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26 Oct 2017

All You Need to Know About Soil for a Landscape Architect

Landscape architect tips: Understanding Exposure of Plants to The Sun

When making garden design plans, it is important to determine how much shade and sun your garden receives.

There are some plants that require partial sun while some require full sun. There are even some that will survive with full shade. A landscape architect usually uses a compass to determine the direction that borders or areas will face in a garden design plan. Those that face the north will be in the shade for most parts of the day while those facing the south will be in the sun for most of the day. Those that face the east will have morning sun and evening shade. Those that face the west will experience the opposite of those that face the east.

Plants that thrive in sun in landscape architect

The patterns of shade and sun will change during the day. A garden that is in full sun at midday will experience areas of shade in the late afternoon and the morning. A landscape architect needs to study the garden on a sunny day and understand the way shadows move around the garden. Sunlight movement is different for various seasons. An area that is in the shade during the summer could be in the sun in the summer. This could affect evergreen plants that require constant sunlight to survive.

Growing shade-lovers garden design

No matter the amount of sun that a garden receives, there are always various plants that will survive in such conditions. There are plants that will thrive in both sun and shade and a mixture of both.

Microclimates in a Garden Should be Examined

The varying conditions in different parts of a garden are known as microclimates. These could include sheltered hotspots by a warm wall, areas with frost at the bottom of a slope and areas with lots of wind and areas that are exposed. The proper study of microclimates will help landscape designers grow various plants. The various water levels, air, wind circulation and temperature should be studied.

Various Types of Soil

To grow healthy plants in a garden, a landscape architect must find out the soil type that is in a garden. It is best to select plants that will grow in a particular soil type rather than trying to grow plants that will not thrive in a soil type.

There are three major types of soil. They are clay, silt and sandy. They are identified by the size of their particles. The size of their particles will determine the amount of plant food and water that they can hold.  Most gardens have a combination of clay and sandy soil. One of the two is usually more abundant than the other. The perfect garden soil is loamy which is a combination of both sandy and clay soil in roughly equal amounts.

Sandy Soil

Sandy soil has particles that are relatively large and water drains easily through the large spaces between them. The soil drains water easily. The plant nutrients dissolve in the water so the soil is not fertile. Sandy soil is great for Mediterranean plants.

Clay Soil

Clay soil has particles that are very tiny. The particles can store moisture in the gap between them. Clay soil retains water easily due to its porous particles. It is very rich in nutrients. But when they are wet, clay soils could get waterlogged and they can form impenetrable crusts when they are dry. They are perfect for hungry plants like fruit trees.

Silt Soil

Silt soil is usually difficult to find. It can be found on river plains. They have a high nutrient content, and they can become waterlogged and compact like clay soil. Loam soil has roughly equal amounts of clay and sandy soil. They are the best of the lot. They retain enough water for the roots of plants to absorb and they allow any excess moisture to drain away, so they do not get waterlogged. They hold on to nutrients to well making them the perfect garden soil.

Types of soils for your garden design for a landscape architect

How to Improve Your Soil

You need to improve your soil regardless of your soil type. It doesn’t matter if you have a clay soil, sandy soil or dry soil, your plants will become better if you apply a lot of organic matter to the soil. You can apply garden compost, farmyard manure that has been left to rot and mushroom compost. The organic matter will open up clay soils and allow them to drain water easily. They will also coat sandy soil and help them to retain water. The organic matter can be dug into the soil when preparing for planting, or they can be laid as a thick layer of mulch. Microorganisms and worms will then work the organic matter into the soil.

If you add horticultural grit to clay soils, you can improve the drainage and structure of the soil. The grit can be dug into the soil over a large area. In tough cases, soils that are very heavy and waterlogged might need to be drained.

pH of a soil

The pH of a soil is a measure of the alkalinity or acidity of a soil. It affects the kind of plants that can be grown successfully in the soil. pH is measured on a scale of 1 to 14. Instead a pH of 7 means that the soil is neutral. A pH higher than 7 means that the soil is alkaline. A pH lower than 7 means that the soil is acidic. A soil test will measure the pH of a soil accurately.

There are plants that require a specific type of soil to grow. There are other plants that can grow in any pH range. The pineapple broom (Cytisus battandieri) and lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) grow best in alkaline soil while Rhododendrons, azaleas, and heathers (Erica) grow best in acidic soil.

Silty and Sandy soil

Silty soil is silky to the fingers while sandy soil is gritty between the fingers. When rolled into a ball, both of them will fall apart. Sandy soil is easy to dig and it gets warm easily in spring. Borderline hardy plants survive better in these soils that are dry.

Clay Soil

Clay soil is dense, sticky and smooth. When rolled into a ball, it retains its shape. When it is even rolled into the shape of a horseshoe, it retains its shape. Clay soil is also called heavy because it is difficult to dig.

How to Use a pH test Kit

You can get a pH test kit from a garden center. You will place a sample of the soil in the tube and then you add the solution that comes with the kit. When the color of the solution changes, you can match it to the chart. You can take a few different readings from various areas of the garden since they could have various pH values.



09 Oct 2017

What to Expect as a Landscape Architect

The work of landscape architects involves managing and designing open spaces including built and natural environments and creating landscapes and landscape plans. They work on designing creative, visually appealing environments that everyone love. They also ensure that everything they create is sustainable, appropriate and considerate.

