There is something special about getting in touch with the soil. For some though, the thought of coping with their garden can be overwhelming. TV Celebrity gardener Monty Don once said that a maintenance-free garden is “pie-in-the-sky”. However, there are ways to simplify your garden so that you can gain the benefits and minimize the work. In this post How to Plan a Simple Spring Garden I will give you some tips to help you enjoy your garden and not get overwhelmed with the work.
A NOTE FROM JANET:
Before we get too far I wanted to let you know exactly what is going on. We want to be your one-stop place to find information on anything related to balance. We believe it’s not about doing it all, it’s about doing whats important. And, we’re applying that strategy to the blog too. I love writing articles for you but there are a lot of areas where I’m just not the expert. With this post, I’m starting to have guest authors write about the thing that they are the expert at.
Today’s guest author is Helen Cronin.
Helen Cronin lives in Dorset in the UK with her husband and two dogs. She has been a gardener ever since she could hold a trowel!
Part of her home garden was featured on the first series of the TV Program “Big Dreams, Small Spaces” with Monty Don
Helen loves to help people turn their ordinary places into beautiful spaces. She writes about garden design, gardening projects and her Garden on her website www.leavesfrommygarden.co.uk
Plan a simple Spring Garden
The first step is planning, and that can be fun, it is a legitimate time for day-dreaming! Jot down on a sheet of paper all the things you would like to see in your garden. Think about the colours, the sounds, even movement. Have you a favourite colour or colours? Do you like to hear the breeze rustling through leaves or grasses? Do you like the gentle splash of water or the gentle tinkling of wind chimes? Perhaps the summer buzz of Bees working around your flowers brings you joy. Do you like to sit in your garden, if so, where? Do you need a space to entertain?
Making sense of your Garden Wish List
Now you have drawn up a list of things you like, let’s make some order from it.
- Colour – the main one you choose will guide you in your choice of plants. Most colours can be found in flower, leaf or stem. Choose 1 or 2 more colours to balance and/or contrast with your main colour.
- Water Sounds – you could include a simple plug and play water feature for constant (and instant) splash or a Birdbath for sporadic splashing
- Breeze rustling leaves sounds – choose plants and grasses that sway and move with the wind
- Other Sounds – Could you hang a wind chime or install a rain chain?
- Movement – Birds will visit any water feature. Bees and hoverflies will benefit your Garden and create interest. Wind-spinners will move in the gentlest of breezes.
- Structures – Have you room to include seating, a Summerhouse or a canopied Swing?
- Structures – Do you need to include a brick built BBQ or Pizza Oven? A Fire-pit or Chiminea?
Using your Wish list to plan your garden
Look at your Wish list again. What can you manage to do yourself? What would you need help with?
I want to help you to plan a simple garden for Spring, but much will depend on how big your plot is. Could you break down your wish list into tasks to achieve this Spring? Next Autumn? Next year? If you have an overall plan for your plot, you can complete one area at a time.
Simplify your tasks by concentrating on the area you see most of, from inside your property. Then you will build your confidence and have an accurate assessment of how much ‘garden’ you have time for.
Practical Steps to your Spring Garden
For those with a Balcony or Courtyard
Space will be limited but it can still be made into a wonderful haven. Once the area is clear and clean, set up your planters and containers. Use the biggest you can practically handle, groups of 3, 5 or 7 containers work well. Although one very large, single planter, on its own, can be very effective. Try to match the planters materially or colourwise to create a sense of harmony. Fill them with a general purpose compost or potting mix ready for planting.
To choose your plants you will need to consider the amount of direct sunlight or shade they will get. Annual plants will need regular deadheading and watering. The containers will need plant food applied every 4-6 weeks, if the plants are to stay looking their best. A longer term planting can be achieved if you choose a mix of suitable perennials, herbaceous and low growing Shrubs. Take a look at your local Garden centre to see how the Staff have put together the display containers. Do read the plant Labels to check that the plants will be happy with the amount of light they will get in your garden. Look at the growth rate and see if it is suitable for growing in a Pot. If it’s going to get too big too quickly, it may swamp other plants or you! Check the information for any special soil requirements, you may need to buy in some special compost if the plants are fussy.
