Landscaping Your New Log Home

The landscape of your home goes deeper than the roots of your plants. Proper drainage is essential to your landscape. Before you even begin to think about plants and flowers, your site will need to be graded for good drainage. Surfaces like driveways, patios and walkways should also slope away from your home to keep rainwater from running off into your foundation.

You'll need to handle rainwater on your site through downspouts that correctly funnel water away from your home.

In some areas, irrigation is a concern. If you live in one of these areas, you'll need to plan ahead for a system that waters your lawn and landscape, or use xeriscaping, a landscape system that employs plants with lower demands for water and fertilizer.

From the Ground Up

Once you've dealt with water issues, it's time to consider your soil. Soil tests will help determine the acidity of the soil in your area, which will affect your choice of plants.

Before you sod or seed your new lawn, your soil should be well-prepared. First, weeds should be eliminated and poor soils should be amended with organic materials. Construction debris should not be buried under your lawn.

For more information on soil testing, contact your local cooperative extension or nursery. Good soil will help you keep your landscaping healthy and good looking.

The Planning Stage

Your landscape will be a labor of love for many years--don't shortchange it right from the start by not creating a comprehensive landscape plan. Especially when you're facing a raw site and a new home, it's worthwhile to spend a few hours with a landscape designer when your home is at the drawings stage. The costs of plants and trees can add up quickly: A landscape professional will keep you from wasting money on haphazard plantings. Ideally, you'll find a landscape designer who has experience with log homes. Often, log homes have a rustic look that benefits from an informal type of landscaping.

Define your needs for your landscaping so that you can discuss them with your landscape designer. Do you want to plant a vegetable garden? Keep livestock? Entertain formally or informally? Build a swing set? How much time do you want to spend on yard work?

You may also want to talk with a tree professional about the trees on your site. He or she can assess the current health of the trees on your site and give you advice on preserving trees during the construction process.

With the help of your site plan, you can begin to envision how your landscaping will look, where you'd like to plant trees for privacy, shade or protection from the wind, and where you'll want to build walkways, fences or other landscape features. Keep in mind that trees need to stay clear of utility lines, and plants will need good light, soil and space to flourish.

In our age of instant rewards, remember that a landscape takes years to mature. Your landscape is a long-term investment that will reward you with new growth each year.

Plantings

Landscaping can be categorized into two areas: softscape and hardscape. The softscape comprises trees, plants, ground cover and flowers. Hardscaping refers to structures and features such as walls, pathways, pools and ponds.

Softscape

When selecting softscape materials, your landscape designer will consider your geographical region and the conditions of your site. The placement of plantings is crucial--those planted too close to your home or foundation may block windows, interfere with roof gutters or disrupt foundation walls as the plants grow. To decrease cleanup hassles, you'll probably want to keep fruit- or flower-bearing trees away from pools, decks, patios, driveways and walks.

Make sure you understand the growth habits of the trees and shrubs you select. How should they be maintained? Will you need to prune or fertilize them over their lifespan?

Keep in mind that flowers are fleeting, with their blooms generally lasting just a few weeks. The texture and color of leaves and bark will affect the look of your landscaping year round.

Hardscape

Your home's hardscaping will benefit from a comprehensive plan, too. Many structures, especially those made of stone or those that require excavation, are expensive to install, so getting them right the first time is essential.

A wide variety of fence styles are available. In some developments, you may be required to install a certain style, or be forbidden from building fences at all. Your fence's function, whether it's to protect a swimming pool, corral horses or screen an unpleasant view, will affect its style.

Water features add interest to landscape. From pools to ponds to simple birdbaths, the water features you choose will have varying ranges of maintenance requirements and expense. Make sure you understand these requirements before building a water feature in your yard.

Don't forget about lighting as you plan your landscape. Exterior lighting offers added security and visual interest to your home. New low-voltage systems and an increasing variety of lighting styles can bring versatility and beauty to your outdoor areas at night.

Finally, consider the presence of wildlife on your site. Many log homes are built in rural areas that are also home to deer, raccoons, rabbits and other animals. In some regions, water features can attract snakes and other reptiles. You'll need to keep these animals in mind as you plan gardens and structures that will contain your garbage cans.