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Site analysis

  • Know your plant hardiness zone.
  • Do a soil test to find out the pH and nutrient levels present in the soil.
  • Look at information like soil type and drainage on your site. Does it drain well or are there areas that might hold water?
  • Note where your windows, doors, and walks are to avoid blocking them or the view from them. Note where the views are good or bad and consider landscaping to block the bad views.
  • Note areas of sun and shade on your site. Consider how these patterns will change through the seasons.
  • Determine what vegetation and trees you’d like to keep and what you’d like to take out.
  • Identify invasive plants located on the site and plan for removal. Identify and remove invasive plants.
  • Keep structural limitations and obstructions in mind. For example, utility lines, irrigation pipes, telephone lines, both overhead and underground, can help you determine where to locate trees and shrubs.
  • Always call 811 before you dig to locate utility lines.


  • In new construction or new landscape installations, use low-impact site design practices (such as the preservation of existing native trees, vegetation, and soil) to the maximum extent feasible. This should include, where possible, removal of invasive species.
  • Preserve existing, pre-construction vegetation to retain values such as wildlife habitat, soil integrity and shading, and create beautiful and welcoming natural spaces in the landscape. Vegetation that is preserved at the existing grade is already established and suited to the site, reducing the need for irrigation and chemical applications. These areas also reduce stormwater runoff and increase plant and animal diversity.
  • Protect existing trees where possible. Tree canopies reduce stormwater runoff through the process of evapotranspiration from the surface of the canopy. The shade created by tree canopies helps retain moisture in the landscape, thus reducing or eliminating the need to provide supplemental irrigation.

Knowing Your Plants