For the larger Plot
The temptation here is to create a garden that is more than you can maintain at the height of the Season. Gardening is a stress buster so don’t let the size of your plot put you off. You don’t need to cultivate the whole area to create a tranquil haven. Prioritize the area nearest to your property and the area most visible to you from indoors, that way you gain the maximum pleasure for your efforts. Then if you are enjoying gardening and want to expand into other parts of your plot you can.
Use planters and containers, if you have an open porch or steps where you can place them. Plants in containers can be very time-consuming so if you are going to garden beyond them as well, keep them to the minimum. A simple grouping of 3 or 5 planters will make a statement, whether for a splash of colour or as a focal point of interest.
The next area to consider is the Patio, seating or BBQ. Can you create a border around that? Plants in the ground will always be easier to care for than those in containers, and you have greater scope to include your favourites too. If you can have a border of at least 2-3 feet deep around it, that will give you lots of room for planting. Why not include some Salad plants or herbs too?
The Area beyond
Lawns when kept to their best, can be an awful lot of work, mowing, feeding, scarifying, etc. So why not get creative with your Mower? Work out the path lines you take across it most often. To what point do you head out down the garden and then take for your return journey. Try to cut those regularly and keep the grass short. The area of grass next to the path and nearest your property can be left longer. You could make it a flower meadow, which although it will take time and effort to establish, creates a pretty area. Alternatively keep the grass trimmed but longer than your pathway, so it looks neat but doesn’t take the same amount of care as a Bowling Lawn would.
For the grassy area beyond your path and towards the outer area of your plot, look to ‘maintain’ it as a wildlife area, thereby limiting the burden of work. Try stacking some logs as a sanctuary for Insects and wildlife. If you have enough room to plant a group of trees you can underplant with bulbs in the Autumn, ready for next Spring. You can leave the bulbs to die back after flowering and then give the area a light mow to tidy. Mow the area again in the Late Summer and/or Autumn to tidy for the Winter.
What to Plant
If you like to potter in your garden, deadheading spent flowers, and can take time watering containers daily, look for bedding plants otherwise known as Annuals. You will need to wait until after the last frost in your Area to plant but with regular care and feeding, the plants will flower right through until the first frost of Autumn/Winter.
For year round planting and structure for your Containers choose a low growing shrub like Hebe, one of the smaller varieties of Euonymus, Lavender or a Dwarf Conifer. Then add a trailing plant such as a variegated Ivy. For contrast add a low growing Grass such as Carex, Pennisetum or Luzula.If you can obtain a Deschampsia, the foliage forms a lovely mound and the flowers (and then seedheads) stand well above them and will look lovely in the Autumn. Once the structure is in place add in some Annuals or if you prefer, some perennials to bring colour right through the Season. I like to choose long flowering plants such as Penstemons, Salvias, Echinacea and Geraniums for colour month after month.
For Borders choose some evergreen Shrubs (the best ratio is 30% evergreen to 70% deciduous plants). Look around at your neighbours and see what is growing well for them, which will give you an idea of what will grow for you.Shrubs do need pruning once a year but it is not a difficult task, the general rule being prune just after flowering.
For instant Spring colour you may be able to buy pot grown Daffodils, Grape Hyacinths and other bulbs to plant this year. Otherwise you will have to wait until the Autumn and plant the bulbs then. Tulips and Hyacinths tend not to flower as well after their first year, so you will need to replace them after one season. Perennials will give you a longer flowering season and will need to be cut down in the autumn or winter.
To minimize the amount of weeding and watering, it is a good idea to mulch any exposed area of your flower beds once they are clear of weed seedlings with Bark chips or a proprietary mulch.
Whatever you decide to grow in your garden is down to personal choice, just like decorating your house. Choose plants that are happy to grow in the environment you have for them and they will repay you with flowers, fruits, colour and interest. Then make sure you not only have somewhere to sit and enjoy the garden but that you also make time to do just that.
A special thanks to Helen for giving us her knowledge on gardening. When we lived in Indiana, I had a huge garden and truly loved spending time in it. When we were in Central Florida, the ground was mostly sand so standard gardening wasn’t really an option. Helen gave me some ideas and had a few plants in containers on the back patio. Now that we’ve moved to Missouri, I can’t wait to get back to a full garden. Let the planning begin.
Don’t forget, gardening is a wonderful stress reducer. Let me know what you’ve planted in your garden this year. Just comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.