Map Your Site

Plants vary in their requirements for temperature, moisture, sunlight, and soil. Use this mapping worksheet to discover which areas in your garden are suitable for the plants you’d like to grow. If necessary, it will also be useful in improving growing conditions on your site.

Note: Garden layout software and apps are available in an ever-increasing range of quality and cost (including free). Useful search terms: landscape planning, garden design, site survey.

      1. a. LAYOUT — Obtain a plat map or site survey of your property from your builder or the county records office. Measuring from the nearest two corners of the house, draw the outlines of trees, fences, sheds, or pavement you wish to keep. Make several copies.     OR b. use a tape measure and pencil to map your site on graph paper. Use a scale of 1 inch = 8 or 10 feet, which may require a large sheet of graph paper from an office supply store. Measure from the corners of your house to the nearest two sides of the lot, mark all corners, and connect the dots to create an outline of your home. Do the same for any features you wish to keep such as trees or walkways. Make several copies.     OR c. Or use free software such as Marshall’s Garden Visualizer to create a 3-D map on your computer. (Click to enlarge sample diagram.)Diagram 1
      2. SUN or SHADE — Watch where the sun reaches your site at 8 am, noon, and 4 pm. Remember that during the best months for gardening in the Flagstaff area—May through September—the sun will be higher in the sky and reach more of your garden than it does in the winter, spring, or fall. Color your map yellow in the sunny places and blue where it’s shady (don’t forget shade cast by low walls and large trees). When you’re finished, the yellow on your map will be brightest in the sunniest places, the blue will be darkest in the shadiest places, and green will show you where there’s both sun and shade depending on the time of day. Knowing this will help you select plants suited to the level of sunlight in different places in your garden. Tip: Use the free desktop version of Photographer’s Ephemeris to see where direct sunlight will reach your garden in different months of the year. (Click to enlarge sample diagram.) Diagram_no_wind
      3. RUNOFF or SNOW — Mark downspouts and where rain runs off roofs, large trees, and pavement. Water from downspouts can be stored in rain barrels to water plants. You may need to channel runoff to protect your garden from damage during downpours. Also mark where snow accumulates by natural or constructed barriers (usually on the north and east sides). Persistent snow or damp soil in shady areas creates conditions well-suited to moisture-dependent plants.
      4. WINDY or CALM — Many plants need protection from the wind. During the growing season in most Flagstaff neighborhoods, winds come from the southwest or west and are especially strong in the dry months of April, May, and June. Using the Wind Maps, draw arrows on your map to indicate the typical flow of wind onto your site. Mark which places are—or could be—sheltered from the wind by shrubs or trees or by a building or fence, berm or hill.
      5. LEVEL or SLOPED — If your habitat is level, move on to Step 6.  If you live on a slope, be sure which direction the slope faces using a compass, Google Earth, or GPS. If you’d like to be precise, see Measure Your Slope for instructions on how measure how steep your slope is. South-facing slopes receive more direct sunlight than north-facing slopes (see Exposure). The steeper the slope, the more intense the sunlight will be on south-facing slopes and the shadier it will be on north-facing slopes. Note: Because our area’s winds come from the southwest, a south- or west-facing slope will be not only sunnier but also warmer and drier. North- or east-facing slopes will be more shady, cool, and moist.
      6. SOIL  — See the Geology Map to find out whether your soil developed from limestone, cinders, other volcanic rock, or alluvium. Note what kind of soil is naturally present on your site—is it loose or compacted in places? Rocky, cindery, sandy, or clayey? Make notes on your map about your soil and be sure to  visit the Improve Your Soil page before planting. The soil in most Flagstaff neighborhoods is shallow and stony. Although native plants can survive in poor soil, most are more likely to thrive in improved soil. Vegetables and ornamental flowers are also more successful and showy where the soil has been amended. Plantings in amended soil require less water.
      7. TREES, SHRUBS, or GRASS — As a clue to what plants will thrive, Observe what Natural Plant Communities surround your habitat. Also observe what does well in other gardens in your neighborhood.
      8. WHO SHARES YOUR HABITAT? — See Wildlife Linkages to learn more about animals that may be traveling through your neighborhood. See Gardening in Harmony with Nature for more information.
      9. RIO DE FLAG, WALNUT CREEK,  AND THEIR TRIBUTARIES — These seasonal stream beds flow through canyons, ravines, draws, and washes. They create special conditions for plants and are movement corridors for wildlife from dragonflies to birds to foxes. See the Rio de Flag and Walnut Creek page to learn more about these important Flagstaff area watersheds.