Whether you’re an experienced green thumb or you are embarking on a brand new gardening endeavour, starting out can be a little overwhelming. But before you throw away the key, take a moment to remember that all great roads began with one small pebble. All it takes is a little preparation. A well designed outdoor space can elevate a dreary unused garden into a floral delight; and it creates additional space for you and your family. Here are some starting points and tips to help you on the path to the best approach for you and your needs.
1. Evaluate your garden space
Evaluating a garden space involves more than simply measuring its size. First you need to get to grips with various characteristics of the space.
Start with the following:
- Sunlight: Learn the aspect of your garden. By following the path of the sun you can learn what areas get full sun, half sun or are in the shade. This is a first and vital step to selecting suitable plants.
- Quality of soil: The next most important step of plant selection is to determine your soil type (clay, loam, sandy) and pH level.
- Existing characteristics: Assess what plants, structures or trees you want to keep and what areas you want to change. The removal of particular elements may involve more work than others so choose carefully.
Understanding your garden's microclimate
Every outdoor space will have its own microclimates. This means that one spot in your garden will have different atmospheric conditions to another area. This can be created by shade, aspect or perhaps low ground. All of these variables will impact the temperature, moisture and exposure experienced by different areas so you will need to identify each differing microclimate of your garden and choose plants accordingly. For example, a sun-loving plant will respond well when planted close to a heat-retaining stone wall, whereas a fern would prefer the cooler shade provided by a tree canopy. Take the time to observe the environmental variables in your outdoor space before you begin planting.This is of great benefit to plant health not to mention the overall productivity of your garden.
2. Determine the purpose of your garden
What do you have in mind for your garden and how do you intend to use it? Here are some common examples:
- Edible Garden: A vegetable, herb, or fruit garden.
- Flower Garden: Plants are primarily floral for an attractive aesthetic.
- Entertainment Space: Includes elements for socialising such as seating areas, fire pits, or patios.
- Wildlife Attraction: Planting to attract wildlife such as birds, butterflies, and bees.
3. Create a rough sketch
If you are a little experienced in garden planning, use a garden design programme or software. Otherwise, a hand drawn sketch on graph paper is ideal. It doesn't need to be perfect, but it should give you a sense of where you want to place things such as pathways, beds, large elements and the overall layout.
4. Choose your plants
Now choose your plants. You will need to take various factors into account including soil type, sunlight availability, and how you plan to use your garden.
Take note of the hardiness of your plant choices. Make sure they are climate-appropriate. Also look at the height and spread of your plants remembering that when fully mature they can grow considerably larger. And then you will need to consider seasonal variations. A combination of plants that will flower at different times of the year will keep your garden vibrant and attractive all year round.
5. Map out your pathways
A pathway exists in a garden to serve a purpose but it can also be a beautiful design feature that can make even a simple walk more interesting. Think of the style of your space and the materials you think would work with the size and the plants you are introducing. Perhaps gravel, stepping stones, or wood chips will work best in your garden? Whatever you choose, make sure the pathways are wide enough for comfortable walking.
6. Consider vertical planting
Small spaces such as courtyards and balconies need not suffer just because of a lack of imagination. Vertical planting can create a beautiful green haven in even the most cramped space. Use trellises, wall-mounted planters, or climbing plants. This way you can incorporate lots of greenery and create a stylish outside space.
7. Include garden structures
If you wish to create different zones in your garden, certain structures can offer a perfect solution. Perhaps you want a social area as well as some raised beds for veg or a play area for kids? Pergolas, archways, and benches can help create these zones while also offering shade and support for climbing plants. This is where function can meet aesthetics in stunning harmony.
8. Complete and implement
Once you've decided on a design, it's time to get your hands dirty! The first thing to do is to prepare the soil and add compost or fertiliser as needed. Then, arrange your plants according to your plan, making sure to water them thoroughly after planting.
Like anything that requires some planning, the first steps can often feel like the largest, but once it is broken down into manageable tasks, anything is possible. The more time spent planning, the more time saved in maintenance and repairs. Let your creative juices flow and don’t let the limitations of your space stop you!
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