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Acreage Landscaping Part II

By now the planning has been done and the base map has been completed. Before the design is implemented lets talk about water and shelter.

Water

One of the first things to consider and a constraint to any design is water and where will it come from. Many acreages are on wells. Concerns with using well water include lack of supply, water softeners, temperature, hardness, iron, mineral and salt concentrations in the water. As well, there is always the fear the well will run dry. Nothing invites the ire of neighbors than being observed watering your landscape during a drought.

However, in the country we are in the enviable position to be able to gather most if not all of the water we need from natural precipitation. There are a couple of inexpensive ways of doing this. Above-ground water tanks and in-ground cisterns can be purchased and installed quite reasonably. Connected to downspouts enough water can be gathered see the average gardener through an entire season. Above ground tanks are easily camouflaged. Another alternative is to have a large irrigation pond dug. A low spot that naturally accumulates runoff is ideal. Irrigation ponds can be made quite attractive so are easily incorporated into any design.

Pumps are required to send the water where needed. Inexpensive pumps such as bilge pumps used in boats can be purchased and hooked up easily. The benefits of natural precipitation are many: easier on the well, happier neighbors and warm soft water for your plants.

Shelterbelts

One of the first items in any design should be to address shelter from the wind. Woody plantings, fences or combinations of the two are the most effective. The term shelterbelt usually conjures up visions of straight rows of spruce, poplar and caragana as seen throughout farming country. For farmers attempting to prevent erosion to their fields straight rows are practical but acreage owners aren’t held by this constraint. Who said shelterbelt plantings need to be in straight lines? Trees and shrubs can be planted in groups, in island plantings and in diagonal, circular or wavy lines. Their job is to block the wind not to delineate your property line (unless that is what you are after). By creating shelter in attractive ways the garden’s structure will have already begun to take shape and will be attractive year round even in its infancy.

Evergreens are the most effective in blocking wind but they are also quite slow growing. Adding trees and shrubs that are quicker to establish will fill in while the evergreens mature. Incorporating fences behind these plantings will help block wind too as well as sheltering the young plant material until established. Fences are most practical close to the house or in outdoor seating areas.

When considering varieties of trees and shrubs to use in the shelterbelt think in multiples. It takes a lot of plant material to make an effective windscreen. There are a number of tree suppliers who provide bulk woody material to large property owners. The varieties offered tend to be limited but have also been found to be ironclad hardy in the area. Most of the stock is usually grown locally so are used to our unique weather conditions. Crabapples, spruce, lilacs, Mayday cherries, pines, Swedish aspen and poplars are the most popular varieties available. Incorporating specimen trees throughout the more common ones can add variety while keeping costs reasonable.

There are a huge number of shrubs that can be used in shelterbelt plantings including natives such as dogwoods, buffaloberry, willows, saskatoons, potentillas and wolfwillow. Non-natives such as cottoneaster, Sea buckthorn, viburnums, ninebark, Nanking cherry and roses are also good candidates for hedges. When choosing woody material drought tolerance should be high on the list of desirable qualities.

So before the flower beds are planned spend some time creating shelter and saving water. You will be glad you did.