Many people want to start a garden, but think it’s a tiring, expensive and difficult project to take on. However, with only a few easy steps and a small investment, you can enjoy a beautiful DIY garden.
During the pandemic, many people realized how important it is to have a garden at home as an everyday oasis.
Planning a garden means making the space functional, enjoyable, and considering the available budget and the surrounding environment.
Let’s dive into the topic with six fundamental tips for beginners.
1. Discover Your Area
The first essential step is to get to know the climate characteristics of the area where you want to grow your garden, which direction it is facing, and where the sun hits. This will help you understand what can grow in each part of the garden.
You can additionally look at what is already growing there to understand which type of soil is available.
To know what soil type you have, it is recommended to do a soil test, and you can run a simple one yourself.
You will need to take a bunch of soil and rub it between your hands, and you will most likely have one of these results:
- If it remains granular and rough, the soil is sandy.
- If it grows plants such as camellias, magnolias, and pieris, the soil is acidic.
- If it is easy to shape and doesn’t grow the above-mentioned plants, the soil is alkaline or clayey.
- If it is slippery, the soil is silty.
Depending on which type of soil you have, there are a variety of plants, vegetables, and flowers you can grow with ease.
2. Decide What To Plant
Here are a few suggestions about trees, shrubs, and herbaceous perennials you can choose based on the type of soli that you have:
- For sandy soil, some options are acacia, maple, chaste tree, heather, honeysuckle, oregano, and thymus.
- In acidic soil, camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, heather, and gardenias grow best.
- For clayey soil, popular options are maple, cherry tree, hazel tree, linden, laurel, lavender, acanthus, and geranium.
- Silty soil is a combination of sandy and clayey soil and that’s why it’s the best for cultivation, and it can grow the options for either of these types.
If you also want to plant a vegetable garden, you can base your decisions about which vegetables and greens to plant on their colors and nutritional properties:
- White color: greens belonging to this category are rich in mineral salts, vitamins and fibers that benefit the whole body. Their color is due to the presence of quercetin. Some examples are garlic, potatoes, onions and legumes.
- Yellow and orange colors: greens such as carrots, peppers and pumpkins. Their color comes from beta-carotene, which brings vitamin A to the body. They are also rich in vitamins B, C, E, starch and mineral salts.
- Blue and purple colors: these greens, such as eggplants and radicchio, have antioxidant properties. Their color is due to the anthocyanins pigment.
- Green color: examples are spinach, zucchini, lettuce, kale and green beans. They are rich in folate, carotene and provitamin A and at the same time are low in calories.
- Red color: tomatoes, red peppers, radishes and beetroots. These greens are rich in vitamins A and C and antioxidants.
3. Take Inspiration
If you are building your garden from scratch, you may need to take some inspiration from places near your house which provide you with a sense of calmness and an immersion in nature.
By doing so, you can also get an idea about which plants are naturally growing in your area.
Explore your surroundings, and you will surely find a park or a public garden. For example, living near G Ross Lord Park in Toronto would give you the opportunity to take inspiration from it, and have an idea about the native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that grow there. You can even download a plant identification app on your phone and that will make the process a lot easier.
Moreover, the park is home to countless species of wildlife, and this could be an inspiration for those who are trying to bring more life to their garden.
4. Plan Your Garden
There are general rules that can help you to create a harmonious and functional composition in your garden.
Firstly, you should respect the environment’s physiognomy, placing elements that evoke the surroundings. Secondly, it’s important to be clear on what use you’re intending to make of the garden, dedicating to each use a different space and structure, and paying attention to not creating too sparse or crowded areas. Balance is the key.
It is practical to find one or more focal points and organize the space around them. In this way, it’s possible to create particular scenarios and frame interesting parts or objects in your garden, such as a big tree, a water feature or a sculpture.
Some essential features to consider from the beginning are a good irrigation system, which allows you to save money and time, and a lighting system, to also enjoy the garden during the night.
The best time of the year to start with your DIY garden project is the spring season when a lot of different types of seeds can be planted, and you can get many good weather days.
5. Water and Prune Plants
Once you have planned your garden and decided what to plant in it, you will have to take two basic but really important actions: water and prune.
It’s crucial to water the root balls rather than the leaves because the water is absorbed by the roots. What is more, adding more water once a week is better than watering a little bit every day.
