Landscape Planning Concepts

Kurt M. Jones
Chaffee County Extension Director

When water supplies become stretched, many gardeners look upon their large lawns and wonder about converting it to low moisture plantings.   While lawns have their purpose, making them functional (having only what you need) instead of covering large areas of your lot makes good sense.  So, where do you begin?
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Bubble Diagram Example
            First, explore your goals for your landscape.  Do you need an area for your pets or children?  Are there some places in your landscape that are difficult to maintain or keep watered?  Will you need to convert a portion of your existing lawn sprinklers to convert to a perennial bed?
            One trick that landscape designers start with when making a plan is to draw out the existing lot on paper, noting the location of difficult-to-move items like sidewalks, driveways, structures, and established trees.  From there, they draw a “bubble diagram” to note differing effects they wish to make, plant watering requirements, and other desired features such as patios or lawn areas.
            In moving from the bubble diagram to an actual plan, consider other effects that you may wish to accomplish.  If the focal point of your home is the front entrance, then consider plants that enhance that feature instead of blocking the view.  Larger plants like trees can be useful to help “frame” the house features.  When choosing plants for your landscape, be sure to consider not only the size of the juvenile plants, but also mature sizes as well.
One concept that we recommend is the right plant in the right place.  Keep in mind wind exposures, solar heating, and winter conditions when choosing plants.
            In choosing plants, there are several excellent resources available to you.  CSU Extension has many publications available, along with some additional web resources such as http://www.planttalk.org and http://www.answerlink.info which may be helpful.  The SE Colorado Water Conservation District has an extensive demonstration and research garden at their Pueblo location.  Their website, http://www.secwcd.org has many pictures of plants they have on their location, growing characteristics, and other helpful information about maintenance and other items. 
Mid-summer perennial garden
Finally, check with local nurseries to see what they have available and get their advice.  Our local nurseries have plants adapted to our environment and knowledgeable people on staff.  Try to approach them on less-hectic times/days so they have time to assist you!
Getting the right plants is an important step.  Soil preparation, correctly planting transplants, and watering are also very important and often overlooked or not adequately accomplished.  Simply adding 3 cubic yards of compost to every 1000 square feet of bed and incorporating that into the soil to a depth of 6-8 inches will lower your watering requirements, fertilizer requirements, and increase the plant vigor over no soil preparation.  Incorporating organic matter later is much more difficult.
For more information about landscape options, call your Extension office or visit us online at http://extension.colostate.edu/.

landscaping mountain gardening

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