The Q&A Archives: Eastern exposure landscaping

Question: I have a 6 year old home that has an eastern exposure. My husband and I would like to tear up the old stuff [including mulch] and start fresh with possible a mushroom manure base. We would prefer minimal maintance if possible when we are done. I am willing to plant annuals though. We are open to anything [shrubs,grasses,perennials,etc.]Anything except large trees. Any suggestions? Thank you

Answer: This is a very complex question and unfortunately a bit outside the scope of a simple Q&A format. There are many different choices of plants that would do very well on the eastern side of a house. To some extent you need to take into account the overall size of the area, any existing plantings you wish to keep or complement, your budget, and of course the style of your home and your personal taste. You also need to consider the growing conditions in that planting area including the soil type, how well drained it is or isn't and the amount of wind that spot receives (especially in winter) in addition to the amount of sunlight it receives.

I would suggest you make a rough sketch with measurements and take that along with a photo of that side of your house and work with your local professionally trained nursery staff to determine an overall idea of what to do. Many nurseries will do free or inexpensive consultations or can recommend a designer or landscape architect to hire to work with you. You may also find that your local county extension or recreation department or community college or public garden offers design classes to assist homeowners in redoing their landscapes.

You should also run some basic soil tests (you can do them and can prepare the soil any time the ground is not frozen) so you can prepare the soil adequately prior to planting. Your local county extension should be able to help you with the tests and interpreting the results with an eye on replanting the area.

I would also suggest you inventory the existing plants to see if any can be retained; often overgrown plants can be pruned and rejuvenated, or transplanted. This can be useful because established plants lend a finished look to the landscape that can otherwise take years to achieve.

Finally, I would suggest you stockpile the mulch (assuming it is organic) to either add to your compost pile or re-use. No matter what you plant you should use a layer of organic mulch 2 to 3 inches deep over the soil surface year round. This helps reduce watering needs, holds down weeds, and also feeds the soil on an ongoing basis as it rots down slowly over time.

I realize this is not the specific "use these plants" answer you may have wanted, but I hope it helps you start your planning. Best of luck with your new landscaping!

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