Gardening Tips – Designing an Inherited Or Second Hand Garden
The problem with inheriting a garden is that the last owners created it for themselves, and it may not suit you, your family and the way yon want to use it. On the plus side you will probably have gained a few reasonable plants or features you can incorporate into a new design, so at least it won’t cost you as much as starting from scratch.
There is a lot of sense in the advice about leaving an inherited garden for a year so you can see exactly what you have, otherwise you might be hacking out valuable bulbs or herbaceous plants that are not visible. You can save a lot of time by just asking the outgoing owners what the garden contains.
Front gardens are a bit of a mixed blessing. They are too open to sit and relax in; you may need a lot of the space for parking cars, which restricts what you can do with them, yet they are always on show, and since they are the first thing people see when they visit your house, it’s likely you’ll want to create a good impression. My advice is go for a simple design that will be quick and easy to keep tidy. Make sure it takes into account what you need from your front garden, as well as providing easy access. Avoid meandering paths because people making deliveries will take the shortest route over the garden anyway.
After planting, mulch everything deeply with bark chippings or gravel to give the garden an attractive finish and keep weeding to a minimum.
Take a plant’s-eye view of your plot
When you are itching to start creating a new garden, there is nothing worse than someone making you stop and check things out first, but that is exactly what I am going to do. Boring though it sounds, it is the only way to avoid putting plants in the wrong place. Some plants are fussy and won’t go in shady spots, windy corners or certain types of soil. When planning a garden, it is important to know your growing conditions.
First find out what sort of soil you have. Heavy clay soil is the sort that sets so hard when dry you can hardly stick a fork into it, but when it’s wet it is sticky and water stays in puddles for hours after heavy rain. Sandy soil is light-colored and gritty, and rain runs away without leaving puddles; it is very dry in summer and organic matter disappears quickly, so you have to keep adding more.
Most garden soils lie somewhere between the two and can easily be turned into a good place for plants. A dark color indicates a fertile soil with lots of humus, which is usually found in older gardens that have been well looked after. If in doubt about your soil type, see if you can get an experienced gardener, perhaps from your local garden club, to come out and take a look at it for you.
Next map out the shady and sunny areas of the garden. Go out in the early morning, at midday and again in the evening to see which parts of the garden are in shadow or sun, and sketch this in on a plan of the garden. On breezy days, see which parts of the garden are sheltered and which get the full force of the wind. Make a note of the prevailing direction and check for any windy corridors where the wind funnels down between buildings, making it hard for plants to survive.
You should also do a soil test. You can buy inexpensive kits from the garden center that tell you if the ground is acid, alkaline or neutral. All of this affects the type of plants you can grow and where they will do best. It will save you a fortune in the long run.