Gardener’s Recipe: One part soil, two parts water, and three parts wishful thinking
If you have a yard, or a piece of ground anywhere, you can create a garden, but what kinds of things do you need to know? If you have the information you need you will be an ever better gardener, improving your results and enjoyment as you go along.
The questions to ask:
Within the answers to these questions is a treasure trove of information to begin making your dream garden into your own real garden.
The ‘Climate Zone’ is simply a way of understanding what plants will grow well for you and which will not, or may even die due to climate conditions. You simply have to know where you live and look up a climate zone map. For the USA, you may want this climate zone map or using zip codes the National Gardening Association’s Zone Finder. If you live in the United Kingdom, or Europe, this map may be useful. You will have a general idea of the temperature ranges of your area, and with climate zone information in hand you can navigate quickly through the plant descriptions which often list the zones your chosen plant will thrive in.
Now we are narrowing down the information to just what you have to work with in your own garden. There are three main categories of soil: clay, loam, and sand. There are combinations of two also possible, and named variations within, but generally if you know which of the three categories describe your soil you have an idea of how to improve it for optimum growth conditions. What kind of soil do you have? An example of how you can use this information is contained in a tip sheet for Clay Soil. If you live in the USA, there are extension agents who can supply information on your garden’s soil and generally recommended plants.
These are simply the dates you can expect killing frosts to start and end in your area. They are not exact – as any weather measurement is conditional, but they give a ball-park figure of when you can set out tomato plants and when to get the last harvest in. It saves much grief for new gardeners (and older, complacent ones!) to understand when you are risking a loss of those tender plants.
What’s My Style
This is the fun part of creating a garden: choosing the style and planning the “feel” of your landscape. Sometimes the use of areas will determine the style, and architecture of the house is a consideration, but mostly it is whatever appeals to the owner of the garden.
To build a garden follows the basics of any new endeavor:
- Begin with good materials (improved soil and healthy plants)
- Learn a bit about design styles, choose the one for you
- List what features you want and need in your yard
- Build the “hardscape”: paths, fences, arbors, lighting, etc
- Set a planned schedule for installation of your features, and plants
Time and Other Limitations
Time, age, interest, health, are all considerations when doing the physical work of a garden. Be honest with yourself and you will be a happier gardener. Some styles of gardening are time intensive, requiring much more upkeep. Cottage gardening and English perennial flower gardens are examples of gardens that look best when given regular attention to weeding, cultivating, and plant maintenance such as dividing plants. There are styles such as “New American” or some traditional types that require less attention.
The size of the garden makes a difference, obviously, so if you are growing older in years with the view of reducing the workload, the garden should be proportionate to your capabilities of investment of energy. It can be difficult to edit things out, but a garden is supposed to add pleasure to your life. Which it will, if you tailor it to your expected output of time, money, and energy. I am taking my own advice on this and moving to a smaller place in Georgia.
Time Saver Garden Method
Nuts and Bolts of Gardening
Once you’ve decided to build a garden, have the plan and information in hand, what is next?
Garden tools can be a simple set of hand tools or a whole array of specialized ones, including some power tools. Choose the tool for the job, get the best you can afford and try to take care of them. This is the best advice I can give you, and for a breakdown of my opinions on what tools, check out my garden tools page.
You are now ready to shop in the nursery centers and order from catalogs for the well-chosen plantings to furnish your garden space. Preparation is three quarters of success in gardening, although there is always beginners luck and the fact that nature is very forgiving of our impatience. And although many gardeners make beautiful gardens with their own set of methods and order of implementation, the suggestions here will work.