Garden Design - How to Plan a New Garden
Perennial Flower Garden
Include Maintenance In Your Garden Plan
Designing and building a garden is a lot of fun. Gardening is a healthy activity that gets you outside and generally improves the look and value of your home and property. But the job does not end after you have planted all those flowers and shrubs. Regular maintenance will be needed for an attractive, healthy garden.
Remember that you will need set aside some time to tend to the garden. Of course, the bigger the garden, the more time it will take to keep it looking attractive and healthy.
Don't think you can put off chores like weeding until the area looks messy. You'll have to get in there and weed once a week to keep the pesky plants in check. Waiting until things begin to look bad will only increase the work load.
Following is a list of garden chores to remember when you plant your garden.
Garden - take time to weed, feed, and water
Water the Garden
Plants need water to thrive. New plants that have not been established require more water than older, mature plants. Frequent watering will encourage the growth of new roots. The smaller root systems of new plants can dry out quickly during hot summer months. Follow watering guidelines on new plants. Check the tag on the plants which will often give instructions for the appropriate watering needs of new plants.
- Even older plants need water. Of course, if you use native plants, they will often thrive despite drought and heat, if they are accustomed to the area.
- Water plants early in the day. If you water in the evening, you may be encouraging pests and diseases that thrive on moisture.
- A good long soak is better than a quick squirt. Deep watering encourages deep root growth. Deep roots will allow longer periods between watering.
- Rainwater is better for plants than tap water because municipal water is often treated with chlorine. (Hey, don't we drink that stuff?) Notice how pretty the garden looks shortly after a nice, long rain as compared to how it looks after you have watered it with a sprinkler or hose. Rain barrels are handy for collecting rain water to use on your plants.
- Soaker hoses are great. They water slowly and do not wet the leaves. Soaker hoses can be buried under mulch. The water drips out of many tiny holes and soaks slowly into the soil.
Weeding the Garden
Weeds can crowd out desirable plants and hog up nutrients and water. Weeding also keeps your garden healthy and attractive.
- Do not wait until weeds have taken over the garden. Set aside an hour or two a week, depending on the size of your garden, and keep those pesky weeds at bay.
- Tiny, young weeds can be removed quickly with a hand tool because the roots are shallow.
- Try to remove the entire weed. Dig down so that you remove the root system. If you merely break off the stem, the weed may pop back in a short time.
- A nice layer of mulch helps prevent weeds from sprouting.
Feed Your Garden
Plants derive nutrients from the soil. Enrich your soil with compost for natural fertilization. Using compost alleviates the need for commercial, chemical fertilizers than can run off and harm streams and rivers.
- Throw a layer of compost on your garden in spring. Lightly turn it into the soil but avoid damaging existing plants and roots. Later in summer, you can add a bit more of the compost, just sprinkle it around between the plants.
- Compost tea is a nice fertilizer for an established summer garden pick-me-up. Throw a shovel full of compost into a 5 gallon bucket and allow it to steep for a day or two. Then water plants with the nutrient dense compost tea.
- Willow water helps new plants set out strong roots. Cut some thin twigs of willow. Chop the twigs up into smaller pieces and set into a 5 gallon bucket of water. Steep for a day or two and water new plants.
- Bone meal is a natural fertilizer that encourages beautiful, brightly colored flowers.
Keep Weeds and Grass Out
Maintain a mowing edge around your garden. A shallow ditch is good for drainage and keeps grass from invading your garden. Dig the outside edge straight down. The inner edge, facing the garden, should form a gentle mound. that makes it harder for grass to spread into the garden. Also, when moving the lawn, you can take the mower close enough to the garden that you may not have to use a weed whacker.
Some plants, whether flower or vegetable, grow long and leggy and may flop over due the weight of their blooms or fruits. Stake such plants early in the spring before the stalks are grown. you can purchase a round, metal, gridded thingy that sets up on legs. The plant will grow up through the openings and will be supported.
You can make one of these yourself with vines.
Place straight stakes, or sticks, in the ground early in the season. As the plant grows, tie string loosely, or loop around the stem and tie to the stake.
Deadheading refers to the removal of spent blooms. Deadheading keeps your garden looking bright and pretty. It can also encourage a second blooming in some plants.
Of course, some plants need to be allowed to go to seed so you can have new plants next year. I so rigorously dead headed my monarda (bee balm) one year, that the plants almost disappeared.
Late summer flowers can be allowed to retain their seed heads to attract birds. Goldfinch love the seed heads of cone flowers. Also, the seed heads of cone flowers look quite attractive when dried in fall, or covered with a light dusting of snow in the winter.
Trimming and Pruning
Many shrubs, trees, vines, and herbaceous plants need to be trimmed or pruned. Shrubs (like roses) and trees, for example, should generally be pruned in late winter or early spring while azaleas, rhododendron, and forsythia should be pruned right after they flower.
Some flowering perennials need trimming to keep them in order. New England asters, Joe Pye weed, and Autumn sedum need to be trimmed back in early summer or they will grow so tall that the blooms may cause them to flop over.
When plants die back in fall, cut back the stems to the ground. Or, wait until late winter as some dried flowering plants will attract birds.