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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


How to Design a Garden Part 1

Michael Nolan
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Designing a garden is one way to bring your personality and sense of style to the outdoors. With that in mind, we wanted to give you some basic tips for how to design a garden from scratch, but there are a few things that you will need to consider before designing a new garden, so in this installment, we will look at those considerations.


The Space

Begin by selecting the area that will become your new garden. This is important for obvious reasons, but also for reasons that may not be quite so apparent. 

Is the space open and accessible from all sides? 

  • This could impact your ability to prune and maintain the plants in your garden as it grows.

Is there a utility line, building or other structure nearby?

  • If you want to plant a tree under a utility line, look for a dwarf variety that will not be a pruning problem later.
  • Call your utility company to have them mark the location of underground lines. This is a free service in most areas, and it can save big headaches later on.
  • The root systems of some plants may not be recommended for planting near foundations. 
  • A nearby building could act as a wind break, which could benefit some delicate plants.
  • Be aware of the mature size of trees and shrubs planted near a structure.

The Climate

By now you probably already know what region you are in and while that will definitely have an effect on the type of garden you design, in this case we are talking about the conditions that are more specific to your garden. This is often referred to as a microclimate. Such things as buildings, roads, walls, trees, and sidewalks should be looked at carefully because each of them can alter weather conditions to some extent. 

  • Buildings can block wind (or increase its impact).
  • Brick structures absorb the sun’s heat during the day and continue to radiate that heat well after the sun goes down. This increases nighttime temperatures for the area immediately surrounding them.
  • Traffic on roads that are nearby your garden could be a concern as road spray could deposit all sorts of things from motor oil to salt on your plants.

The Light

Sunlight is a critical factor in your garden design. If your space is out in the open where it gets sun all day, you probably have no hesitation to consider it “Full Sun”. An area in the shadow of tall trees or buildings all day would, of course, be “Full Shade”. What about those areas that are somewhere in between?

Get to know the way light impacts your space by watching it over the course of a day. With your new garden space clearly marked, note the time of day when the area first gets sunlight and the time when the sunlight is gone.

  • If the number is less than three hours, your garden is Full Shade.
  • If the total number of hours is between three and six, your garden is Partial Sun/Shade.
  • If it is more than six, you can consider it Full Sun.

The Soil

Whether you are breaking new ground for your garden or reimagining a garden space, it is always a good idea to test your soil. By starting with a soil test, you avoid over or under fertilizing. You can also learn more about the composition of the soil itself. Compost, soil conditioner and other amendments might be recommended to enrich the soil and get it ready to make your plants thrive.

photo credit: SS/DeepGreen

Got questions about this article or any other garden topic? Go here now to post your gardening ideas, questions, kudos or complaints. We have gardening experts standing by to help you!