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Site Assessment for better gardens and landscapes

Site Assessment for Gardeners cover

Quick links to additional resources.

Site assessment - the "discovery process" that reveals the characteristics that make your yard unique - can help your gardens and landscapes thrive.

In the step-by-step process, the hands-on activities in this workbook help you find out about compaction, drainage, existing plants, hardiness, light, microclimates, obstructions, slopes, soil, space dimensions, wildlife interference, and wind interference - all of which can influence the success or failure of your plantings.

Matching your plantings to your site's characteristics will help you create more-sustainable and easier-to-care-for gardens and landscapes.

This page provides quick access to websites mentioned in the hard copy publication. Find ordering information for the book on the Plant and Life Sciences Publishing website.

General Planning Information

Botanical Gardens, Public Gardens, and Arboretum Locations:

Cooperative Extension Office Locations:

Home and Garden Information Center:

    Horticultural information to the public nationwide through a diagnostic website. Sponsored by the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension.

Information about Heavy Metals:

Step 1 - Garden and Landscape Area

  • Wasp and Bee Management: A Common-Sense Approach, Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, NRAES, Ithaca, NY, 2011. Available from Plant and Life Sciences Publishing, palspublishing.cals.cornell. edu

Step 2 - Obstructions Above and Below

Dig-Safe System

Dwarf and Semi-dwarf Fruit Trees

Small Trees (less than 30')

Step 3 - Sun and Shade

  • No links.

Step 4 - Hardiness and Microclimates



USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

    Hardiness zone designations for all parts of the United States. Detailed information for an area can be found by entering a zip code on the upper left of the web page or by using the interactive map. From the United States Department of Agriculture.

Step 5 - Wind


Step 6 - Compaction

Dealing with Soil Compaction

Improve Your Soil with Cover Crops

Using Organic Matter in the Garden

Step 7 - Drainage

Drought Tolerant Plants

Rain Gardens

    Detailed homeowner instructions on creating a rain garden from the University of Wisconsin. Developed by Roger Bannerman, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Ellen Considine, U.S. Geological Survey.

Soil Drainage

Soil Moisture Chart for Trees and Shrubs

Step 8 - Soil Characteristics


  • Building Soils for Better Crops, 3rd Edition, Fred Magdoff and Harold van Es. Sustainable Agriculture Publications, Waldorf, Md. 2010. Hard copy available to purchase online at
  • Composting to Reduce the Waste Stream, Robert Kozlowski, Plant and Life Sciences Publishing, 1991. Available to purchase online at

Organic Matter

Salt-tolerant Trees

Salt Sensitive Trees

Soil Basics

Soil Health

Step 9 - Slopes

Building Retaining Walls

Deciduous Woody Ground Covers

Herbaceous Ground Covers

Step 10 - Wildlife Interference


Wildlife Damage Management and Control

Step 11 - Existing Plants For Further Reading.


  • Broadleaved Shrubs and Shade Trees: Problems, Picture Clues, and Management Options, NRAES-183, by Mary Kay Malonoski and David Clement, NRAES, Ithaca, NY. Purchase online at
  • Tree ID Guide for Common Urban Trees in New York State and the Northeast. Urban Horiculture Institute, Cornell University. Order form available for this pocket-sized book at:

Herbaceous Perennials

Tree Identification

Step 12 - Putting It All Together

Checklist for Site Assessment

References and Resources

General Advice

Botanical Gardens, Public Gardens, and Arboretum Locations

Cooperative Extension Office Locations

Home and Garden Information Center

    Horticultural information for the public nationwide through a diagnostic website. By the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension.

Landscape Design

Land grant university Cooperative Extension programs provide resources that can help you adapt this workbook to your region. Consult your state's Cooperative Extension service and/or county office for specific local information. Here are a few:

Plant Selection

These references include a few that are mentioned earlier in the workbook.

Growing Vegetables and Fruits