Look at how plants are growing on the site and in the neighborhood

Doing so tells you a lot about the potential of your property. If you notice leaves that are stunted or discolored, or if you see plants that are smaller than normal or that display unusual growth habits, your soil may be poorly drained, its chemistry may be unbalanced, or the living organisms in the soil may be compromised. If the existing plants look happy, however, new plants will probably be happy, too. See Chapter 16 for details.

  • Do a soil test. A soil test is like a blood test; you send a sample to a lab for analysis. Conducting this test is especially important if you suspect problems or see that plants perform poorly in certain areas. For info on the benefits and limitations of soil testing, turn to Chapter 16.
  • Check your internal soil drainage. If you've ever had a plant drown because water built up in the soil, you already know about internal soil drainage (or the lack of it). Most plants like to grow in soil that drains away excess water. After the soil pores are filled, the plant really has no need for any more water. In normal soils, water simply leaks down into the lower soil horizons due to the force of gravity. But some soils have an impervious layer of clay or rock present below the surface. This layer creates a perched water table, a zone of floating water. Check out Chapter 16 for a simple way to test your internal soil drainage as well as sustainable (and easy) approaches to handling poor drainage.
  • Check the stability of your soil. Are the trees and telephone poles in your area leaning over at crazy angles? Are there parallel cracks in the soil? Is there a history of earth movement in the neighborhood? If so, call your local consulting geologist for an evaluation of the stability of your property. A consultation can cost you $200 to $400, but it just may save you the price of an uninsured mudslide.

Adding plants and water to an unstable site can cause a catastrophic landslide, which won't be covered by your insurance policy. Causing a landslide isn't very sustainable, is it?

✓ Pay attention to surface erosion. If runoff water is concentrated so that it runs across your land, there's a good chance that the soil will begin to wash away. This process, called surface erosion, can be difficult to stop after it starts. You can use various strategies to prevent surface erosion. I explain these in Chapter 14. For now, just know that you need to look for signs of erosion — soil washing away and gullies of any size — and make repairing them a high priority.

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Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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