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Garden Design - How to Plan a New Garden

Updated on May 20, 2019
Dolores Monet profile image

An avid gardener for over 40 years, Dolores has landscaped for private clients and maintained one client's small orchid collection.

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

(photo by Dolores Monet)
(photo by Dolores Monet)

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.

This stuff will break down to make some great compost. Of course, I will probably chop some of it up, then mix it in. (photo by Dolores Monet)
This stuff will break down to make some great compost. Of course, I will probably chop some of it up, then mix it in. (photo by Dolores Monet) | Source

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.

Staking Plants

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.

Corepsis or Tickseed - deadhead for repeat blooms
Corepsis or Tickseed - deadhead for repeat blooms | Source

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.

These New England asters need to be cut back
These New England asters need to be cut back | Source


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    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      10 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Daisy - thank you, glad that you enjoyed my article on garden planning!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Gardening is my passion and I did get carried away with it many years ago. You've incorporated a lot of great tips and information, thanks.

    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      10 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Greg - oh, boohoo for you, moving to the beautiful and fabulous Florida Keys where who needs to garden, it's already a tropical paradise!

      Seems like wherever you are, when you create a garden you need more dirt. The idea of buying dirt seems ridiculous to me. But, where I live, and in many areas, local landfills (dumps) offer free composted soil and mulch to area residents! Hooray for free!

      Good luck in Florida!

    • gg.zaino profile image

      greg g zaino 

      10 years ago from L'America- Big Pine Key, Florida

      Hey Dolores! really enjoyed this guide. i love your landscaping,makes me envy you folks with topsoil to spare. Being from New England and where i am now, it's an odd transition and different world altogether here in Florida. Tropical plants and shrubs are just fine and i really love orchids but i yearn for the natural fauna of the Northeast like our evergreens, love my mountain laurel. I'll soon be moving to the Keyes where the soil depth is measured in inches. no potato farming here,ha! peanuts maybe. ughh! gotta buy dirt in bags Dolores! great hub blumen frau.. :) peace, greg z

    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Thank you, vrajavala, glad that you liked it!

    • vrajavala profile image


      11 years ago from Port St. Lucie

      wow this is a very informative article!!!

    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Ted - I don't use a timer. I just set the soaker hose to drip while I am doing something else! Thanks!

      Thanks, katie! I have soaker hoses around my azaleas because they really need some moisture in those hot summer months. Thanks for stopping in.

      Thank you, carolina!

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 

      11 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      wow.. some great tips here!!!

    • katiem2 profile image

      Katie McMurray 

      11 years ago from Ohio

      Great tips, I always think about the years to follow anytime I garden, I swear by the soaker hose, gets the water just where you need it without over watering and so EASY... Great Garden Design Plan. :)

    • Teddletonmr profile image

      Mike Teddleton 

      11 years ago from Midwest USA

      Great hub, the soaker hose idea, should it be on a timer? Hub up thanks for the great garden designs in your photos...

    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      SweetiePie - thank you so much. Good to see you, Sweetie!

      Varenya - willow water helps new plants to root and establish. It's great stuff, and if you have a willow, absolutely free! Thank you!

      Nellianna - sometimes, after loss, a garden can be so good for you. In fact, my perennial garden was created after my father died. The hard work and creativity involved helped my grief. In places with dry summers, the use of native plants usually means that you don't have to do a lot of watering. Thank you so much, you are so kind!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      11 years ago from TEXAS

      You inspire me!! Since my beloved George is gone, I have not gardened. He was the heart and soul of our garden.

      I am glad for the watering advice. I do tend to the St. Augustine grass and in Texas, summer watering is legally limited to before 10AM and after 6PM. I always prefer the morning hours, but I didn't realize that watering in the evening encouraged pests, diseases and such. I had avoided it because at night the ground doesn't cool off much till early mornings.

      I am too late to start a garden now, but I'm encouraged to think of one in the fall and definitely next spring. Would be lovely!

      Thanks, Dolores - for a really beautiful hub - the pictures are gorgeous! It's so apparent that you love your gardening - and it repays you with its beauty!

    • Varenya profile image


      11 years ago

      I love your hubs, Dolores, always so accurate!

      Moreover I didn't know before the willow water, but now I too will surely use it for my herbs and plants! Thanks!

    • SweetiePie profile image


      11 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Love the layout of your garden Dolores,and I can tell you enjoy being there.

    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Richard, that is a very cool idea. I love free garden stuff. Our local landfill offers free composted soil and free mulch! Thanks for stopping in!

      loria, haha, I can see what you mean, it's got to be something that you enjoy. Hard for some folks to believe that us gardeners like to muck around in the dirt, chop gigantic piles of plant debris, and etc. Thanks for commenting!

      Hi, Ethyl, thanks!

      Sally, I know that some might scoff, but you've got to know what you are doing, as you pointed out. If you don't tend to business, you can lose plant, then why buy them? Thank you for pointing out the importance of caring for young or newly transplanted shrubs.

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      11 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Wonderful advice about watering. Once a transplant is in the ground and the daily watering for a few days is done, we have a tendency to think that that's all that's required.

      I transplanted two azaleas a few weeks ago, followed a rigid watering schedule for the first two weeks, and figured I'd done enough. I planted them among pines and firs (which is where they like to grow), but didn't account for the large trees sucking up the water I'd given the transplants, who, fortunately, showed me their distress through wilting leaves. I'll never make that mistake again...the big and greedy guys will take the water first.

      Super Hub!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      11 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Lovely gardening tips. Thanks

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I'll take up gardening when they make the maintenance free. :-)

    • juneaukid profile image

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      11 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thank you Dolores for this very informative hub. You might be interested to know that some smaller towns out West have river water available for lawns and gardens with summer lines running in the back alleys. Cody, Wyoming is one of them that makes use of the Shoshone River this way.

    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      alek - as I said, gardening does take a lot of work and it can be hard. Even a little bit is great for you. Good to see you, alek!

      akirchner - thank you! One of my problems has been that I forget what I planted and wind up 'weeding' out some perennials that I forgot about! Gettting better about that.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      11 years ago from Washington

      Super hub - I love this time of year when I can get out and start seeing what's 'up' literally with all my perennials. Very useful information, Dolores!

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      11 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Dolores, really enjoyed your hub. I love gardens and have a nice one at the B&B. Can't do too much of the gardening myself anymore, although what I do I really enjoy.

    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      11 years ago from East Coast, United States

      suzie - it's so easy to get carried away with a new garden, then the upkeep sometimes gets wearying, thus, the hub. Glad you like it. And there is nothing like a good rain.

      De Greek - actually, this was one of my easiest hubs ever. It's just what I am doing when I'm not hubbing. haha Good to see you, Greek!

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      11 years ago from UK

      So much thought and effort went into this hub, that one cannot but admire you :D

    • suziecat7 profile image


      11 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Great advice here. Thankfully it rains enough here and mu early plants and flowers are happy. I love the photos of your garden - very lush.


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