In Miami Florida site preparation is essential for creating a landscape that is aesthetically beautiful as well as ecologically sound. It can be compared to laying the foundation of a house; the more meticulously it is done, the easier it will be to create a landscape that will become a source of enjoyment for many years to come.
Site preparation doesn't just mean removing an existing lawn or clearing a designated area of wild plants, rocks and other obstacles. It is a process that involves assessing the existing condition of the site, developing a plan and design, preparing the site to implement the design, planting plants and trees, and installing irrigation and other facilities.
Assessing the existing condition:
Whether the designated site has an existing lawn or a bare ground, it is very important to first assess its existing condition. A walk around the site, with a notebook in hand, is a good way to start. A camera will also help in looking at it from a different perspective. It doesn't take much time and effort to make a list of what is already there, what needs to be there, what needs to be relocated and what needs to be removed.
Important points that need to be considered in Miami include the existing features of the landscape, type and quality of the soil, existing features to remove, new features to add, area and shape of the land, the suitability of existing trees and shrubs, irrigation facilities and availability of water, climatic condition and watering requirement of different plants, and resources available.
Planning the landscape:
Planning is a crucial part of good landscape site preparation, regardless of whether an existing site is being altered or an entire new landscape is being built from scratch. The things that need to be considered include the cost of the project, time available for the project, whether to hire a professional landscape designer, the purpose and life of the landscape, the things that need to be accommodated (such as play area for kids, deck area for entertaining and a vegetable garden), views to preserve and unsightly views to eliminate.
Designing the landscape:
A good design is essential for creating a beautiful and functional landscape. The design should be based on the site and its characteristics, such as climate, soil type, slope gradient, topography, and the intended use of the site. The design should place special emphasis on water and energy efficiency. It should be as organic as possible so that it will establish easily on the site without requiring too much effort and hard work. A scale drawing is helpful in visualizing the elements of the landscape and preventing errors, such as over planting which, once the plants grows to their full size, results in overcrowding.
Removing the existing lawn:
Miami's suburban environment is dominated by lawns, which means removing the existing lawn and making it ready for implementing the design. The most effective methods of removing an existing lawn are stripping, solarizing and smothering the turf. Before these can be done, the perimeter of the site must be defined, which is called trenching. This can be done using an edger or a small spade to dig a trench around the existing lawn to prevent nearby vegetation from encroaching on the designated site.
• Stripping: The fastest way to get rid of an existing lawn, involves stripping the turf by hand or a sod cutter. The turf is cut into narrow strips using an ax, edger or a small spade and then the strips are detached using a hoe. The stripped sod can be used to make compost.
• Solarizing: This method involves using the sun's heat to kill the existing lawn. It works well in areas with a hot dry season that stretches over several months. First, the vegetation is scraped or mowed closely. The soil is irrigated thoroughly and then covered with a 2 mm thick plastic. The plastic is sealed at the edges with soil and left in place for about 6 weeks.
• Smothering: The area is covered with organic or synthetic mulch. Then it is covered with plastic and weighed down with rocks or boards. The vegetation dies within weeks. The plastic may be covered with straw or leaves to improve its attractiveness.
An alternative to removing a lawn that is worth considering is to naturalize the lawn. Naturalizing involves planting wildflowers to give the lawn the look of a natural meadow. But this method is suitable only for areas where plants grow fast and they are not dominated by grass.
Site grading is the process of adjusting the slope and elevation of the soil. This is usually done to provide a solid foundation for a home or a building. In landscaping, site grading may be done to even out the surface, improve drainage and create the desired appearance. One of the main aims of site grading is to control the flow of drain water. If done inadequately, storm water may collect in depressed areas and around the foundations of a building. This can lead to safety issues and also hamper the growth of plants.
Irrigating the site:
The key to a successful landscape design is proper irrigation. The planting areas should be divided into individually irrigated zones called hydro zones. Each zone should have the same climate and soil characteristics throughout. There are four major types of landscape irrigation methods: micro-irrigation (provides water directly to plant's roots), flood systems (floods the ground rather than spraying plants), rotary sprinkler (spray-head that rotates in a circle), and spray irrigation system (traditional sprinkler head).
Each irrigation method is suitable for particular groups of plants. Micro-irrigation is best for shrubs, drawn fruit trees and shrubs. Flood systems is best for ground covers, fruit trees and roses. Rotary sprinklers are ideal for turfs. Spray irrigation is best for regularly shaped small areas.
Trees take years to grow. Instead of planting saplings and waiting for them to grow, many homeowners in Miami choose to transfer young trees directly to the designated area. Not only does it save time, it also ensures that the trees will survive. Planting holes should be prepared before the trees and shrubs are delivered. Once they arrive, they should be planted quickly to minimize stress and loss of water. The longer a plant is left unplanted, the more water it loses.
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