Designing Your Landscape

Lawns and Landscapes

  Understanding the Natural Conditions of Your Property

  • By first determining the natural conditions of your property, you can choose plantings that are adapted to your soil, moisture levels, and amount of sunlight. This planning can reduce or eliminate the need for lime, fertilizers, and irrigation.
  • Have your soil tested for nutrient content and acidity (pH) at the University of Massachusetts Soil Testing Laboratory for under $10. Call 413/545-2311 or visit UMass Soil Testing Laboratory for more information and find out what your yard actually needs.
  • Determine which areas of your property tend to be dry or wet and which areas are sunny or shady. You may want to draw a simple map that describes the conditions on your property to help you plan your landscape and choose appropriate plantings.

  Choosing Grasses and Other Plants

  • Choosing Grasses and Other Plants
  • Select plants according to your property's natural conditions and group plants with similar needs to minimize unnecessary watering and fertilization.
  • Select a grass variety that is best suited to the conditions on your property and in New England. In most areas of Massachusetts, tall fescue is the most suitable grass. It is drought tolerant, resistant to disease and pests, and can often survive New England winters.
  • For shady and less fertile areas, fine fescues such as red fescue are a good choice.
  • Use a blend of grass seeds to make your lawn more tolerant of pests and resistant to disease.

  Using Alternatives to Grass

Using alternatives to grass, such as ground cover and flowering plants, can reduce mowing time, save money, and make your property attractive and unique. Most of these suggested plants can be found at local lawn and garden stores.

  • On steep slopes or in inaccessible areas, plant ground cover such as Foam Flower, Goldenstar, or Wild Ginger. All these plants are suited to the Massachusetts climate and need little or no added water. Trees and shrubbery with mulch underneath can provide shade, prevent evaporation, and control weeds.
  • Using native flowering plants in a meadow-like design is a good alternative in areas where shrubs or ground cover are not suitable. Some examples of drought resistant flowers are Asters, Butterfly Weeds, and False Indigos.

  Planting Natural Pollution Barriers

  • Vegetative strips planted in areas where water drains from your property, no matter how far from a body of water, can effectively intercept and filter many of the pollutants in runoff. If you live on the banks of a river or the shoreline of a lake or bay, a vegetative buffer is particularly important to prevent runoff from going directly into these waters. Protecting water bodies with vegetative buffer zones will help maintain water quality, recreational resources, wildlife habitat, and property value.
  • Plant a combination of trees, shrubs, and ground cover in areas where water drains from your property. These plants will intercept and filter excess fertilizers or pesticides and eroded soil before they wash into the pond, lake, or bay. Recommended trees are Cottonwood, Black Willow, Silver Maple, and Red Maple. Recommended shrubs include Silky Dogwood, Winter Berry, Elder Berry, and High Bush Blueberry.
  • Make your buffer zone as wide as possible. Don't be afraid of overdoing it. The recommended width for an effective vegetative buffer zone is 100 feet.
  • Trees such as Sugar Maples, Oaks, and Basswoods are well adapted to New England. Some examples of shrubbery that need little or no added water are Shad Bush and Sweet Pepper Bush.

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