There are many people that often tell me, “I wouldn’t know where to start in my garden!” Or “My garden is a pile of weeds so there is no point doing anything.” That’s such a shame as gardening is such a healthy hobby. It’s good for us physically and it’s good for the soul as it brings such pleasure. What could be more lovely than being surrounded by beautiful plants or pretty flowers, especially if you have helped to nurture them? Or how about eating your own produce? This post is dedicated to all of you who would like to create a garden from scratch and are not sure how to go about it.
Before moving into the Old House, we lived in a typical new build, estate house with a postage stamp sized garden. I always loved gardening but had to make do with a few tiny borders where local cats used them as their loo! I know what it is like to be frustrated by your child kicking their football against your row of sunflowers or amongst your peas. I also know what it’s like coming home with plants that you just couldn’t leave at a plant fair and wondering where you’re going to put them! Anyone can create a garden from even the tiniest patch of land and in my opinion, everyone should as it’s not only great for us but will help local wildlife too. Children love to help in the garden so gardening is a great activity for all the family.
Here are my top tips to creating a garden from scratch:
1. Understand your space
Understanding your space is important as it will determine what will grow there and what won’t. Plants can be expensive so you don’t want to make mistakes when buying them. Think about how much sun the area will get. Is it south facing (lots of sun) or north facing (it won’t get so much sun) in the U.K. Watch how the sun moves throughout the day and use this to think about where you would sit to make full use of the sun’s position. Once you have a seating area in your mind you can plan for where any borders will be. This area may just be a simple bench/seat on gravel or a patio/decked area but this is important as it will determine everything else.
2. Plan your space
I always start with, “where will we sit?” Once you know where your seating area will be, you can plan around it. Start with an overall plan or layout. Having a design or plan of the entire space will enable you to play around with ideas and get an overall outline of the space. Use graph paper if you want to make it to scale.; this is especially important in a smaller garden. What do you want from your garden? Do you want lots of colour or do you want lots of pretty flowers? Do you want to grow vegetables or attract lots of wildlife into your garden? Do you want an area for a sand pit or football goal for the children or a BBQ area for entertaining? Really think about how you will use this space as a family. When my children were little, we had a sand pit with a lid which was the most played with item for the first 6 years of their lives. After that, we bought a small trampoline with a safety net. Both these items killed the lawn but that was ok as they had their section of the garden! I still managed to have other areas for the things I wanted and that garden was small. Knowing how you will use your garden will determine what you will add to it. Add all of these things to your plan; if necessary you may have to compromise. Planning your space in this way will enable you to budget for the various sections.
3. Tackle any hard landscaping first
If possible, tackle any larger jobs first. By hard landscaping I mean laying patios, creating paths or walkways, edging a border or putting up a shed. These jobs should be done first before you get planting is possible. These hard landscaping jobs don’t have to be expensive if you can do the work for yourself. Choose your materials carefully as using lots of different materials in one space can look cluttered. For example, use stone to edge a border to match your patio or choose a wooden edging material if you have a deck. Have an overall plan in mind before you start will help with these choices.
4. Know you soil.
This is more important than you think as it will affect what will grow in your garden. If you are in a new build house, it may be that you’re garden is full of builders rubble or if you live by the sea, your soil may be very sandy. You can test your soil for its PH to see if it is acidic, alkaline or neutral. Some shrubs such as Azaleas love acidic soil so working with what you have will ensure your plants flourish. You can make raised beds of course, and then you can add the correct soil for your favourite plants but knowing your soil will help you make informed plant choices at the start. I would always add compost to any new bed and extra nutrients such as manure or blood, fish and bone. Not only is this a fertiliser but it will also support beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil meaning you will have stronger plants.
5. Choosing the right plants
With all the preparation complete, you are now ready to choose your plants. As a general rule, it is best to plant a new garden in the Spring or in Autumn to give them the best chance. You need to think about colour schemes and a design in terms of heights. Do you want climbers? Do you want striking foliage or colourful flowers? Take care to read the labels or ask at your local garden centre for advice, if you are unsure. Some plants will grow to be quite large so would do better at the back of a border whilst others need to be nearer the front as they are lower to the ground. My only other advice is don’t buy too many if you are unsure. Many plants will grow and spread quickly so you may find that your border is full. You can then add to your borders the following year with new plants or bulbs when you can see which plants grow well in your new space.
6. Maintaining your new garden.
With a new garden, you will need to give it a little love and attention especially in the first year. It will need watering in dry spells so water regularly, even if it rains. If you have not added nutrients before planting, your new plants will need feeding each week during the growing season. I tend to do this with a feed that I can add to my watering can. You may want to add a mulch (a weed barrier) surrounding your new plants to help keep the weeds at bay. I use bark or a homemade leaf mulch but there are many on the market that you can choose. If you have climbers, you will need to tie them to a support to help them grow upwards.
Lastly, it’s time to enjoy your new garden. You will be amazed how much joy it will give you! You will also be providing a new habitat for insects and other wildlife. Even if gardening is not the hobby for you, you can now enjoy sitting surrounded by your new garden. Have fun!