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Get to know your garden -Intimately- part one.

Updated on October 5, 2015

Good display


A daunting prospect ?

The garden season is almost upon us and the thought of it is a daunting prospect to many people,however, this need not be the case.With a little knowledge you can have a beautiful garden without it costing the earth. It is true that gardening can be expensive,especially if you choose the wrong plants for the wrong situation, and seeing expensive plants die before your very eyes is frustrating. Another frustrating aspect of gardening is when your flowers are at their peak of beauty they are attacked by bugs,fungi and viruses.

In this series of articles I hope to give the beginner and those who are unsure,some tips {including saving money} when planning your garden or changing your plants for more suitable ones for your particular situation.

Gardens are like you,unique and with a character of their own. I will commence by imparting some basic knowledge everyone needs to be aware of before purchased plants are procured. the first step is to get to know your garden intimately.

Plants whether wild or cultivated need sunlight {as indeed we do},and so light is an important factor as in the situation where they grow,and the aspect. For instance basic knowledge is needed to learn about your light,situation and aspect. This not in any way complicated as we shall see,by looking at the subject in very easy and simple stages.

These types of flowers will thrive in a south facing sunny aspect


Which way is your garden facing ?

Is your garden a windy site? A particular cold one? or is it sunny and sheltered? Find out which way your garden faces,if you are unsure use a compass. We also need to know what type of soil we have,and what is the Ph level,sounds complicated but it is not and we shall cover all this in easy stages.

Stage one-Which way is your garden facing? using a compass if you are not sure you need to know this basic fact. The way your garden faces which ever, that may be, will affect how much light and sun your garden will receive and when.

North facing gardens get the least light and therefore it is highly possible your garden is aslo damp,and in winter moss is quite likely to be a problem.

South facing gardens get the most light. East facing gardens will receive morning light . West facing gardens will receive afternoon and evening light.

Whether grown in containers as in this cottage garden or in beds aspect is important.


Sandy soils drain well and it is easier to work | Source

What kind of soil do we have.?

Stage two- we know know the aspect and next we need to know what type of soil do we have. The easiest and simple way of finding this out is to water an area{s} of your soil with a watering can. If the water disappears quickly the chances are your soil is sandy or gravelly. However, if it remains for longer it may be clay soil;.

Still not sure? -then we need to take another step which will help to establish the type. This is also simple and easy to achieve. Take a handful of soil and gently squeeze it in your hand. if it feels slimy and sticky and when you release the pressure the 'whole' remains in shape it is clay soil.

Sandy or gravelly soil feels gritty and when you release the pressure the 'whole' crumbles apart. Peaty soil on the other hand feels spongy. Loamy or silt soil feels smooth,but retains the shape longer than sandy soil,but not so strong as clay.

Still not sure. Don't worry there is yet another simple test which is also easy to accomplish. Add half a handful of soil to a large glass jar/container.Fill it with water. Now go and have a cup of tea/coffee,for the jar will have to stand for a couple of hours. After this time return to the jar and observe the contents.

If your soil is the clay type the water will be cloudy with a thin layer of particles at the bottom The tiny clay particles take a while to settle. If your soil is sandy is sandy or gravelly ,the particles will have sunk to form a layer on the bottom and the water is relatively clear. Peaty soil will have bits floating on the surface,the water is a bit cloudy and a small amount of sediment is lying on the bottom of the jar,.Chalky soil will reveal a layer of white gritty fragments on the bottom and the water fairly clear with a layered sedimentation on the bottom,the finest particles on the top.

Now we are well on the way and only one more step and we will know the Ph level and hence most of what we need to know about the character of our garden.

Clay soil is heavy and hard to work


What is pH level? --Find your pH Level

What is the pH level.? Without going into science and chemistry the test is simply a means of informing us what the pH level is in our soil.this will reveal the pH level in whatever type of soil we may have. It will tell us whether the soil is acidic,neutral or alkaline.

Do the test---To find out the pH level you will need to purchase a soil test kit. They are quite cheap and readily available at Garden Centres or on line,just Google soil test kit. the method is as simple as ABC, get several soil cores from various parts of your garden. Throw away the the top inch or so, then mix them altogether and dry it out. Just follow the instructions on the kit,it will contain all you need to know and is cheap enough to do a couple of tests to get your reading.

Here in the UK, the pH range in the soil are generally between pH 4.0 and 8.5.

Acid or Ericaceous soils have a pH level of between 1-7, Peaty soil is a good example. Neutral soil with a pH level of exactly 7 is usually a clay soil. Alkaline or Limy soil has a Ph reading between 7-14 and has every chance of being a chalky soil.

Why is this important ? Knowing this information is very important and it will influence the Plants you grow. Most plants prefer a range of 6.5-7, the point where the nutrients are most easily available.

There are plants that require acid soil for example heathers,Rhododendrons,Azaleas for example. There are plants that require Alkaline soil for example Saxifrages. this knowledge will save you money. if you put an acid loving plant in Alkaline soil it will suffer and die and vice versa -it is that important.

Easy to use kit


We now have all the information we need

Now we have all the information we need. We know which way our garden faces,we know what kind of soil we have, and we know the pH reading. Armed with this information we can now consider what kind of plants will suit our garden.

In part two of the series we look at the range of plants that will thrive in Acid soils. These will include plants that are featured in other hubs of mine which are reviewed in some detail.

Acanthus mollis Bears breech will thrive in Acid soil

Acanthus mollis will grow well in a pH reading of 06-08. In the USDA Zone 10a-11.
Acanthus mollis will grow well in a pH reading of 06-08. In the USDA Zone 10a-11. | Source


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb glad to have been of help. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      What a great start! I never stopped to think about a good part of this, but now I will.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello Devika, I am aware of your love of gardening from reading your hubs and the great books you have written on herbs and spices. this series is aimed at beginners and those that are unsure as regards planting. Thank you so much for your encouraging comments and for your votes they mean a lot to me. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi D.A.L. beautiful flowers. I have a new season to work toward and have some ideas. Always a helpful hub from you. Gardening has become one of my favorite pass times. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi, most gardeners do not check their pH level and because of this plants are often wrongly planted in the wrong type of soil. You could try to plant your azalea {or a new one } in Ericaceous compost in a container give it plenty of drainage material and they should thrive and flower well. Best wishes to you.


      Hi Sally, I have done many articles in the past on plants both wild and cultivated here on hub pages. Some will be referred to in this series. Great to see you here. Best wishes to you.


      Hi, clay soil is more of a challenge than many other types as regards working it and growing. I will be dealing with Clay soils in part two of this series. Good to see you here. Best wishes to you.

    • jandee profile image


      3 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

      Hello Dal, Poor me ,I have been stuggling in my Brothers garden with clay soil(France) ,the tomatoes are okay but nothing else is happy apart from bushes , hope to learn from jandee..

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      3 years ago from Norfolk

      D.A.L. - branching out into gardening! It is lovely to see the other side of our bird man. Well done, I am sure I will learn something new along the way. I love anything to do with plants and gardens so I am looking forward to reading this new series.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      3 years ago from Norfolk

      D.A.L. - branching out into gardening! It is lovely to see the other side of our bird man. Well done, I am sure I will learn something new along the way. I love anything to do with plants and gardens so I am looking forward to reading this new series.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      This explains a lot. I tried and tried to get my azaleas to bloom and the rhododendron didn't die but didn't look happy either. Although other plant were as happy as could be and even flourished enough to look like they were choking the rhododendron. I never checked the ph. My bad.


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