Thursday, April 3, 2014

Planning the Garden - Know Your Garden Site

Envision the property - as it is.  Make notes of the sunny portions of the yard. Where is the shade most of the day? Is the site level or hilly? Check the drainage path directions - does the yard puddle in one area for hours after a hard rain?   Where is the soil very dry? Planning the garden will help the process for a rewarding garden experience.

Check out elements that cannot be removed, such as a neighbors garage, large trees, utility boxes,and power lines. Planning the inclusion of these elements may be easier if screens, shrubs, and vertical structures are incorporated into the garden.

Are there community restrictions regarding fences and other structures? Does a fence need to be open, wood, metal, or if the fence can come to the front of the dwelling on the property.  These elements will have to be part of the new landscape, so planning the garden around them will be less stressful when the actual construction of the yard has begun.

Fence line 
This view of the fence line to the back of our property which extends over 200 feet.  At this photo time, the bed was fifteen feet deep from the fence to the edge.  I determined that this size was more than I could care for easily, so we moved the edge to approximately five feet deep -   more in line with my style and energy.

The fence will be a back drop of any landscape plan. The fence is on the west side of the house, and usually has shade fall in front of it by early afternoon.  The morning sun warms this area until that time.

Side yard - South exposure

This is a hot sunny area of our backyard. South exposures (In the Northern Hemisphere) will get sun morning, noon, and afternoon. Full sun plants will thrive here as well as drought tolerant plants. Consider these elements when planning the garden of your dreams.

Utility cables 

Be aware of the utilities and make access to them. Service techs will not be concerned at all to be careful around your lovely plants. I've set in a few stepping stones between my plants (hint- hint) for the meter readers to use.
Bed  created along walkway

Many hardscapes can be utilized into the landscape. Patios, drives, and pathways are considered to be 'hardscapes'.   Walkways to the front door should be open and visible for visitors to follow. If shrubs are too high, or they are encroaching the path, the design will not be appreciated.  It will be aggravating and high maintenance keeping the plant materials within their boundaries. 

Ravine divides property

Hills, ravines, creeks, and other natural features will make the plan for a garden challenging.   

Terraced walls steep incline to shed

Terracing and bridges are charming, but may break the budget. 

Steps to deck above
Stairs need to be built to code, and handrails and risers should be sturdy.  No homeowner wants an accident on the premises, or a potential lawsuit.  Local zoning departments will give the specification for your space.  

Cleared space 
So, when planning your space the gardener need to consider 1) the Size, 2) the Exposure - N, S, E, W.  3) The Style that appeals to the sensibilities of the gardener., and  4) The Budget - reality can be harsh, but sticking to a budget will relieve post-construction regrets.

Take the time to plan your space.  Note that we haven't even talked about plants.  That step is next, but often jumps the line.   Keep to this process of planning the garden for a successful, rewarding gardening experience.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Gardener's Tip - Know Your Style

Getting out into the yard is an annual winter rite-of-passage.  But before taking a backhoe to the yard, take a few moments to consider these few aspects of building a successful garden.  Gardening is not supposed to be stressful, but many get discouraged because they skip these steps.  

                                        Envision  - Enrich  -  Enjoy 

My approach to gardening is simple.  Envision, what is desired in the garden.  How will the yard be used?  Do the children need room for practicing soccer?  Will vegetables be grown?  Is a shady sitting area in the plan?  Is outdoor cooking wanted?  These questions allow for a picture to form in this planning stage of the new garden. 

I know getting that Vision is difficult.  So I encourage a trip through landscape pictures, gardens, patios, and decks.  What you like will be evident when you select favorites and the 'likes' will most certainly fall into a style that expresses you and your life style.

There are fifty styles that  can be developed into your space.  Here are a few styles that may appeal to your tastes.
English Cottage

Relaxing nook

Front Yard Vegetable Garden

Formal Garden

Zen Meditation

Mulched Tree Garden

Mulched Borders


Entertaining Garden

Urban Border

Each garden embraces the owner's requirements for their life style. This vision of what you will use the space for is key to deciding on a garden style. No direction of taste or style will get a confused mish-mash garden that may not work for the family.  There may be an area where you never go, or one area is too small or crowded for where everyone hangs out.

The over-all yard design may be too difficult to easily maintain.  Shrubs that need constant pruning may not be the relaxed space you want.

Decide you style. Then be honest about the maintenance you are willing to do. Formal gardens need periodic pruning to keep the crisp lines of this style.  Let's face it, an overgrown space will overwhelm most gardeners, and sets the gardener up for failure.  I want all gardeners to succeed.  Clean and simple may be just what is needed.

I personally have been so busy pruning, weeding, deadheading, watering, mowing, and mulching, that I never had time to just sit and enjoy my yard.  Learn from my mistakes - and be realistic in your new garden project. 

Enrich the lives of the homeowner.  Allow the pleasure of this outdoor space to bring friends together, provide a quiet spot to read, and gather veggies for the family.  Sun, shade, rain, and colorful flower beds will add an element of satisfaction, peace, and relaxation to enrich any life.

Enjoy the outdoor space you have.  Families and jobs certainly deserve our best efforts.  But even if the tablet is in your lap on the patio, that space can be yours to enjoy.