Gardening

Gardening for beginners: what to consider when planning a garden

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As tempting as it is to skip planning a garden and head straight to the garden centre to stock up on anything that catches your eye, don’t. If you want plants that will actually last, it really does pay to prepare first.

There’s no denying it: plants, flowerbeds and foliage can seriously liven up the bland backyards many new homes come with. But if you’re not especially green-fingered and don’t know your shears from your secateurs, the task of planning a garden may seem rather daunting.

Rather than heading straight out to your local garden centre or DIY store and taking pot luck from the plants on the shelves, it’s always best to draw up a plan that will help you choose the best plants for your garden and ensure their healthy growth all year round. To guide you through the preparation process, here are four easy steps to follow.

Know your garden

Given that this is where your plants will live and grow, it’s good to dig down – no pun intended – into the details of your garden. Most flowers need about six hours of full sunlight each day, so when planning your garden, it’s important to observe how light moves across it and map out any variations in the microclimate.

Microclimates fall into one of four categories: full sun, partial shade, shade, or deep shade; by drawing up a rough diagram of which of these applies to specific areas of your garden, you will be taking the first step towards finding the right plants to thrive there.

Discovering the soil type will help too (for this it’s worth investing in an inexpensive soil pH testing kit). Plants can be picky with what sort of soil they like – there are six types: chalky (alkaline, stony and free draining), clay (feels lumpy, slimy and sticky when wet, rolls into a ball easily), loamy (the perfect type, rolls into a ball easily but won't keep its shape as well as clay soil), peaty (acidic, can get waterlogged, feels spongy if squeezed), sandy (gritty to the touch, a rolled ball will crumble away easily) and silty (smooth to the touch, rolls into a ball easily but won't keep its shape as well as clay soil).

Types of plants

When you’re planning a garden, put some prior thought into what you want to populate it with. When it comes to growing flowers, for example, do you want annuals, which will need replanting every year but add colour for the duration of summer? Or would you prefer perennials, which have a shorter bloom time but come back year after year? A mix of the two could also offer a good solution.

If adding something on a larger scale, like bushes or trees, find out how high and wide they will grow to when fully mature, so that you don’t get a nasty surprise when they outgrow the space further down the line. Don’t just think above the ground either – roots can spread extensively, causing potential damage to a home’s foundation or nearby fencing and walls.

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Time it right

As with so many other things in life, planning a garden is all a matter of timing. Spring is a good time to begin growing and digging (use a spade or fork to gently turn the top 8 to 12 inches of soil, mixing in organic matter such as compost, manure or grass cuttings to give it a boost), though planning can begin during the winter months. Gardeners spend most of the summer watering, weeding, and watching young plants grow, while autumn is a good time to plant trees, shrubs, bulbs, and some perennials.

Some plants can tolerate cold, so you can plant them in autumn or late winter. Most annual flowers, on the other hand, are sensitive to cold, so don’t plant them until the danger of frost has passed in your area. Mid-spring and mid-autumn are good times to plant perennial flowers.

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Post planning a garden

Even before you’ve chosen your plants, you’ll need to think about the maintenance they’ll require after they’ve become established. How much water will they need? Some have specific growing requirements and some may need to be pruned occasionally to keep them in shape and stop them from dominating your garden. With these things in mind, you need to decide whether you are prepared to spend the time required to keep your garden in order, or whether to choose low maintenance plants that require less work.

To ease the workload when planning a garden, GARDENA’s Micro-Drip-System is a clever watering solution that promotes plant growth while reducing water consumption. An efficient irrigation system that supplies the roots of each plant with the water they need, it moistens the soil gently and evenly to prevent too much water evaporating, seeping or flowing away.

There you have it: planning a garden really does make perfect. This process, which can be completed within a day, can result in a plant-based creation that provides you with visual pleasure for years to come.