Students are encouraged to do a site assessment of their property during the class series. With this, we start to observe what’s going on in our landscape and to think about where we might want to make changes. For some of us (including me) this can be a bit of a challenge. I’m going to post screenshots of pages in the student manual, and also some other links that may be helpful.
If you have not been doing a site assessment, it’s ok; you don’t have to turn anything in. Please keep coming to class for the information!
See for Mapping resources for links to several sites that have ways to map your yard. If what I have here doesn’t help you, try one of those methods.
And, scroll down to the end of this post to see examples.
Ok, so you start with this (screen shot below), making your base map, from the student manual. You can see the page numbers on the screen shots, so you can go to your student manual for larger images.
For your base map, you can use Loudoun County weblogis (see Mapping resources), Web Soil Survey, or your tax plat. The county mapping services (Loudoun and Fairfax both have excellent online services) can serve not only as base maps, but also can tell you about your soil and water, among other things. See directions for using Loudoun’s platform at Mapping resources.
The manual suggests that you make copies of the base map, and then overlays of the other features. Some students have done it this way. Others have put most of the information on one page. See what works for you. For me, the overlays have been cumbersome to deal with.
Anything that works for you is fine! (Even sketching features in your yard without measuring is acceptable–the point is to get out and observe.)
Then, observe your soils, and make an overlay or add them to your drawing. See pages 27-28 in the Manual.
Pay attention to areas that seem compacted or eroded.
Next, observe where your water flows or ponds, and map that. See page 54 in the Student Manual for directions.
Page 77 in the Manual explains how to map your existing plants, and your sun/shade:
A resource I like to use for thinking about sun and shade is “How much sun does your garden have?”
Pages 92-93 give guidelines for how to use plants to increase energy efficiency.
Finally, this page below asks some questions that are helpful in planning changes you may want to make in your garden:
It asks whether you have invasives–if you aren’t familiar with them yet, then go here or bring a photo to class.
I also want to encourage anyone who is interested to attend a session I’m planning on how to use Habitat Network.
This is a platform developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy. I would like to see if it could be helpful for students doing their site assessments.
Here’s my Habitat Network map in progress at Saturday’s workshop at Va. Working Landscapes. Megan Whatton from The Nature Conservancy leads the group in working on their maps.
Contact me if you would be interested in attending a two-hour session with a staff member from The Nature Conservancy on using Habitat Network mapping. It would be helpful if you had a laptop you could bring. Otherwise you’d need to learn about the platform during the session, and apply what you’ve learned at home.
Finally, below are some examples from Jennifer Lumley. Jennifer did a really nice job, and already knows what plants she has, so don’t be intimidated by this–it’s just an example of what one person did.
Notice that she thought about the trajectory of the sun, as well as which parts get sun and shade. (You’d have to watch the sun/shade patterns for a year to really figure that out, but do your best.)