Garden Design for Beginners

Designing your own garden can be an unnerving prospect, but with our easy guide below, you will be ready to start within the hour. The first thing you need to do is to measure the dimensions of your garden. Once you have the measurement, draw a layout of your garden on a piece of paper. Remember to note down any natural characteristics like tree stumps, fence and sloping ground on the paper. You will have to decide whether to remove such obstructions or simply design your garden around them. Label major (trees and big plants) and minor (flower beds, small shrubs, ferns, etc.) planting zones. When you’re done, start researching on potential plants and make a list.

The important thing to remember when selecting plants for your garden is balance. You want your garden to be alive all year long instead of only coming to life in the spring. Divide your selection into three categories:

• Perennials: These are plants that will freeze during the winter and bloom at spring
• Annuals: Plants that bloom and flower once a year and have to be replanted annually
• Evergreens: Plants that retain their leaves and colours throughout the year (including winter)

Your planting layout should also have some repetition to make sure colours will pop up. Thin beds of flowers or ferns spread haphazardly around the garden will inevitably be dominated by the colour of the grass. So, minimally, plant four rows of flowers, herbs, ferns or shrubs at each location.

Next, dig up a small area to identify the type of soil you are dealing with. If you are unsure of the type, scoop some up and store inside a plastic bag or container. You can show it to the nursery when you go plant shopping. UK has over 700 different types of soil, but the six most common types are:

• Peat: High level of organic content and moisture. Perfect for flower beds, herbs and shrubs
• Clay: High level of nutrients and low water retention. Great for larger plants and trees
• Silt: Reasonable nutrient content.
• Loams: A mixed soil type that requires some nurturing to increase its potential
• Sandy: Low nutrient and acidic
• Chalky: Low nutrient content and high alkaline level

The first four types of soil listed above can be primed in a matter of weeks. However, the latter two – sandy and chalky – will require some heavy and repeated lifting to get them ready.

Before you start treating the soil, you have to do two more things:

• Pull our any weeds or stray grass from the garden. You don’t want to feed predatory and unwanted plants!
• Edge your garden so grass and weeds from neighbouring areas do not spread to your garden. The most effective edgings are stone and concrete pavers.

Now comes the important part – adding humus to the soil. Humus, which can be found in manure and organic fertilisers, enriches the nutrient content of the soil, improves its water retention capacity and improves its texture.