When you are looking out on your yard and you can see in your minds eye a deck there and maybe a path through a garden over there, a columnar tree just in the corner to block the neighbor and a garden with a water feature beside your patio where you like to entertain. This is the first step in creating your garden oasis.
- Having an idea of what you want it to look like is an important first step. What we suggest to do is to have rope or a hose (or spray paint) and lay out where and what you envision the shape to look like. Remember when you are deciding on size of the garden what size of plants are you going to put there. A rule of thumb is the width of a plant is going to be 3/4 the height, so if the garden you are planning is 1.5 feet wide it may be hard to find something that is going to be tall without going over the width. With that said we usually suggest minimum of 2 feet width in gardens. If your garden is wrapping around your house, ideally look at the over hang of your roof and measure out from that. The space under your overhang is considered dead space and we recommend not planting directly under the overhang for three reasons; 1) rain does not get to it. 2) it is to close to the foundation so the roots have a harder time getting established. 3) The house throws off heat even in the middle of winter so the plant may not have the chance to go dormant. Another decision you will make is this garden going to be a raised bed or in the ground? depending on how deep and wide you above ground garden is it may or may not be a good choice for perennials or shrubs.
- The second step is digging out the ground or building the raised bed. There are a couple of approaches to how to do this 1) laying down newspaper and covering with several inches of soil. 2) Dig out the sod and build up the soil content. 3) use a weed killer to kill grass and cover with soil (remember to wait several days to plant to make sure the chemical has dissipated). Choosing soil to fill your bed is another thing that seems like a small detail but is in actuality is another essential item in a garden remember the old saying "No foot, No horse". If you are going bulk ask if they have weed free and ask if you can see the mound its coming from, there should be minimal weeds and it should be rotated. If you are going with bags Fafard and Premier (Pro-Mix) are professional quality soils, they are weed free, If the soil is not steamed or "cooked" chances are there are lots of weed seeds in the mix. This is when you would add landscape fabric if you decide to use it. There are several different thickness to choose from. from a thinness that may last 1 year to a thickness and tighter weave that will last for 20 years. Also at this stage of the game is when you would add your accents like big stones or rocks or large statues that are hard to move or stones in along the border.
- The fun part... Picking out plants! To make things easier I always like using pen and paper and jotting down measurements and between what times areas get sun or shade. Pictures on a phone can be helpful but nothing beats being able to write on your paper what plant is going where and roughly getting an idea of how many plants you will need. Sometimes what I like to do is pull plants out and place them out so I can visualize where and how things look together. If this is a garden you are going to see all year round then you should try to get plants with spring, summer, fall and winter interests, although it may take more than one variety of plant. If you are planning on doing this in increments I suggest to do the shrubs before the perennials, as shrubs are the 'bones' of the garden and they will form the outline for your garden and perennials and annuals are the fillers.
- Once your garden is complete you can choose to do one more step or not too, which would be to mulch. Mulching gives a garden a finished look, keeps weeds down, helps to keep moisture in soil and can help protect roots from severe elements in winter. Most people say to only put down 2-3 " and "that should be enough", we suggest 4-6". The reasons being are that 1) mulch compacts, so starting out with 2" compacts down to 1". 2) heavy rains will wash away some of the mulch and that can feel like "money down the drain". 3) Mulch is wood and wood decays after a few years. 4) if there is not enough mulch on the soil, then the mulch is not going to give you any of the benefits you put it on your garden for. just remember that around your trees,shrubs and perennials keep the mulching to 2-3" , you do not want to cause rot on the bark and perennials need to grow up through the mulch.
- The last step.... get out your choice of beverage and relax in your favorite spot and enjoy, Cheers!
March 7th, 2018