So you have a home, and the outside is just grass, a few bushes, maybe some trees, and the house. You want more for your home, but you do not know where to start. This article will help inspire you to create what you cannot envision.
First alert: Only create new gardens in the spring or fall. Plants cannot handle being moved and planted in winter or summer. Even in colder climates, head for late spring or early fall so your plants can adjust to their new home before the frost gets to them.
Decide what part of the yard you want to improve. Next, analyze how much light this area gets for a few days to figure out what will grow there. Now get on your hands and knees each day and pat the ground. Is it rock hard, is it damp and soggy? Is it infested by bugs? Are there any objects like trees or houses overhead or nearby to either block light or to have leaves or needles fall on your spot? Lets go through a few scenarios from this section to see which direction we need to go now.
As long as your yard doesn’t have a bug infestation or things like nuts or pine needles falling in some season onto your future garden, you are fine at this point. If you have insects, you will need to eliminate them, either naturally or chemically before you plant. Find out what type of bug you have by taking some to your local nature center. They can help identify bugs, plants and also diseases of plants. Once you have treated the area in your chosen method, allow at least a few weeks before starting to work on a garden. If you have nuts or pine needles falling into your garden spot, this could limit you to what types of plants would be comfortable and happy in that environment. The nuts could be easy as long as they don’t have prickers on the outside. Most likely if you have nuts you have some sort of squirrel or other creatures that will eat these. I would advise removing any rotted shells and nuts and composting them for the future. If you have pine needles, I would recommend finding another spot for a garden. At my old home I had one plant grow below my pine trees, and it was uninvited, poison ivy. The pine needles make the ground below virtually unworkable and the pine trees will shed their needles each year making for more of a mess on the ground.
The next step is to use a garden hose to lay out the shape and size of your garden. Now before you go too far ahead, remember that gardens that include existing or new trees will eventually have the tree win over flowers. What is a sunny spot today could be a shady spot 5 years from now. Try to avoid making the garden where there are already surface roots from trees. Never plant any tree that grows very tall close to your driveway, sidewalk, house or patio/paver area. The roots can and might grow to warp your pavings, or cause damage to the house down the road. Also steer away from planting trees, even small ones, under power lines. I had a beautiful maple tree that grew into the power lines. The electric company refused to trim the tree, even though it was in the wires. Eventually we had to take the tree down because it’s roots were tearing up the driveway. The tree removal company representative said he was slightly shocked while in the tree close to the wires. Luckily no one was hurt. Now back to the hose. Lay it out and spray paint around the edge to mark where you need to start digging.
When digging, first remove any grass in the area. Once you get a bit on your shovel, you may be able to tear off a piece with your gloves. The grass can be difficult to remove, but if you do not remove it, you run a chance of having grass in your flower beds. Sometimes I do an alternative to removing the grass, but I allow 1 year for this to work. I take only black & white newspaper and cover it in layers over the grass. Then I apply a thick layer of mulch over the entire newspaper. I let this sit for a year at least before planting in this area. This is pretty effective, though some grass does come through. What i like about it is it gives me a year to think about what would look good in this area knowing after a year I can gently move the mulch and begin planting..
If you ground is very rocky, you will want to remove as many rocks as possible. Have buckets or a wheelbarrow close for convenience. If you ground is wet and soggy, be careful removing only the very top layer of any grass. This soil should be great for plants that can handle damp conditions.
Go to a local nursery, especially close to your home because if the plant grows there it should grow for you. Select your plants based on the following: zone, amount of sunlight, watering needs, amount of upkeep and appearance. There is no point in getting a beautiful plant that loves shade when all you have is sun. Maybe in a few years you could get this plant if you have a tree that grows to provide more shade. If you get a plant that works for your conditions, then it will be easier for the plant to adapt and flower.
Follow this simple rule: If you plant the taller plants in the back of the garden, and the smaller ones in the front, it will balance the garden well. If there is no back of the garden, plant the taller ones in the center and smaller plants towards the edges. I will not state to plant the plants in groups, because it depends what style you have. Some people prefer a formal garden where every plant is specifically placed and organized like a formal dining room. Other people prefer the cottage look where various plants come up at different times, places and sizes but yet blend well together with an ecclectic look to include birdhouses, birdbaths and garden whimsy of any sort.
Do you want bright bold colors but want a different look each year? Then purchase annuals. Annuals are pretty much flowering from the last frost to the first frost. They keep blooming all summer long. At the end of the year when the first frost comes, they will all die. There is a slim chance that some will be around the following year.
Do you want to create an easy to maintain growing flower garden? Purchase a variety of perennials, bushes, and grasses. These plants change as the seasons change. Make sure each plant is still appropriate for the location you have selected.
Once you have all of the grass and rocks pulled out of your garden, I would suggest running a garden rake through it to pick up any stray grass, weeds or other visitors in your soil. I highly suggest putting down some topsoil at this point. This will become a little base for your new plants. Your soil should be at the point where you can easily dig a whole and put your new plants or seeds in. Lay out your plants to what appeals to you colorwise, leafwise and height appropriate. Do not crowd the plants. Whether they are annuals or perennials, they will get bigger. They also need some room for the wind to grow around them or they could get mold growing on their leaves.
Once you have planted your plants, put down a good at least 2 inch layer of mulch. There are many types of mulch. If you are doing a formal garden, you might choose a colored mulch like black or red. Remember, if you choose a color now, you will need to continue with that color at least once a year to refresh your garden. I use plain old brown. I know the sun will fade it and when I refresh some will be lighter or darker, but it will blend together soon enough. I prefer to get the 3 cubic feet bags. I can easily, well, not so easily but manage to drag the bag around the yard to various places to put the mulch down where I need it. Some people call the local nursery and have a large quantity of mulch delivered to their home and it is dumped on the driveway. I choose not to do this method, because if it rains before I apply all of the mulch, lots of it will run down the driveway and into the gutter, even if I have it covered. After all of the mulch is laid down, water the garden well. Keep watering it as needed for tne next several weeks to make sure the plants adapt well.
Remember, that whether a plant is an annual, perrennial or even a biennial, it still can produce seeds and possibly come up the next year, possibly not in the location you had chosen for the plant to exist. I had one dogwood at my old home. When I moved I had three, but the birds were the ones who planted the other two trees. I made the decision to keep them where they grew because I thought it was a good place for them. I also decided to take a maple tree growing in my front garden and put it into a pot. The plant moved with me to my new home and I expect to see flowers on it very soon this March.
Now you have the option of putting a border up around this garden. You can use rocks, a little fence, bricks built into shapes, or even plastic pre-formed flexible pieces that go under the edge of the border. I use nothing. Because of kids, I would rather not have anyone tripping into the garden to fetch a ball. It’s bad enough they step into my garden as it is, but I don’t want anyone getting hurt. I have the mulch to the edge, and in the summer my husband uses an edger to keep the curves of my garden fresh. The dog eats the mulch, the kids pick the flowers, but I try to teach them as they explore the garden area.
Now, I like to say a garden is a never ending project. No one can throw in a bunch of plants and then think they are done. Some plants will grow more than others and need division in a year or two. Some plants will start to get shade and will need to be relocated to get sun again. You will see new plants at the nurseries that will be tempting to buy and add to your new garden space. In a few years, you can divide your plants and either create a new garden, or give the plants to your friends for them to enjoy.