Steele: Choosing what to include in your landscape

Consider the needs/wants of everyone in the household as you create a new garden.

When deciding on changes to your landscaping, or creating a new landscape, it’s important to consider the needs/wants of everyone in the household.

Here are some things to consider:

1) How much lawn do you need? Lawn is mostly used by children, pets and perhaps to play bocce ball. As lawn is the highest maintenance and water-use landscaping choice, it makes sense to limit the area planted. It should be on at least six inches of good topsoil, located on level ground, and shaped for easy watering and mowing.

2) Where do people naturally walk? Hard surface pathways in these places will eliminate maintenance and watering. Make sure they are functional in all weather.

3) Where do you wish to entertain and barbecue? Hard surfaced patios and decks do not require water or garden maintenance.

4) Where do you want shade?

5) Do you want a flower garden? Choose mostly perennial flowers as they are much less work and cost less in the long term.

To get the most blooms, the garden needs to be in good soil and full sun. Locate where you will see it the most from inside and outside.

A shaded flower garden has much less bloom so choose shade-loving plants and concentrate on selecting for good foliage texture and colour.

6) Do you want to grow food such as vegetables, berry bushes, fruit trees, and herbs? Food growing areas need full sun, good soil, and a water source. You may want a compost area and perhaps a greenhouse and potting shed.

7) If you have children, consider making a natural creative play area with big rocks, logs, places to dig and tunnel, bushes and trees to make into forts and hiding places. Get them to help plan and create it. Include a place they can plant veggies and flowers of their own choosing. A great tee-pee can be made from a few poles and scarlet runner beans.

8) Creating a ‘wild’ area of native plants, that reflects the natural beauty of the Okanagan, will be very low-maintenance and need little water.

Planting a diversity of plants will encourage birds, butterflies and beneficial insects into your landscape. Check the plant database at for native plants, and ones that attract birds and butterflies.

9) Storage areas may be needed for tools, bicycles, and yard/recycling/garbage bins. These should be easily accessible but not in a prime view.

10) Perhaps you want an area for badminton, basketball, tennis or a swimming pool.

11) Do you need a dog run? The dog will need some shade in summer.

12) Do you want a pond? This is very labour intensive. Make the pond deep enough for fish to overwinter and create places and plant cover to hide them from predator birds.

Next week, I’ll write about things to consider as you set priorities for your landscaping.

Gwen Steele is executive director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association.  Learn more about gardening with nature and plants for the Okanagan at

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