Creating Your Louisiana-Friendly Yard

Bennett Joffrion, Fletcher, Jr., Bobby H.  |  10/30/2007 1:46:26 AM

Creating Louisiana Friendly Yard

A Louisiana-Friendly Yard doesn’t merely offer a good-looking landscape, it also becomes an asset to the local environment, protecting natural resources and preserving our state’s unique beauty. An important part in creating a Louisiana-Friendly Yard is recognizing that the home landscape is connected to and a part of a larger natural system.

Designing a landscape more in harmony with the environment requires commitment and careful planning and largely depends on what you and your family require from the landscape. You should consider:

  1. Your family’s needs and desires.
  2. The conditions of your site.
  3. Maintaining a healthy environment.

Understanding a few basic concepts will help you make environmentally appropriate decisions when planning your landscape and avoid potential problems.

Proper Planning is Critical

A key to creating a successful landscape design is relying on a common-sense planning process. Using a step-by-step process, where the next step builds on the one before, you can develop your own plan that will create an attractive, functional and environmentally sensitive landscape.

First, think of the style you want your landscape to have. Look at other gardens and figure out what style you are most comfortable with. Gardening books, magazines and books on landscaping present photographs that can inspire you and help you make a decision. The style you choose is generally a matter of taste but should strongly be influenced by the architecture of the house. The chosen style will guide the more aesthetic aspects of the landscape design. Styles generally fall in one of several categories, such as formal, informal, naturalistic, ethnic or ecological. Next, follow the steps outlined on the next page. For a complete list, refer to Right Plant, Right Place.

1. Decide what your landscape needs to provide. Most people focus primarily on the appearance of their landscape and how it beautifies the home and grounds. Early in the planning process, it is also important to look at what the landscape needs to provide and how it will function. Examples of needs include a play area for kids, shade, privacy, colorful flowers, growing vegetables and outdoor living. The Louisiana Yards & Neighborhoods program adds one more need — protecting the environment, which includes creating wildlife habitat and lowering maintenance — particularly, reducing water, fertilizer and pesticide use and preventing erosion.

2. Study your site. The site is what is enclosed by your property lines. Walk your property and become familiar with the grounds. Notice the compass directions. Which areas are shady or sunny, wet or dry? Soil tests will help you learn about soil characteristics on your site. Note existing features such as trees, buildings, beds, fences, walks and the like. What do you want to change, get rid of or keep? Draw up a simple sketch of the property showing the relevant features.

3. Draw a land-use plan. Draw up a simple sketch of the property showing the relevant features (house, existing trees, beds, patio, etc.). Better yet, draw up a scale drawing. A scale drawing is much more effective when you actually start to do the design. If you have the survey completed for your mortgage, photocopy it — it is really helpful at this stage. You will be playing with various ideas and need copies to try those ideas out. Never draw on the original.

In this step you decide how much space different activities and areas will need and where in the landscape they will be located. At this time you will see how many things in your list you will actually be able to fit into the landscape. On your scale-drawing copy, draw circles or ovals to indicate where and how large areas will be. For instance, a circle would represent where and how large the vegetable garden would be, where the play area would be, where the patio would be and so forth. Try several arrangements until you find the best one.

4. Shape the spaces. Now, decide exactly what shape the areas will have. If you indicated flower beds with an oval to show where and how big they will be, at this point you decide how they will actually be shaped. Although you don’t actually select the plants at this stage, you should decide on the characteristics that the plants should have (size, flower color, evergreen, etc.). This is a creative stage. It will be guided by the previous steps as well as by the style you have decided for the garden.

5. Select the materials. At this point, you select the components that will be chosen to create the landscape. If, for instance, in step 1 you listed privacy, in step 2 you decided what view needed to be blocked, in step 3 you chose the location of the privacy screen, in step 4 you determined the size of the screen (how tall, how wide) and also decided the composition of the screen. You may choose to plant a hedge or build a lattice fence or a brick wall. Go through the rough plan, selecting what plants will be used, surfacing materials, etc. Cost is a factor that enters into which materials you select. When choosing plants, consider the limitations of your site, maintenance requirements and wildlife value.

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