Gardening truly is one of the finer things in life. Watching flowers transform from seeds to bloom is very gratifying. But gardening failures are hard to take. Imagine how upsetting it is to buy bulbs, carefully plant and fertilize them only to have the flowers die because of poor soil or not enough sun. This is why careful planning is important to the success of any garden.
To begin your garden blueprint, get a blank piece of paper, graph paper is even better. Draw an outline of your house, garage, storage shed, swing set, deck, trees, and any other existing landmarks in your yard. Don’t forget to include walkways or paths. You should also include existing flower beds or gardens. If you have children, think about high traffic areas. Don’t plant a flower bed in an area likely to be the 20-yard line of the family football game.
The next step is to determine the sun’s pattern in your yard. Use a pencil to color the areas of your yard that are mostly shaded. Make notations for areas that get morning sun, areas that get afternoon sun, and areas that get full sun.
This is an important step because the amount of sun each area receives will determine what plants you will plant there. Take into consideration the mature height of trees in your yard. Just because your oak tree is only 15 feet tall now, doesn’t mean it will stay that height. The taller the tree, the more shade it provides.
Next, mark any areas that drain poorly. If you do not have a sprinkler system, mark where your faucets are. You won’t want to plant flowers that require lots of water in hard to reach places in your yard.
Finally, draw in your windows and doors as well as outdoor sitting areas. The view of your back yard from different vantage points is an important consideration in planning your garden.
If you are planning to do any deep digging, you should find out where electrical, sewer, gas and phone lines are located in your yard.
The next step is to have your soil tested. Before you can choose plants and flowers for you yard, you need to understand what will grow best in different areas of your yard. You should take samples from several different areas of your yard, since soil can vary from one place to another. Check with your local county extension agency for soil testing information. Once you have the results, you may need to take steps to improve the soil before you can plant.
Now comes the fun part — choosing plants and flowers. Attach a piece of tracing paper over your blueprint. By using tracing paper, you can create several different designs and then choose the pattern you like best.
Before you start designing flower beds, you should answer a few questions:
- How much time do you want to spend maintaining your garden?
- What type of edges do I want for my flower beds?
- How much yard or grass do I want left in my yard?
- What color schemes do I want in my yard?
- Are there any areas in my yard where nothing seems to grow?
Now begin working on your tracing paper. Start with the shady areas. Consider where you want perennials and where you want annuals. Get a list, or better yet, a gardening book with color photographs of plants and flowers that grow in the shade. On your blueprint, use colored pencils to shade the area with the color of the flower or plant you are putting there. Think about what colors compliment each other and the height each plant or flower will mature to.
Now move to the sunny or partially sunny areas of your yard. Think about the type of border you want for flower beds or paths. Don’t forget to plant for each season. Make sure you have flowers that bloom in early spring as well as flowers that bloom clear up until the first frost. This way your yard will never be void of color.
Next, work the areas of your yard where nothing seems to grow. Talk to your local nursery about groundcovers that grow well in your area.
The final step is to draw in the location of planters. While you may change the flowers in your planters from year to year, they are still an important part of the overall design of your yard.
Once you have your entire yard mapped out, now it’s time to begin the work. Don’t be afraid to change your plans if you find something you like better. Most of all, have fun.