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Friday, March 07, 2008

Garden Design - Part 1

Last night we held our second gardening class at Walt Whitman High school. I've promised to cover the class material here at Old Country Gardens so that students that miss a class can keep up to date. This is also for the many people who told me they'd like to attend but could not.

Our topic is Garden Design which I consider different from Landscape Design. By garden design, I'm talking about a specific garden, not your entire plot of land (which will be covered next week).

Before you begin choosing actual plant material for your garden you need to consider a number of factors. Here's some things you should think about before sticking your shovel in the ground.

What kind of garden do you want? ___________________ (Fill in the blank, it could be a tropical garden, a cottage garden, an edible garden, herb garden or so on.)

Are you sharing your garden with other household members? Children or pets in the garden will determine much about what you should or should not do.

How much work do you want to do? There's no such thing as a "no-work" garden but the type of garden and plant material you choose will determine the amount of work involved in keeping that garden in good shape. Ask a farmer how easy it is to keep plain farm rows planted, weeded and harvested.

What kind of soil do you have? Now is a great time to get your soil tested. Take the time (and money) to amend your soil before you begin to plant. Incorporate compost and manure. Pay attention to the results of your soil test. Rather than choosing plants that have you amending your soil yearly, look for plants that grow well in the conditions you already have.

Water is a huge consideration when planning a garden. Do you live in an area with water restrictions? Have you suffered drought conditions or flooding conditions lately? What kind of drainage do you have?

How do you get water to your gardens? Do you have to drag a hose to get there? Are there underground sprinklers in that area and do you know where they are so you don't hit them when digging?
Do you have a budget for your garden plan? Hiring somebody to come help in the garden can drastically change the cost of any garden plan.

Be realistic in what will grow in your weather zone. If you keep choosing plants that struggle to bloom or survive through the winter you will soon be very frustrated with your garden.

How are you going to get to/around/through your garden? Do you want to install hard-scape such as concrete walkways or are free wood-chips in line with your budget?

How do you plan on edging your garden? No edge (just lawn up to the bed) is fine but you will need to maintain that edge every time you mow the lawn. Edging can be fancy stone, plastic strips or simple wooden logs (see the bottom of the photo above). Choose edging that suits your house and landscape.

Is there a specific feature you want to include in your garden? For instance, do you want to design a garden around a water feature such as a pond or swimming pool? You will need to have access to the workings of that feature for seasonal maintenance.

There are still more things to consider before beginning to chose your plant material. Stay tuned as this will be continued...


Steve N said...

Hi Melanie
No problem this time. Your great blog caused me to spend time away from benching up my dahlia tubers but it was fun and I hope to visit more often.
Just a thought on your walnut tree problem. Maybe some large container gardens where you have control of the soil might help till a better answer comes along.
I have to contend with a neighbors Mapel tree roots in my dahlia display garden. The roots sense out all the good stuff in my garden and thats where they set up feeding time. Their roots made it almost impossible to dig tuber clumps. I now plant out in large clay containers burried in the ground and when dug have beautiful firm tubers with no maple roots.
Steve N

Frances, said...

Good lessons to think about for new and experienced gardeners alike. I have been gardening for many years and have often forgotten some of the important considerations, even after having read about them many times. Thanks.

Frances at Faire Garden

lintys said...

beautifully done, Melanie!

Gail said...


As I was reading your post I kept thinking...I wished I had had this class before I stuck my shovel in the ground....looking forward to the rest of the class.


Silvia said...

Wow, you have a great gardening site! So glad you stopped and left a comment on my blog so I could find yours! I grew up in part on LI, btw. East Marion (I have family that still lives there), near Greenport, and Huntington.

Anna said...

You planned that well and it was presented perfectly. Did you get good feedback? What were they most interested in? I would have wanted to say bravo to mentioning maintenance. Hauling mulch several times a year has to be considered. You did a great job with issues and concerns facing any gardener. I enjoyed it.