5 Steps to Successful
1) Build healthy soil Preserve existing soil and vegetation
(especially trees) where possible. Amenddisturbed soils with
compost. Mulch existing landscapesregularly with wood chip,
coarse bark, leaves or compost.
2) Plant right for your site Fit landscape uses to yoursite’s
conditions, and choose plants that need less water, have few
pests, and thrive in the Northwest climate.
3) Water smart After building healthy soil and selecting
low-water use plants, group plants by water need, use more
efficient irrigation methods like drip and soakers under mulch,
and design and maintain irrigation systems to reduce waste.
4) Think twice before using pesticides Proper plant selection,
plant care, and integrated pest management techniques can
practically eliminate the need for weed and bug killers,
reducing health risks.
5) Practice natural lawn care Start with less lawn – put turf
only where needed. “Grasscycling” (mulchmowing), and proper
mowing height, watering and fertilization techniques can save
time and money.
Fit the design to the site
• Assess site soils, sun exposure, drainage, water table,
grading and slope stability issues.
• Consider adjacent uses, nearby sensitive areas m(wetlands and
waterways, slopes, wildlife uses).
• Identify existing vegetation, and preserve (especially tree
root areas) wherever possible.
• Involve owners and end-users in fitting the intended uses into
the site’s conditions.
• Involve landscape maintenance staff (or a maintenance expert)
early in the design process
Start with the soil
• Plan to protect soil around trees and preserved vegetation
• Plan to stockpile and reuse site topsoil, if practical.
• Plan to amend disturbed soils with compost, prevent
recompaction, and mulch beds after planting (see Building
• Consider getting a site soil sample, and any imported top
soils, tested at a soil lab. Follow the lab’s
recommendations, and verify proper installation.
• Design landscape for recycling fall leaves and chipped
prunings as mulch, and mulch-mowing (“grasscycling”) lawns, to
help maintain long-term soil and plant health. Plan a composting
or leaf/chip storage area on site.
Choose the right plant for
the right place
• Select plant varieties that will thrive in your site’s
conditions (sun, soil, water), the local climate, and that grow
• Select for low maintenance needs: low water and fertilizer
needs after establishment, high resistance to
pests to eliminate chemical use, and minimal mowing or pruning
• Select based on mature size, to minimize pruning.
Plan vertically in layers, like
the forest: ground cover, understory shrubs, and trees. (Select
low shrubs and limb-able trees where sightlines are important)
• Use native plant communities where they fit the site
conditions and design – they often thrive with less
maintenance and provide wildlife habitat.
• Plan native and natural “buffer” areas near waterways, slopes,
and other sensitive areas.
• Use trees. Generally, plant conifers on north side to block
winter winds, and deciduous trees to south for
summer shading and winter light. (Consider mature tree size –
see “tree selection” in Resources.)
• Select plants with multiple benefits, such as food (“edible
landscaping”), habitat, shade, etc.
• Maximize green in dense urban areas – in public spaces, on
building walls and roofs, in street tree placement – see Seattle
Green Factor urban design guidelines in
• Put lawn where it belongs: on sunny (or light shade to reduce
water needs), well-drained, moderately sloped areas where needed
for play or walking uses. Turf often requires a lot of
maintenance and water, so choose other plant groups where turf
is not necessary or won’t grow well (heavily shaded, sloped, or
poorly drained sites).
• Avoid invasive species – see
for more information check
the landscaping guide
Landscaping costs can be
daunting when you’re trying to improve the curb appeal of your
home. You don’t need to hire a professional to redo your front
and back yard when you decide to improve your landscaping. This
can be a fun DIY project for spring weekends, and you can do it
for much less than you think.
Check out the following tips for landscaping on a budget – you
don’t have to try them all, but trying one or two will be sure
to save you some time and money:
- Take note of the
landscaping and gardens of neighbors, friends and family.
This will give you some good ideas of things that can be
used in your own yard. While they are showing you their
yards and gardens, ask them if you could have some cuttings
from their plants – most are quite willing to do this for
- Learn to propagate –
sorry, it’s not as exciting as it sounds. Instead of
spending $3 - $8 EACH for your plants at the local big box
store or nursery, learn to grow your own. It will literally
save you hundreds of dollars when you’re planning a budget
landscaping project. There are three main ways to propagate
Propagation by seed is the most popular method of producing
new plants. Common annual flowers are grown easily from seed and
flower within the first year. Perennials grown from seed may
take more than one season to flower.
Cutting is the process of removing a small portion of a
growing plant and treating it so roots are developed. The
cutting is transplanted and will eventually produce its own
blooms. Cuttings are usually made from part of the stem, leaves,
Dividing clumps is one of the simplest methods of propagation,
and its beneficial for the divided plants. Many perennials
deteriorate if left in clumps for too long. Dividing them
ensures continuous health and growth. The plants are carefully
removed from the soil in clumps, and divided simply by cutting
them or pulling them apart and planting them separately.
- Buy your gravel or
landscaping stones from a local supplier – often they have
leftovers from jobs that they are happy to get rid of – let
them know what you are looking for and ask them to call you
if they come up with any extra in your style.
- Check with your local
landfill or lcoal government to see if they have a free
mulch or compost site. Many towns have these - that’s what
they do with the tree limbs and yard waste that they pick up
- and they are glad to get rid of it.
- Instead of buying weed
killer and weed block tarps, lay old newspapers on the
ground, several layers thick. Make sure that you cover the
newspapers right away with mulch or landscaping rock, so
they don't blow away.
- Check out garage sales for
gardening tools, landscaping edging, plants, etc.