Check with your local municipality for landscaping regulations that may apply in your community.

You may want to create a scaled drawing of existing conditions. Mapping the property in a scaled drawing provides key information as to where rainwater management practices can be implemented. In addition, this will help you identify problem areas in the landscape that need to be solved. Then you can create a drawing that incorporates your chosen designs.

Download graph paper to begin making your scaled drawing
Download drawing instructions and an example

Consider including the following in your drawing (click on each topic in the flowchart below to view that section):

What Do You Know About Your Site flowchartUnderstand Your Soil

Overfertilizing your soil can cause excess nutrients to run off during storms and pollute local streams. Most plants, especially native plants, need minimal fertilization to maintain healthy growth. An annual application of compost to the soil surface provides the nutrients, micro-organisms, and organic matter necessary for a healthy soil. If plants are not thriving in your soil, you may want to consider a soil test. Soil testing for nutrients and pH levels can identify if there is a problem—if a nutrient is missing or needs to be adjusted. Soil testing can also help prevent overfertilization. You may choose to have your soil professionally tested, use a homeowner soil test kit or run a simple visual inspection.

Visual Inspection
If your topsoil is dark brown, somewhat crumbly (friable), and has organic matter visible, soil amendments are unnecessary. A soil with adequate organic matter (compost) typically has sufficient nutrient levels to maintain healthy plant growth. Do a visual inspection of the plants as well to determine if they have healthy growth.

Test Your Own Soil
Do-it-yourself soil testing kits are available online and at your local garden centers or home improvement stores. These kits are not as accurate as a professional soil test, but will give an indication of whether there may be a soil or nutrient problem.

Professional Testing
A soil test gives the pH and the status of nutrient levels in the soil. It will also tell what type of soil it is, what the soil structure is, the percent of organic matter present and make recommendations for soil improvement. Multiple soil tests might be necessary if there are multiple types of landscaping (vegetables, perennials and shrubs, turf, etc.) in multiple locations for the landscaping (front yard, back of property, etc.). For more information on getting your soil tested and for a list of locations to drop off your samples, visit

Soil fertility – Nutrients that plants need in large quantities are called macronutrients and these are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Plants also need secondary nutrients calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Plants need micronutrients, in much smaller amounts, including boron, copper, iron, chloride, manganese, molybdenum and zinc. Compost, often referred to as organic matter (OM), is the best way to improve nutrient deficient soil.

pH – The pH scale measures how acid or basic a substance is. The scale ranges from 0–14. A test result of 0–6.9 is acid with 0 being the most acid. A pH of 7 is neutral. A test result of 7.1–14 is basic with 14 being the most basic. A wide assortment of plants grow well in soil with a pH of 6.5–7.5. Lime can be added if a soil is too acidic. Sulfur can be added if a soil is too alkaline.

Continue on to Is a Rain Garden Right For Your Site?


Link to Identify Problem Areas section Link to Identify Slope and Drainage section Link to Identify Human Use Areas section Link to Identify Existing Vegetation section Link to Identify Shade/Sun Patterns section Link to Understand Your Soil section Link to Is a Rain Garden Right for Your Site section