Preparing for Lawn Design

The best lawns fit seamlessly into a home's landscape. A careful design can make sure your lawn perfectly supports the other elements of your home's surroundings.

Any beautifully designed landscape may be attractive to view, but if it doesn't accommodate the needs of the people who use the property, the landscape design is not practical. Before making a plan for your space, discuss with the members of your household the needs and plans for use of the landscape.

With a sketch pad, carefully plot the relationships between indoor and outdoor space in a landscape design picture.
With a sketch pad, plot the relationships between indoor and outdoor space in your landscape design.

Make a list of desired functions before making the actual plan. The following functions are some that you may want to consider: sitting/dining area, clothesline, barbecue, dog pen, wind protection, vegetable garden, compost, lawn recreation, children's play area, and firewood storage.

Draw a simple sketch showing the general location of the elements needed in relation to the house and one another. For instance, if an outdoor eating area is needed, sketch it near the kitchen, and firewood storage should be convenient to the door nearest the fireplace.

The relationship diagram will help you in the beginning steps of putting a plan together. In addition, decide the level of maintenance you are willing to meet. Your plan should reflect the amount of maintenance time you're interested in spending in the yard and garden.

If your house is visible from a road, you have a public view area. Think of your house, or front door, as the focal point of a picture. You'll want to frame the view, to draw attention to your house. Typically, foundation plantings are set at the base of the house to create a transition between the house and the landscape. Foundation plantings can be a simple mix of small evergreens and flowering shrubs, ornamental trees, ground covers, and herbaceous plants. Consider shade when choosing trees; deciduous trees will shade the house in the summer while allowing sunlight in during the winter. Be sure to screen service areas -- trash cans, laundry lines, and the like -- from the public area.

You'll want to develop other sections of your landscape for outdoor living. You may decide to incorporate a service area -- toolshed, doghouse, clothesline, potting area. It should be convenient to the house yet tucked away from public view and private entertaining. If children will be using the landscape, plan for a children's play area: A swing set and sand box may be in your plans. You'll want this area set aside but in full view for easy supervision. Separate the children's area from the eating and entertaining area with a low border, and you'll get a feeling of separate outdoor rooms.

A private entertaining and eating area is among the most common space needs of a well-planned landscape. Design it as you would a comfortable room in your house. The size of the area should be determined by the number of people who will be accommodated. A patio or terrace with adjacent lawn for occasional spillover works well. Privacy from neighbors as well as shade can be achieved through the proper selection and placement of screening materials and a canopy of trees.

Create a Functional Sketch

When you plan for outdoor activities and traffic patterns, related functions should be grouped together. For example, parking and entrance to the house go together. With a sketch pad, carefully plot the relationship between the indoor space -- windows and doors -- with the outdoor space -- public, private, and service. From the list of functional areas you need, designate space to accommodate each function in your landscape design picture.

On the next page, we'll show you how to create the plan for your lawn.

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