5. Assessing Your Site

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The answers to the following list of questions will tell you a lot about your planned garden site, including what plants are likely to grow there and what sort of garden would best suit it. This important information forms the 'building blocks' of your garden plan.

1. Where does your garden fit into the geography of your area?
Is it in a gully or on top of a ridge, does it slope or is it flat?

2. What is its aspect? When, where and for how long do you get sun on your garden?
Does your site predominantly face east, west, north or south? Track the sun for a while and find out which parts of your garden get plenty of sun or are mainly shady. Allow for seasonal changes in the sun's position. A hot spot in the summer may be quite cold and damp in the winter.

3. What type of soil do you have or would you naturally have?
Is it sandy, stony, heavy clay or alluvium? If you don't know, take a sample from several places in your garden from about 30 cm - 50 cm (about 1 ft) below the surface, and take this to your local nursery for advice.

4. What type of plants would live in this area if it wasn't urban?
This doesn't mean you will only plant the local plant species (although this would be ideal), but it will help you understand what might grow successfully. Find out more using our plant lists or contact your local council.

5. Where does the dominant wind come from?
This will determine where you might want to place windbreaks et.c.

6. How much space do you have?
How much space do you have for your garden and what can you realistically do with it? Are there large buildings nearby that restrict sunlight?

7. What else is the garden going to be used for?
Consider your own needs. This space is also for you and your family, so you need to factor in some areas that are useful for you.

8. What sort of gardens surround yours?
This may not always be useful, but if your neighbours are also trying to attract birds, it is a good idea to work together and provide the same or complementary plants. This will increase your chances of success.

9. What habitat do you want to recreate?
Consider what type of habitat you want to create. e.g. If you live in a gully which has some protection from wind, it might be suitable for rainforest plants or if you live at the top of a ridge which has a lot of wind and gets the full heat of the midday sun throughout the year, you would be better to develop a heath-like garden.

10. What design and layout will you use?
Finally, decide on your overall garden and plant design, plant mix and the position of your plants. You can use our Choosing native plants section and our extensive Resources section to guide you further.

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