Using a critical eye, assess your yard and make a list of both the problems and the successes.
Before you do anything, think about the various areas and their purposes. Do you have a place primarily for entertaining, a zone for children and pets to play, a serene location to relax and reflect, an area set aside for herbs or vegetables or a combination of two or more of those purposes?
A landscape’s purpose should define the design and the plants placed in it, though it is easy to lose sight of that when faced with a wide selection of plants at a nursery. For example, if the yard is primarily a children’s play area, then thorny plants are not appropriate.
Identify the roles of your landscape as you make decisions about design and plant selection. Without concentrating on individual plants, look for areas that do not work or that could be improved.
Next, look for larger issues, such as balance between the areas (in terms of size, color and shapes) and repetition of color and focal points to draw the eye.
Look for successes and failures of individual plants. Determine whether plants failed because of plant choice, soil, water levels or location. Identify plants that have outgrown their areas.
The next step is to locate plants that have become diseased or that have pest issues. Identify the problems and learn the best methods of control to become free of them and prevent reoccurrences.
This is a lot to undertake, but the effort will pay big dividends. If it seems like too much, consider tackling your yard one section at a time. Within a few years, you will have a landscape that is both functional and beautiful.
• UC Certified Master Gardeners are available to answer your gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112. Questions for Heather Hamilton can be submitted to email@example.com.