Creating your own garden from the very beginning can be an exciting project. However, if you think that you will have the last say as to what happens nature may disagree with you. To maintain your sanity you will need to work in harmony with nature. Planning and preparation will make all the difference in the success of your garden. It’s easy to dig up some soil and throw some plants in the ground. It is another thing altogether to create a healthy, vibrant garden.
What to Grow?
First you need to consider the location of your garden and the kinds of plants that can grow under the existing conditions. There are three main factors that influence what can grow in a given location; sunlight, soil composition and soil moisture. While you can somewhat manipulate soil composition and moisture, you certainly can not influence the sunlight. You will need to have a good idea of the amount of sunlight that will reach the garden. Don’t forget to take into account those areas of the garden that are partially or fully shaded, such as spots on the north side of a building or under a large tree. You will need the appropriate plants in the appropriate areas.
You will need to determine the composition of the soil in your garden. An ideal garden soil is made up of 40% sand, 40% silt and 20% clay. There are several easy ways to determine the make up of your soil. One to try is to put a couple cups of your soil in a large jar that is half filled with water. Stir up the solution until all of the soil is in suspension. Let it settle over night and the next day you should see three layers of soil; sand, then silt then clay at the top. You can then tell the rough percentage of each type.
Improving soil conditions
Adding organic matter is the best way to improve the composition of your soil. If the soil is sandy or silty add a combination of topsoil and peat moss (always moisten peat moss before adding it to your soil.) If there is too much clay, add the peat moss with some sand. You can also try using compost in replacement of peat moss, and be sure to never add sand directly to your soil. Sand should only be added in combination with organic matter.
Of course soil moisture is dependent on the climate of your area, but there can still be variations in your yard. If you are at the bottom of a hill, for example, your garden may stay wet for long periods. It’s best (and easiest) to use plants that like a lot of water. On the other hand, if the area is very dry, it may be tougher than you think to compensate by frequent watering. Choosing plants that are happy in dry climates will make your life much simpler.
The bottom line is that although you can compensate somewhat for your existing garden conditions, it can be a lot more rewarding to work with the natural conditions. Planting the appropriate plants for the given environment will save you time, money and pain.