Site: Putting It All Together

Site analysis determines the growing conditions on your site. With a little detective work you can discover what your site needs to sustain a healthy garden. Here is a recap of the key steps in a site analysis.

  • Determine your regional climate by referring to the USDA hardiness zone map in the “Toolbox” area of the Garden Tutor site under “Zone Locator”. This will help you select plants that grow in your region.
  • Determine your area climate by finding out about prevailing conditions in your area.
  • Gather and analyze data specific to your site to understand your microclimate. Look at soil, sun and specific conditions.


  • Perform soil texture tests using the instructions in the soil lesson. If your soil doesn’t have a good texture and structure, you can amend your soil by adding organic matter.
  • Check soil depth, compaction, and condition of soil horizons by digging a 1-2′ hole. If necessary, make drainage corrections or add organic material.
  • Perform soil pH test as described in the soil lesson. This is vital, because soil pH can tell you a lot about the nutritional state of your soil. If necessary, adjust soil pH by adding lime (to raise pH) or sulfur (to lower pH).
  • Have soil tested for nutritional needs and contaminants. Add nutrients using either organic or inorganic fertilizer, depending on your site needs.


  • Determine the east-west sun path across your site, using your compass. This will help you find areas that will be shaded or exposed to the sun throughout the course of the day. Don’t rely on intuition here: use the compass, you will be surprised at the results.
  • Figure the amount of sun exposure so you can select plants that will thrive under those sunlight conditions. You can do this by observation, or you can refer to the “Sun Plotting” section in the “Toolbox” area of the Garden Tutor site if you want pinpoint accuracy.

Specific Conditions:

  • Pay close attention to your wind patterns. Depending on your area and microclimate, winds can have a dramatic effect on delicate plants. For instance, if your site is prone to strong, cold winds in the wintertime, you’ll want to select hardy plants that can cope with this condition.
  • Structures, both natural and human-made, can profoundly modify your site. Consider the effect they have on wind patterns, soil depth, snow/rain shedding, and shading.
  • Variables represent all the other factors that may or may not affect your site. Some important variables to consider: above and below ground utilities, shallow soil, wet sites, salt, legal considerations, and animals. There may be additional variables that affect your garden site, so do your best to uncover them and determine what impact they could have.
Lesson Content
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Module 2: Style
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