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How to Plan Your Naturescape

You have determined you want the conserving benefits of using Intermountain native plants in your landscape. You may know some or all of the native plants you would like to see in your yard, or maybe you do not know yet which plants you want. You want to know how to get started with your own “naturescape.” Following is how we would plan a native plant landscape. This is only an introductory swipe at natural landscape planning. There are several books and booklets available on native landscaping and we list some of them on our Links and Resources page.

Clearly define what part of your landscape you want to work on.

Decide how you want to use your space.

Some things to consider:

  • What seasonal activities occur in different spaces?
  • Where are your sunny, warm spots?
  • Where are the shady and cool spots?
  • Do you have well drained soil everywhere or some poorly drained or wet areas?
  • Are there structures or areas where you want privacy hedge plants?
  • Think about placement of plants for bird watching from your windows.

For examples of how we are naturescaping around our home click Rebecca’s Southern Exposure, Hannah’s Rock Garden and Hillary’s Westside Welcome. A great way to transition to lower maintenance waterwise native plants is to do it in stages. Develop a master landscaping plan and spread the project over a few years.

Know your annual precipitation.

If you don’t know, ask your local Master Gardener, Extension Agent, Farm Supply, Nursery or High School Ag Instructor.

Know your soil type.

Do you have sand, loamy sand, sandy loam, loam or silt-loam? (There very few clay soils in the Intermountain West.) Is it well-drained or poorly drained?

Soil types

Left to right: Sand, sandy loam, silt loam.

The silt loam has more organic matter in it which makes it darker. Do a web search for “soil texture triangle,” if you want to learn about how the soil types compare.

If you want to get technical on your soil type, Go to

  • Navigate by address, enter your address.
  • Hit “View” and see aerial photo of your property.
  • Create an AOI (Area Of Interest with the frame tool framing your property)
  • Click on the Soil Map tab.
  • Your soil Map Unit Name will be identified in your property and to the left of the screen in the table area.
  • Click on the Map Unit Name in the table and it will open a description of the soil. Print off the description. Note the name and texture of soil you have, eg. XXXXXXX Sand, silt, silt-loam, clay, etc.
  • To learn soil pH, click on Soil Data Explorer tab.
    • Click on Soil Properties and Qualities tab
    • Click on Soil Chemical Properties.
    • Click on pH
      • Under Advanced Options select “Surface Layer”
      • Hit “View Rating”
      • Find the soil pH rating in the table at the bottom of the aerial photo.
  • These USDA Web Soil Survey reports are quite accurate, unless your property is in a subdivision in which the natural soil may have been greatly disturbed, in which case a soil test or the advice of a soils expert may be helpful. (Ask your county extension agent.)
  • Your soil type and pH will help you decide which native plants may grow best on your site. See Soil Preference under the description of any of our native plants.

Know your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone

Decide what kind of native plants you want

  • Do you want tall, medium or short plants? Where do you want them?
  • Do you want grasses, perennial flowers, shrubs or trees?
  • Desert, Semi-Desert, Foothill or Mountain. How To Decide Which Native Plants
    • You will have to determine how much additional water you will need to irrigate if you want to plant Mountain Plants in a semi-desert.
  • Browse our plants by the different website sort options.
  • Maybe you want to try a native plant sampler of 30 or 10 plants selected for your area? Native Plant Sampler Kits
  • Order your plants for delivery during the spring or fall Shipping Seasons.

Decide what kind of irrigation system you want

After you decide what kind of native plants you want and whether they are Mountain, Foothills or Desert and you know your annual rainfall, you will know if you need to plan for an irrigation system. Either drip irrigation or sprinkler irrigation will work fine.

Decide how you will remove existing vegetation

Decide how you will remove existing vegetation. How To Convert Lawn to Native Plants.

Complete your earthmoving and hardscaping, and you are ready to plant!

As you complete your earthmoving and hardscaping, you are ready to plant! You may wish to read our article How To Plant Your Seedlings

Plan for weed control: hand weeding, weed barriers, mulch, etc.


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