top of page
  • Writer's pictureLVHG

Backyard Makeover Checklist: What to Do Before You Dig

Spring is just a few weeks away, and our garden center is buzzing with excitement! Some of our customers in Allentown have some big plans for 2020, and we couldn't be more thrilled to hear about them. This year is bringing new plants, new trends, and brand new backyard trends to get us inspired. If you're planning on giving your backyard a significant makeover this year (or even a minor one!), consider these factors before breaking ground.

Determine Aspect

Aspect refers to which cardinal direction your yard faces—north, south, east, or west—and plays a key role in successful garden design. This direction determines which areas of your garden will be facing the sun and which areas will be shaded during the day. While the sun and shade will move throughout the day as the sun rises and falls, aspect still influences what you should plant and where.

If you're wondering how to determine which way your backyard is facing, stand at the back wall of your house with a compass—basically, whatever direction your back wall is facing is your aspect. No compass? You can still determine the aspect by taking note of where the sun appears first thing in the morning and late in the evening. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

  • South-facing gardens receive the most sunshine and least shade—perfect for plants that demand full sun.

  • North-facing gardens enjoy mid-day shade but get some sun in the early morning and evening. Sun-lovers should be saved for the front yard, and plants that enjoy a break from the sun should be a priority in the back.

  • West-facing gardens receive morning shade, but get plenty of sun in the afternoon and evening.

  • East-facing gardens are sunny in the morning but are shaded during the hottest part of the day.

Take Measurements

Taking measurements of your property is essential when you're creating a detailed landscape design plan. Whether you're using a landscape designer or doing it all yourself, square footage will help you determine how much material you need (mulch, soil, and stone, for example) and the costs for those supplies, as well as any size restrictions to keep in mind. Remember, you don't have to re-do the entire yard at once, or at all. If you'd like to focus on just one part of the landscape, simply take measurements for only that area!

An experienced landscape designer will be able to get you the most accurate measurements, especially if your yard is uniquely-shaped. However, you can certainly get a good idea of your square footage on your own. Measure the boundaries of the area you plan to develop and account for fixed objects that will influence your design. If your elementary school math is failing you, you can calculate square footage with this formula: area = length x width.

Determine Viewpoint

When guests step into your backyard paradise, what do you want them to see? Consider the views inside and outside of the yard you want to highlight. Now, consider what areas from outside of your landscape you may want to hide. The way that you frame your landscape influences what you'll see, and what you won't. You can make your garden seem bigger or smaller, and you can draw focus and attention towards some things and hide others. Consider the design of a cottage on the lake—designing the landscape so that you hide the view of the road while framing the view of the water will create a much better viewpoint and a more relaxing atmosphere for this outdoor space. The same principles apply at home; consider viewpoint (and your neighbor's viewpoint) when planting for privacy. The placement of trees, shrubs, and other large outdoor fixtures can help you manipulate your space to your liking.

Size Up the Sunlight

The aspect of your yard largely determines how much sunshine you get, and when you get it. However, other objects can also throw shade in your garden, which affects your ability to grow certain plants. Consider the placement of other buildings, like your garage or your neighbor's home, as well as fences, trees, and shrubs, and what each of them mean for your yard.

Before heading to our garden center, jot down a list of the areas of your garden where you plan on introducing new plants, along with the amount of sun each area receives. Now you can pick plants best-suited for your garden, rather than choosing plants you like and trying to make them fit into your design or watching them suffer in a less-than-perfect location.

Consider Drainage

In addition to sunlight, proper drainage is one of the most important factors to consider for new plants. We talk a lot about soil quality and soil drainage itself, but the truth is that your landscape isn't uniform in its degree of drainage. Even a gently-sloped yard can make a significant difference in your landscape design. Water rolls off of hills and accumulates in the natural dips and valleys of your yard. Most plants are pretty specific when it comes to how much water they'll tolerate around their roots, so keep this in mind when you're choosing plants for your new design. If your landscape has particularly poor drainage, there are a few things you can do. For one, if you're stuck with thick, clay-like soil, you can always amend the soil with sand or organic matter to prevent compaction and improve its ability to drain water. You may also want to build raised garden beds and fill them with ideal soil blends to keep your finicky plants happy. If your drainage problems have more to do with the mounds and valleys of your yard, you can also opt to grade your garden to divert water elsewhere. While this isn't a small project, it's well worth it if you're considering a complete backyard makeover.

Account for Functionality

Lots of time and planning goes into choosing plants and making your backyard an appropriate place to grow them. After carefully crafting your landscape design, you're almost ready to start digging. But first, think about functionality. There's nothing more disheartening than spending all that time and money on a brand new backyard, only to find that there are aspects of your outdoor living space that just aren't practical. By thinking ahead and incorporating these last few minor things into your design, you can avoid major problems in the long run. Allocate space for your hardscapes! If you're planning on adding in a patio, an outdoor furniture set, or a fire feature, ensure there will be enough space—not just to install them, but also to enjoy them! Even if you're undecided about moving forward with a hardscaping project, leave enough space so that it can still be an option in the future.

Take note of how many electrical outlets you have, where they're placed, and if installing more is necessary. Access to outdoor outlets is often an afterthought, but they're super useful when it comes to outdoor lighting, water feature pumps, outdoor speaker systems, or even charging devices outside. If you're planning on doing any outdoor cooking, consider installing gas lines for barbeques and gas stoves in your outdoor kitchen area. If you're committed to making your outdoor space as beautiful and enjoyable as your indoor space, now is as good a time as any to start! With landscaping projects, taking time to think carefully about the area and how you want to use it makes all the difference when you reach the final result. If you want to make this reno truly worth all the time and effort, planning is the crucial key to success.


bottom of page