You should also feed the plants every fortnight during the growing season in spring and summer. A sustainable option is to use DIY fertilizers, such as grass clippings, weeds, kitchen scraps, and manure.
Pruning can make your plants look good, grow well, and flower and fruit better. Do your research to learn when to prune as well as how to make the cuts and shape the plant. The best time to prune is after flowering, and if the plants need to be renovated or reduced, this can be done in late winter and early spring, just before growth begins.
If you are not familiar with these techniques, you can search for a local community where you can master them. For example, the Kitsilano Community Centre in Vancouver has a community garden that promotes collaborative learning, growing, and sharing. It creates an opportunity to learn the basics of gardening through practice while getting to know like-minded people.
6. Creating Habitats For Wildlife
Wildlife should be welcomed in a garden because it can bring a lot of benefits.
It’s a common mistake to consider wildlife as an enemy of your garden. Birds eat different garden pests such as snails, aphids and caterpillars, while bees help to pollinate flowers and plants.
Building habitats for them is indeed useful, but it can also bring more color and diversity to your garden, creating a more enjoyable space.
You can opt, for example, for installing birdhouses, which are easy to construct or can simply be purchased from gardening stores.
Keep in mind that to have a wildlife-friendly garden you should provide four essential features: shelter and protection, food sources, water sources, and nesting areas.
Peculiar Types of Gardens
There are diverse types of gardens that follow distinct styles. Yet it is most important to choose a garden type considering the climate of your area.
The most well-known types of gardens are surely the Italian and the French, both of them following a classical style and a structured design, and the English garden, which is more natural and resembles the countryside.
Here you can find three types of gardens in case you are searching for something unique to grow and enjoy.
The synergic garden offers a way to cultivate greens and vegetables while caring for nature. Its techniques for fertilizing the soil don’t include plowing or using fertilizers. Instead, it uses a particular combination of plants, which are functional when planted together.
This type of garden is based on permaculture principles, which is an integrated process that aims to create a sustainable and balanced environment.
The permaculture principles are:
- Taking care of the Earth, fairly managing the soil, the resources, the vegetation, and the water.
- Taking care of people, looking after oneself and the community.
- Sharing equally, setting limits to consumption, and reallocating the surpluses.
If you choose to install this type of garden you shouldn’t consume more resources and energy than the ones that can be restored and regenerated. Also, mutuality plays a key role, as every element must be functional and support the others.
There are a few simple rules to follow:
- Don’t plow or hoe the soil
- Don’t compact the soil
- Don’t fertilize
- Sow together at least three different types of plants
Another particular type of garden is the vertical garden. This is an ideal option for people who don’t have much space to grow a regular garden, and it can be also installed inside the house.
This is not a simple green wall, as a wall covered with ivy could be. It creates biodiversity with different types of plants that have both an aesthetic and a functional role.
A vertical garden consists of a metal structure fixed to a wall where the plants are inserted. This structure contains different layers of natural fiber material and an irrigation system that allows the water supply to each plant. In this way, plants stay away from the wall, and they don’t damage it.
A cheaper and easier version of a vertical garden can be implemented by closely hanging up a series of pots on a wall. Using different types of plants ensures a beautiful result without implementing some particular irrigation and draining systems.
This can also be done with aromatic herbs for your kitchen, a fragrant and practical way to decorate your house and bring nature inside.
Nature is not only pleasant to see, but also to feel, and it can evoke powerful emotions. Emotions are at the base of our spirituality and are personal to everyone. That’s why this type of garden is designed with the close involvement of the people who are going to enjoy it.
The zen garden is a place rich in spirituality, which encourages meditation thanks to the absence of artificial sounds.
There are different types of zen gardens but all of them are characterized by minimalism, simplicity and immersion in nature. They are asymmetric and designed with sinuous shapes, with elements placed in an odd number to form a triangular shape.
Two elements are indispensable and they both have particular meanings:
- Stones and rocks represent stability and inner peace, which can be reached only through reflection on oneself and meditation
- Water represents the mutability of everything that is unstable, changeable and movable
The zen garden is nature-centered, representing how everything in life revolves around nature, and how its power is unmanageable.
Hopefully, this article has given you some useful tips and ideas to create an at-home sanctuary.
As a final step, make sure to take time to sit back and enjoy your garden. You can create a seating area where it’s possible to read or eat with family and friends.
Gardening is also good for your health. It can fight depression, reduce stress and improve your diet.