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7 Things to think about when planning a garden

Nell Foster

After 20 years of professionally designing and maintaining gardens, I have some things to share with you about planning a garden. Believe me, I’ve made my share of mistakes and have learned so much from trial and error. Isn’t that the best way after all? Even if you hire someone to do it for you, it’s good to think about these things before the initial meeting.

The first thing you have to think about is how much you want to spend. Like any project you have going on, this will determine the outcome. What’s that they say about caviar taste on a beans-and-franks budget?

Pools, for example, are wonderful but they eat up a lot of the budget, require maintenance and take up a lot of real estate in a yard.

Garden 1

For a smaller budget, something like vegetable gardens may be a better choice. I love the rustic towers for beans to twine up. They can add so much character. How great this will look when everything grows in!

Garden 2

So, if you’re ready to get started on your garden, here are some tips to get you started.

1. Decide how you’ll use your garden

It can be a zen oasis, a play area for your kids and pets, an entertainment area with a kitchen and TV, a source of food, a perennial border to look at and cut flowers from, a swimming spot… the list goes on.

2. Think about exposure

Sun and shade play a big part in plant selection as well as the placement of structures, patios, vegetable gardens, etc. Make note of the exposure for two or three seasons if you can.

3. Consider soil type

Soil type. Especially if you’re doing a lot of planting, the soil is the foundation of your garden. It’s best to start with a soil test, which can be done inexpensively at your local extension office or online. It’s well worth the minimal charge as there may be something funky going on with your dirt.

4. Break it down

If you have a large area to do, break it down into sections so it won’t be so overwhelming. It doesn’t all have to be done at once. I did my front garden first, the side garden the next year and the back garden three years later. They are three separate areas and truth be told, my wallet didn’t allow for it all to be done at the same time.

5. Address potential problems

Address any possible problems, like drainage, topography, grading, deer, drought, etc. before you start in. And, do any construction and hardscaping before the plants go in.

6. Think about maintenance

Are you going to do it or will you hire someone? This can determine the amount of hardscaping and the plant selection. A drip system is a great investment because it saves time and water.

My front yard has a seating area as well as a small, raised patio. I wanted a low-maintenance garden that was also drought tolerant.

Garden 3

I love my garden as well as the ones I did for clients and had fun planning all of them. Hopefully you’ll have a good time with yours, too! Here’s a little inspiration:

Garden 4

Do you need a place to meditate?

Garden 5

A formal planting bed along a walkway guides to the front door.

Garden 6

Yes, an old red wagon can be garden art. Now, what’s up with the tractor?

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