Sample Residential Project

Nick & Eva purchased their home in 2013 excited about the possibilities on their small range in Amherst.  the home is single floor ranch-style home built in the 1960’s with the land moderately sloping toward the south and east.  Their back yard has a large wet area on down sloping from the north and the west neighbor’s yards. The previous owners mowed entire yard, including wet area; and the north side of house showing algae on siding from excessive moisture.

Rough Goals

  • Re-design lawn areas into ecologically functional landscapes.
  • Manage existing water conditions with native plants.
  • Develop home annual and perennial food production areas.

PIC_nick-Eva's Backyard

Three conceptual designs were created from their rough goals. These will help Nick and Eva develop refined goals.They are intended to solicit more specific ideas for their finished and also will be able to develop a prioritized timeline that works within their budget and lifestyle.


  • Re-design lawn areas into ecologically functional landscapes;
  • Manage existing water conditions with native plants
  • Develop home annual and perennial food production areas.

Existing Conditions

  • Property located in suburban section of Amherst;
  • The 0.4 acre property purchased by Eva and Nick within the last two years;
  • Single floor ranch-style home built in the 1960’s;
  • Land is moderately sloped toward the south and east;

  • Soil largely bottomland sediments from glacial Lake Hitchcock;
  • Wet area on downslopes from the north and the west neighbor’s yards;
  • Previous owners mowed entire yard, including wet area;
  • North side of house showing algae on siding.

Slope & Drainage

  • From the northwest corner, the slope drops 11 feet toward south and east;
  • Surface water enters property from west and north;
  • Water generally drains toward east and south;
  • On-site observations show that the gradient is bermed toward house;
  • Steepest slopes run along other side of driveway and adjacent to the south side of house;
  • Water and slope along north side of driveway are causing the retaining wall to lean.


  • Drainage should be re-directed away from the house to reduce the potential for mildew and moisture buildup inside the home;

  • Any efforts such as constructing raised garden beds along the south side of house will require a design that considers drainage and access.

Vegetative Cover

  • Large white pine with maple and black locust along northeast corner;
  • Large white pine and white ash with a small crab tree along south and south east boundary;
  • Small white pine along the south property line;
  • Mixed young hardwoods and shrubs along west and northwest boundary;
  • Most of the property covered with lawn;
  • The wet area returning to herbaceous wetlands native plants after mowing stopped last year;
  • Ferns align along the north foundation;
  • Foundation plantings include hosta, forsythia, rhododendron, and azalea installed by previous owners; and
  • A large Russian Olive was removed by Nick and Eva after this project began.



The tree cover presently offers effective protection from extreme wind and temperature conditions.

Access & Circulation

  • The open lawn allows free movement across the landscape;
  • Winters with lots of snow should be part of landscape planning and design.



The tree cover presently offers effective protection from extreme wind and temperature conditions.

Sun/Shade Equinoxes

  • An area to the southwest of the house has more than 6 hours of direct sun;
  • During the morning the southeast and northwest corners share morning sunlight for several hours until early afternoon;
  • At noon, the front of the house is shaded by the trees along the south property line;
  • By mid-afternoon the east yard and northwest corner are heavily shaded by the house, trees along the south property line, and trees that line the west property line.


  • For extended season vegetable production, the southeast corner of the house offers the greatest opportunity;
  • The small pine tree along the south property line will eventually shade the prime extended season growing area and needs to be removed.

Sun/Shade Solstice

  • Most of the south west and west yard receives sun for 10+hours/day;
  • A small patch on the northeast house corner receives 4-5 hours of sun.


  • For perennial and annual food production the west and southwest offer the greatest opportunities;
  • Semi-dwarf, small trees and shrubs should be used to avoid shading of prime growing areas.


  • The west side of the property offers the greatest direct daylight opportunities for growing food;
  • A small area on the east side of the house could offer 2 to 5 hours of sunlight for selected perennial crops.

Other Considerations

  • Complete a site-specific soil condition analysis before developing a plant list;
  • Consult Amherst zoning bylaws for structural setbacks should be checked before further planning and design;
  • Check with Dig Safe and the Amherst Highway Department engineers before doing any excavating;
  • Check with the Amherst Conservation Commission regarding the re-establishment of native plants in the wet area that it will not become a protected wetland area limiting future changes.

Alternative Design 1

Home to Play

A natural play area within easy view from the house or west yard runs adjacent to an outdoor family sitting and cooking area. The compost is shielded from view with a stockade gated fence. Semi-dwarf fruit trees grow along the south near raised bed vegetable gardens with high bush blueberries taking advantage of the wet area. Along the north of the home, a rain garden buffers runoff and gently directs it toward the road. On the medium and low light east side, perennial gardens create a flowing view of the house transition with low shrubs, ferns and easy herbaceous perennials.


  • This design takes advantage of the wet area, and sloped areas without much excavation on hillsides.
  • Access and circulation patterns fit within existing ones, the natural play area can evolve as your children grow older. If you do not plan to have children, the area could be used for food production.


  • The rain garden may need soil replacement depending on profile conditions.
  • Using the south slope for fruit trees limits the number of raised beds.

Alternative Design 2

Food ‘n Fun

In this design a children’s play area is stationed near the west entrance for safe access. The private west area could be expanded to include a patio for family cooking and relaxation. More food production areas such as low growing nut trees and berry bushes have been added to the west side along with raised beds on the slope adjacent to the house. Ferns and low growing shrubs, such as Atlantic nine-bark, take a major role in replacing lawn on the east side.


  • Greater portions of the optimal solar area is utilized for additional food production.
  • The lawn area has additional perennial plants reducing maintenance.


  • Raised beds along the steeper south side slope will require a well planned grading plan for access and drainage.
  • The area to the south of the front east entrance could benefit from additional lower light shrubs and perennials once the leaning retaining wall has been resolved.

Alternative Design 3

Perennial Paradise

The emphasis on Perennial Paradise focuses on perpetual food crops from fresh fruits and nuts with some area for annual vegetables in raised beds. In the more shaded part of Eva and Nick’s yard, ephemerals pepper the lawn with opportunities for native understory shrubs to create forest-like privacy.


  • Trees and shrubs can be positioned to create natural routes through the yard without altering the topography.
  • Perennial crops interplanted with complementary companion plants can provide insect protection, healthier growth and additional perennial foods.
  • More canopies from trees creates cooler yard conditions and better protection from wind.


  • Woody plants take time to establish and begin producing food.
  • Careful considerations need to be given to their maximum height so as to avoid shading idea growing areas.


Future Lands Designs, LLC., offers the unique Resilient Landscape Planning and Design (RLP&D) approach to recognize the role of Natural Capital (NC) in order to plan for changing conditions as you establish goals on your property.


Natural Capital (NC) includes the interaction of all life as well as climate, weather and natural resources that affect human survival and economic activity.