They work with other professionals to create various landscape architectural projects in rural and urban areas. They work on motorways, housing estates, parks, gardens, sporting sites, city centers etc.

What to Expect as a Landscape Architect

Landscape architects work across the five major areas of:

  • Urban design
  • Landscape planning
  • Landscape management
  • Landscape science
  • Landscape design

Responsibilities of a Landscape Architect

Landscape architects have the following responsibilities:

  • Present proposals and respond to all enquiries and modify designs as needed.
  • Coordinate suppliers and manufacturers.
  • Create landscape requirements with clients.
  • Assess environmental impacts of projects.
  • Supervise the design of various landscape architectural projects like road schemes, retail schemes, pedestrian schemes, urban regeneration schemes and the maintenance of the character sites with natural beauty.
  • Create landscape requirements with clients.
  • Visit sites
  • Ensure deadlines are adhered to
  • Create new business opportunities
  • Supervise and monitor work on sites (this work might be done by landscape managers for big projects)
  • Authorize payments on successful completion of projects  
  • Match the wishes of clients with the knowledge of what will function best
  • Conduct preliminary studies of sites and check out details like ecology, contours, heritage, buildings, roads and soil.
  • Seek the opinion of parties, potential users and residents associated with a project. Take into account their opinions.
  • Satisfy clients’ desires while taking into consideration the best thing to do.
  • Work with other professionals on various landscape architectural projects.
  • Attend public enquiries if necessary
  • Select contractors and managers for large projects, put work out to tender and lead cross-functional teams.
  • Prepare and present accurate and well-detailed working drawings and plans of the designs of new sites, containing construction details, applications and specifications using computer-aided design (CAD) packages and other landscape architectural software.
  • Examine the potential of a site to meet up with the specification of a client.

Working Hours for Landscape Architects

Working hours for landscape architects are not fixed. The normal standard is a 40-hour work week but sometimes, landscape architects work in the evening and on weekends. With tight deadlines, work hours become more irregular. Shifts are also rare.

What Landscape Architect Should Expect

There are lots of opportunities for landscape architects to work in the Middle East, Europe and other places overseas.

There are good opportunities for creative, talented, business savvy landscape architects with established clients and contacts to be self-employed. It is also good for them to have a lot of experience from an established environment before starting off on their own.

Most landscape architecture jobs are in private establishments. A few landscape architects work with local authorities.

Landscape architecture is a profession that has a good balance of men and women.

Landscape architects spend time between site visits and the office. Protective clothing might be needed for site visits. One might also need to work in varying weather conditions for site visits.

Qualifications for Landscape Architects

There are chartered landscape architects. To become a chartered landscape architect, you need to acquire a Masters level degree in an accredited course by the LI.

The following areas have courses:

  • Landscape planning
  • Landscape architecture
  • Landscape ecology and design
  • Landscape restoration and/or management
  • Garden design
  • Environmental conservation

Undergraduate degrees in landscape management last for 4 years with an option of taking a year out for paid work experience. Those that have undergraduate degrees that are not accredited by the LI can still become landscape architects by completing LI accredited postgraduate conversion courses. The postgraduate conversion courses last for 1 and a half years to 2 years full time but there are part time options available. Those applying for the postgraduate conversion courses do not need to study a related undergraduate course. They just need to have an interest in design and the environment.

The postgraduate and undergraduate courses lead to Licentiate membership of the LI which is a necessary step towards becoming chartered landscape architects. Landscape practices support graduates that undertake their path to partnership.

Skills Needed for Landscape Architect

To become a landscape architect, you need the following skills:

  • A practical outlook
  • Creative enthusiasm, imagination and ability
  • Good drawing and design skills including CAD
  • An eye for detail with an ability to observe things well 
  • Good negotiation and communication skills
  • An understanding of conservation skills and a love for the environment
  • Work Experience Needed for Landscape Architect

Relevant pre-entry experience is good as it shows that one is interested and committed to the landscape architecture profession.  Some of the courses have undergraduate placements. For the ones that do not have undergraduate placements, you can find part-time work or vacation.

Any work that involves creative skills and design especially in a landscape based area is useful. Volunteering projects in the environment are also useful.

Employers of landscape architects are:

  • Public bodies
  • Local authorities
  • The construction industry
  • Water companies
  • Private practices

In the private sector, landscape architects are employed by landscape architect companies and architects or by companies involved in landscape engineering.

In the public sector, landscape architects work for government agencies, local authorities and environmental agencies. They can also work for voluntary organizations.

Career Prospects for Landscape Architects

To progress in your career as a landscape architect, you need to take charge of projects, become a specialist in a certain area, manage a team and take on greater responsibilities. How fast you progress in your career depends on your level of ambition and how well you acquire more skills and knowledge.

Landscape architects with strong commercial awareness could become great consultants.

As you become experienced, you could become a partner in a private practice or you could set up your own business. To become successful in a private practice you must have good experience, skills, knowledge, communication skills and a large contact and client base.

Landscape architects can also lecture at tertiary institutions on a full time or part time basis.

Also read: Hiring a landscape architect for your new garden.