Gardening resources > Site assessment & landscape design > Site Assessment for Gardeners - Individual chapters and links > Site assessment checklists for vegetables, fruit and lawns
Cornell University Department of Horticulture
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Cornell gardening resources Site assessment checklists for vegetables, fruit and lawns
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Use these summary lists when planning vegetable gardens, fruit plantings and lawns. For more information, follow links from the Cornell Gardening Resources homepage.


Choose a site that is:
  • Sunny. Receives at least 6 hours of direct sun daily.

  • Well-drained. No standing water after heavy rains.

  • Relatively level. Or build beds or terraces that run across the slope.

  • Away from trees. They can shade and compete with crops for water and nutrients.

  • Protected from high winds. Good air circulation, however, helps prevent disease. You may want to avoid low-lying frost pockets.

  • Close to a water source. You'll need water, and it's too heavy to haul.

  • Protected from wildlife. If deer or other large animals are present, proper fencing may be necessary.

Consider using wide beds with permanent paths between planting areas (or raised beds) to avoid soil compaction. Test your soil, adjust pH, and plan to improve your soil with additions of organic matter and/or planting cover crops the year before your first planting. For more information, visit:

  • While growing strawberries isn't much harder than growing vegetables, fruit plantings - especially fruit trees - require a large commitment to pruning, pest management and care. Before planting, be sure you are ready to commit years of care before seeing your first harvest.

  • Avoid frost pockets. Many fruits flower in spring and late frosts can damage or kill flowers or young fruit when they are most vulnerable.

  • Sites with good air circulation can help reduce some disease problems.

  • Fruit plantings should receive 6 to 8 hours or more of direct sun daily. Ribes (gooseberries and currants) can get along OK with part shade.

  • Choose sites with well-drained soil and topsoil at least 8 inches deep.

  • Make sure the types and cultivars of fruit you grow are winter hardy at your location.

  • Protect plantings from wildlife. Deer, rabbits and rodents can be especially hard on plants. Birds can compete with you for ripe fruit.

  • Make sure that you will be able to water during first few years after planting.

  • Fruit trees come in many different sizes, depending on the rootstock used. Make sure the size of tree you select fits your space. Leave enough room between plants for good air circulation as well as room to work.

  • Don't plant more plants than you need. A small planting that receives proper care will yield more good-quality fruit than a larger planting that is neglected.

  • Test and prepare the soil a year before you plant. Most fruit prefer soil with neutral or slightly acid pH. But blueberries require very acide soil (pH 4.5). Making pH changes and other soil improvements is more difficult after planting.

  • Some fruits require a nearby plant of a different variety to ensure pollination and fruit set. Check catalogs for more information, or see the Cornell Guide to Growing Fruit at Home.
For more information, visit:

  • Lawn grasses require 6 to 8 hours of direct sun daily. Consider shade-tolerant groundcovers for sites that receive less.

  • Consider hardscaping for high traffic areas where grass is hard to grow.

  • Improve drainage where water stands after rain. If drainage is a chronic problem, consider planting other plants that tolerate "wet feet."

  • Choose lawns grasses that fit your site and how much effort you want to put into your lawn. Some fescues thrive in marginal light conditions. Other varieties are low maintenance and require less fertilizer and mowing.

  • Test and improve soil before planting lawn. It's easier to improve soil before you plant.
For more information, visit:

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