Landscaping Your ADU

by Ben Bowen

Portland has taken ADU construction from a fringe concept to a widely adopted strategy for dealing with a housing and housing cost crisis. The City of Portland encourages ADU’s and a wide range of architects, designers, and contractors specialize in their construction.

Once your ADU is completed you will probably realize that your landscape is gone, available space is tighter, and there are now two structure that feel like the yard belongs to them.

How can you create garden that works as well as your ADU does? You can hire a landscape designer or DIY, either way these principles and considerations will help as you develop a plan.

How To Design A Landscape For Your ADU:

small adu landscape

Make sure drainage is in order. This is usually a big part of the ADU planning process, so it is probably already be in place. Just be sure all the water your ADU roof is collecting is directed into the ground. This can involve a rain garden, dry well, or whatever stormwater mitigation plan the City requires.

Consider the need for privacy. Many Accessory Dwelling Units have windows that look directly into windows of the primary home. Blinds are an obvious solution, but with some smart planting or use of screens, you can welcome the sun without feeling like your lot mate is staring at you in your pajamas.

What space is shared? If the backyard revolves around lawn or a patio, is that space shared by both dwellings? If so, you want to make it feel welcoming from both homes. Paths and planting, carefully considered, can accomplish this. Communal space can be great, or it can become a space created for all but used by none. It is important to understand the kind of people who will occupying each space and then plan accordingly.

Is there private outdoor space? Even if the garden space is small you can assign portions of it to each dwelling and make each feel private and distinct. Planting, screens, seat walls, and even low voltage lighting can all play a role.

Does storage need to be integrated? Many ADU designs are short on storage space. Small sheds can be placed in a setback and side yards can become a clean place for bike parking.

Maintenance and water demands should be carefully considered. Who cares for the garden and how much time can be spent on it? Who will water the plants and who pays for that water? I these questions make you nervous a low care and drought tolerant landscape is what you need.

Should You Design Your Own ADU Garden?

Small garden spaces are tempting, designing and installing them seem so doable. And for many they probably are. However, small spaces have no room for error. All the elements need to be just right.

If you decide you need some help designing or building your ADU garden feel free to contact our lead designer, Ben Bowen. He will schedule a free consultation and help you decide exactly what kind of help you need.

Have questions about your ADU landscape design? Leave them below and we will try to answer!

ADU Landscaping Resources:

Great post / interview about a completed ADU landscape design build project.