space by clearing out and digging. Shop with care, and install properly. If you take on the changes in bite-size pieces, it will all slowly come together.

Buying the best plants for your landscape

Landscape plants can be expensive — they’re an investment for your home. So, when you buy plants for your yard, seek healthy ones that fit your landscaping needs, beautify your property, and grow well in your area’s climate. These tips help you get the right landscaping trees, flowers, and shrubs:

  • Plan your landscape on paper first so you know exactly how many to buy.
  • Establish a budget before you arrive at the nursery.
  • Choose plants suited to the amount of sun, partial shade, or shade in your garden. Consider native plants, which succeed best because they’re adapted to your soil and climate and are less vulnerable to pests and diseases.
  • Buy plants that, when mature, are the right height, shape, and color for the scale of your landscape.
  • Choose plants that are compact, healthy, and (if applicable) just starting to flower. Avoid weak, spindly, or ones with signs of disease or insect problems.
  • Avoid buying plants that are rootbound or have outgrown their pots.
  • Note any special conditions before purchasing plants — soil requirements, watering needs, invasiveness, scents, and messiness (especially with berries).

Your landscaping hardiness zone

Be sure to select plants suited for your climate zone. Most perennials are marked with a hardiness zone to indicate the minimum temperatures it can tolerate. Use this table to find your area’s hardiness zone:

Plant Hardiness Zones for the United States and Canada

Zone Fahrenheit Celcius
Zone 1 –60°F to –50°F –51.1 to –45.6°C
Zone 2 –50°F to –40°F –45.6°C to –40°C
Zone 3 –40°F to –30°F –40°C to –34.4°C
Zone 4 –30°F to –20°F –34.4°C to –28.9°C
Zone 5 –20°F to –10°F –28.9°C to –23.3°C
Zone 6 –10°F to 0°F –23.3°C to –17.8°C
Zone 7 0°F to 10°F –17.8°C to –12.2°C
Zone 8 10°F to 20°F –12.2°C to –6.7°C
Zone 9 20°F to 30°F –6.7°C to –1.1°C
Zone 10 30°F to 40°F –1.1°C to 4.4°C
Zone 11 40°F and up 4.4°C and up

Canadians can also consult the following detailed online guide at www.paraspaceinc.com/blog/plant-hardiness-zones.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

The National Gardening Association offers plant-based education in schools, communities, and backyards across the United States, through the award-winning websites garden.org and kidsgardening.org. Teri Dunn Chace is a writer and editor with more than 35 titles in publication, and a long and distinguished career in horticulture and natural history. Phillip Giroux owns a landscape design firm. Bob Beckstrom is a home improvement expert and veteran author. Lance Walheim, former staff garden writer for Sunset magazine, is the nationally recognized author of more than 30 widely read garden books, including The Natural Rose Gardener.

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