Transforming an Existing Landscape

When the time comes to re-design an existing landscape or if you just moved in to a house that has a landscape that needs tweaking, there are some important things to consider before starting your re-design project.

First, become familiar with the existing plants and irrigation system. Knowing the existing plants is important so you can decide which to keep and which to get rid of (having a mature landscape is an invaluable commodity, so keep that in mind when choosing which plants to remove). Trees that are “trashy,” invasive, or too big for their current location are good throwaways. Get rid of shrubs that are in the wrong place or aren’t thriving where they are planted. It’s OK to spend one growing season to evaluate how plants are doing, when they bloom, how aggressive they are, and if they have the water requirements you want for your landscape.

In getting to know the irrigation system, locate the valves, point of connection, and main line. Turn on all the valves one at a time, and take note of the types of heads you have and how well the system works. Note any problem areas that need adjusting. Get familiar with the clock and how it is programmed. This is all necessary so you know how to correctly operate your sprinkling system. If you get stuck, there are many knowledgeable irrigation professionals who can answer any questions you have.

Once you’re familiar with the landscape you can make some changes. There are two areas that are the easiest to change: the park strip and side yards. Removing lawn from the park strip is a great place to start. Once the lawn is gone, use a converter kit from a local sprinkler supplier to change the irrigation to a drip system. Installing a drip system will reduce weeds and save an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 gallons of water per year. The park strip has harsh growing conditions, but by implementing the right plants such as Yarrow, Zauschneria, Iceplant, Echinacea, and Lavender (to name just a few), you can create a beautiful, successful park strip.

The next easy area to change is the side yard(s). Typically, the side yard is either heavily shaded or very hot and sunny. Most people don’t spend much time in their side yards unless they have been designed for a specific function. It’s best used as a pathway or for storage. Once you have determined what is needed most in the side yard, design that first and use the rest of the space as a planting bed. Convert this area to drip as well—planter beds should never be irrigated with pop-up spray heads.

These two areas of the landscape are typically the smallest and easiest to transform, which makes them great starting points in a re-design. Make sure to use as much of the existing plant material as possible, so long as it will benefit your landscape. A mature landscape is an invaluable commodity, but should be well thought out and designed to fit our local climate.

Visit conservationgardenpark.org for more information!

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