Creating a new water-efficient landscape starts with an accurate site plan

Man rakes a zen garden
Jeff Moore rakes the Zen garden included in his backyard landscaping plan. Photo courtesy of San Diego County Water Authority

Fourth in a series republished with permission from San Diego County Water Authoritythe website of.

Any water-efficient landscape transformation begins with observing and recording your property as it exists today. Think of it as a bird’s eye view or satellite map showing the boundaries and physical features of your property. This becomes the basis of all your planning.

You need some basic tools to draw your own plot plan. They include a tape measure for precise measurements, a ruler for measuring and drawing straight lines, a clipboard, a pencil, and paper, preferably quarter-inch graph paper.

A plot plan of a house. Courtesy of San Diego County Water Authority

Steps to Create a Basic Plot Plan

Even if you don’t plan to install the whole project at once, you should create a complete master plan for your landscape, so that the result is unified, including planting and design of energy-efficient irrigation. water.

  1. Start at the corner of your property.
  2. Measure from the edge of your driveway or sidewalk to your property line. Say, for example, the distance from the corner of your lot to the driveway is 28 feet 8 inches. Using the quarter inch = one foot scale, you would use 28 and a half squares for the space on your graph paper.
  3. Next, measure the depth of your property to the sidewalk or curb. Use this approach to locate property lines, driveways, trees, driveways, easements, and your home.
  4. Measure and mark any existing scenery or landscape you want to save, such as walkways, mature trees, and shrubbery.
  5. Use a ruler to draw your shapes and keep your scale accurate.
  6. Take note of natural drainage characteristics. Preserving them and limiting the use of impervious surfaces in your landscape will minimize runoff and maximize water infiltration from the site.
  7. Add compass directions to understand the shading effects of the sun as it moves through your garden. South-facing exposures are sunny and warm, while north-facing exposures can be cool and shady.
  8. Locate views that need to be preserved and areas you want to obscure, such as your neighbor’s trash cans.
  9. Locate features in your home such as windows, doors, and other openings. Indicate their height above the ground.
  10. Locate utilities like water meter, electrical boxes and overhead power lines.
  11. Note all existing irrigation heads. You will need to know where they are later when designing your new irrigation plan.

You now have a roadmap of your landscape. Your future landscaping plans begin with this reference document.

walk in the sun

As part of creating a plan, take time to walk around your property at different times of the day. Note sunny or shady areas in the morning and sunny or shady areas in the afternoon.

When you start choosing your plants, be sure to select those that suit the sun patterns of your garden.

The San Diego County Water Authority offers programs, resources and incentives to improve water use efficiency for residential, commercial and agricultural users. For more resources on water use efficiency, go to


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