Starting a garden can be a daunting undertaking, especially when you are new to the gardening game. Novice gardeners often report ‘not knowing where to start’ as the number one obstacle resulting in inaction. But gardening shouldn’t be intimidating and with the right advice, time and effort, every one of us has the ability to cultivate our own piece of paradise. These easy steps will give you the fundamental background to establishing your garden. Remember, if you need any more advice, please send us a message and one of our gardening advisors will be happy to assist you.
Plan for Success
Every successful undertaking starts with a good plan and gardening is no different. The first step is to do nothing… rather just look and learn! Take time to get to know what you are working with as this will dictate the right course of action.
These are the kind of things to consider:
Access to sunlight
Understanding which bits of the garden are sunny and shady is very important as this will dictate which plants will thrive. It is a good idea to take the time to monitor your garden throughout the day, as areas which seem to be shady most of the morning may receive very harsh afternoon sun and this has to be taken into consideration.
It is ideal to do this over the weekend when you can spend the whole day at home taking note.
What will the garden be used for?
Gardens serve different purposes. Those with children and dogs may consider a larger lawn for playing and hardy shrubs, while those keen on cooking could consider a pottager garden, full of fresh herbs and ingredients.
Regular entertainers may prefer a more functional paved area incorporating an entertainment area and, braai or pool. A garden fit for purpose will deliver the most reward, so plan one to suit your needs.
It is a good idea to be realistic about how much time and money you would like to spend maintaining your garden. Large deciduous trees drop leaves, roses need to be pruned, lawns need to be mowed regularly and less hardy plants need to be watered during hot summer months.
Those who cannot afford a garden service must be very realistic about how much time they have to spend on maintenance. With the right design and plant variety choices, even the maintenance adverse can still enjoy a beautiful garden.
Access to water
With the recent drought conditions South Africa is faced with, it is a very good idea to consider your access to water.
If you are not lucky enough to have access to a borehole, Jo Jo tanks or natural body of water, it would be prudent to choose plants which are indigenous or hardy in nature as these are more drought tolerant.
Designing your garden
Now that you have taken the time to learn the lay of the land and determine the purpose of the garden the next step is to design your dream space. The most important thing to remember is that this is YOUR garden and you should make it work for you. There is no right and wrong but if you are a little stumped, consider the following in your garden design:
Make spaces to enjoy
The best garden is one your family will love spending time in, so make sure you incorporate spaces where your family can congregate to enjoy the garden. Consider things like a seating area under a pergola, a bench under a shady tree, a fire pit for entertaining, and swings for the kids. Incorporate these areas into your living space by joining them to the house with pathways so that there is a natural flow between the inside and outside.
Consider a focal point
A well designed garden will make use of a focal point (or many in a larger space) to draw the eye and establish balance in the design. Introducing “hard landscaping” like fountains, bird baths, terraces, benches, statues and pathways will make a noticeable impact to your garden design. Local garden shops have a wide variety of options so you will be spoilt for choice.
Right tools for the job
These are the very basic tools you will need to start gardening:
- Gardening spade and fork
- Gardening gloves (essential to avoid broken nails and blistered hands)
- Hose pipe and fittings
- Gumboots or thick soled shoes
- Bypass pruning shears
- Bonemeal for planting
As you go along, you may add additional tools to your arsenal but these mentioned are essential.
Before planting, it is essential that you prepare your beds. Ensure you dig the soil over with a garden fork as deep as you can manage but at least 25 to 30cm. If your soil is of a poor quality, you may need to add compost. If you are not sure, speak to the experts at your local garden centre or give one of our friendly Wonder™ consultants a call. To ensure that plants have the correct nutrition to grow and flourish, it is essential that you enrich the soil with nutrients the need. Use products like Wonder™ All-purpose 2:3:2 for this purpose. If your beds tend to be dry, consider digging in Wonder ™ Waterwise Crystals which will reduce watering frequency by 50%.
Once your beds are ready, it is time to get to your local garden centre and start selecting plants. It is best to start by buying your bigger perennial plants first as these will form the bones of your garden. Perennials are plants that last multiple seasons while annuals are plants that flower only one season and then die and hence your garden should consist of mostly perennials. Larger Perennial trees and shrubs tend to be planted at the back of the garden and form the “bones” of the garden, lending structure to the design. It is a great idea to discuss options with the garden centre professionals as they will be able to advise which plants are easier to grow and which are fast or slow growing. Plant these first and let them settle before moving on to the smaller plants necessary for the front section of the beds.
Once your bigger perennials are settled, you can start adding smaller perennials and even pretty flowering annuals to fill in the gaps. Remember that a garden is a living canvas and hence things change constantly but that is the beauty of gardening. Don’t be afraid to try new things and experiment, it’s all part of the learning process. Sometimes plants will thrive and other times they may need a little help but rest assured that at Wonder™ we have a team of experts happy to assist with anything you may need.