Starting a Garden from Scratch – Garden Planning

Starting a Garden – Initial Work and Garden Planning

Herbaceous Borders

Some practical points to consider in the early stages are:-


1. A grass verge gives a good contrast to herbaceous plants, but the border may have to be alongside a path, in which case avoid having tall or very spreading subjects nearest to the path itself.

2. Bear in mind the season of flowering, i.e., plan for a long season of flower, or a late display, or perhaps with a bias toward favourite colours.

starting-a-garden-garden-from-scratch 3. If the border is very narrow, avoid having too tall a choice of subjects at the back. Many of the larger subjects reach 6ft. in height and ample width is needed to be able to include these plants.

4. Take every opportunity to remove perennial weed roots when the initial digging is being done. These weeds, such as convolvulus, thistle, dock and buttercup, can be extremely difficult to deal with once herbaceous plants become established.

5. Remember that the border will stay down for some years and that no deep cultivation will be possible after planting. Dig the plot as deeply as practicable and, later, fork or dig it through again to keep the soil in its original level.

6. After this second operation, try to keep a 2 in. layer of compost for spreading on the surface. This should be very lightly forked in and kept in the top few inches of soil.

7. When you have enough plants, it is most helpful to plan the border on paper. Bear in mind the height of each plant, its colour, and its flowering season. Avoid colour clashes and try to spread the interest over the whole border for as long a period as possible.

8. It is helpful to remember that plants of short or medium height (2 to 2-1/2ft.) require little or no staking, which means less labour subsequently.

9. If in any doubt as to choice of plants, this list of herbaceous plants and hardy annuals can be relied upon. For further choice it is always helpful to make a note of any that catch your eye during summer and plan to include some of these later, as room allows.



A well kept lawn or other grass area shows off flowers to the best advantage whereas a poor lawn can detract considerably from flower borders and beds nearby. If your are starting a garden from scratch, this gives a good opportunity of obtaining a first-class lawn. Remembering that a lawn should stay down for many years, give as deep a digging by way of initial preparation, as is possible. This does not mean bringing up un-weathered sub-soil to the surface, but try to dig deeply, to the full depth of the spade in the first place. If sufficient compost is available, fork a 1 to 2 in. layer into the top 3 ins. of soil, then fork shallowly through the whole area again.

The first digging is best done in autumn or winter, to allow for the maximum weathering effect. Grass seed is sown in March or April, or if this is not possible, in late August or early September. In either case after forking through the dug plot, to add the compost, use a wooden rake, then an iron rake to get as good a depth of workable soil on top (tilth) as is possible. Level the plot as this work proceeds. Also apply a dressing of bone meal, at 3ozs. per square yard, during the raking operations. If it is possible to allow a batch of annual weeds to develop before sowing, so much the better. If two crops can be allowed to grow, and be hoed off, this is better still.

The soil must be in the right state for sowing, i.e. not so wet that it “sticks” to the boots. Rake over the bed, finally, and mark it off with strings into yard wide strips. Allow 1-1/2ozs. of seeds mixture to each square metre which, if the plot is, say, 6 metres long, means 9ozs. of grass seed for each strip. Weigh off the required number of 9ozs., so that an even distribution can be obtained. Lay some wide planks on the strip alongside the one to be sown, and sow the seed evenly, if possible at a time when rain threatens. There should be little wind, or sowing is made difficult.

Rake the seed in very lightly to reduce loss by birds, and roll the sown strip if the surface is very loose and puffy. This may not be necessary on heavy soils. Manipulate the roller from the planks, which should be moved over afterwards, the strip on which they were lying raked over, and the process repeated.

A good quality grass seed mixture contains no rye grass; the following is ideal: 7 parts Chewings Fescue and 3 parts New Zealand Brown Top. The extra cost is well worth while, as a good quality lawn will be obtained, where cutting will not have to be done so frequently as if a rye grass mixture is used.


Flower Borders and Beds

For the most part, annual flowers are shallow rooted and do not require the same depth of cultivation as the stronger growing, deeper rooted herbaceous plants. However, the beds or borders should be dug to the depth of the spade and as much compost as can be spared be dug in. A 2 in. layer of compost, forked lightly into the top 3ins. of soil, will be of special benefit. Prior to planting or sowing, add 2ozs. of bone meal to the square yard, and rake this into the top few inches also.


Bedding Schemes:

Spring Bedding Schemes

When starting a garden and planning ahead, wallflowers are often a first choice, but they are sometimes combined with daffodils. The dark red varieties of wallflowers go well with a large trumpet variety of daffodil, such as Rembrandt. Myosotis is often used as an “under crop” for both daffodils and tulips, the blue “base” providing an effective contrast for pink and yellow tulips in particular. Sweet Williams give a late display and can best be followed with bedding dahlias, as these are one of the latest subjects that can be planted.

For a spring display with a difference try a “mixed” bed. If you have some plants of polyanthus, pansies, red and white double daisies, myosotis, or Siberian wallflowers, plant them in a mixed bed, at a spacing of 8 ins. The resulting effect will be bold and striking.

Summer Bedding Schemes

There are many combinations of plants that can be planned for when starting a garden, and individual choice and preference can be given full rein. Some of the more popular combinations are scarlet geraniums and blue lobelia, pink antirrhinums and lobelia or alyssum edging. Remember that mixed colours of the same subject, like stocks, asters, or nemesia, make a bold display. Often one can use a dwarfer form of the same subject as an edging, e.g., antirrhinums or nemesia.

If there are several flower beds, the colours may be the same in each bed, but each bed a different shade. Contrasting coloured edging plants, e.g. ageratum, mesembryanthemum, lobelia, or alyssum, make for a wider appeal, and some beds can have more than one type of edging plant to give contrast.

In general, plan for bold displays, making full use of one’s favourite colours, and aim at “ringing the changes” from year to year.

The New Rock Garden

Where a new rock garden is being planned for and started, choose a site that is not shaded and avoid especially one which is under trees, as the damp conditions which result will be detrimental to many rock plants. A position in full sun is best, and one which is sheltered from cold winds.

Ease of access is another important point, and the rock garden may adjoin the lawn, or a hard path, so that it can easily receive attention. A small easy-to-manage rockery is best, at least to begin with. If this can be planned so that extension can take place, if desired, so much the better.

Where some new stone is purchased, or if an existing rock garden is being renovated, it is a good practice to bury three quarters of the total amount of stone or rock used, so that only a quarter is in evidence above soil level. Limestone, or red sandstone, give a pleasing effect. Rock or stone should be laid in the front of a new plot, and set to slope slightly backwards. Work up from this first layer, setting subsequent rocks behind the first. Avoid a fixed step arrangement; try to obtain a finished appearance such that the stone appears to be jutting out of the soil, in natural strata (layers).

In planning the situations for various subjects, try to obtain flowers in all parts of the rock garden over a long period. Aim at having something in flower for as much of the year as possible. Do not have all the spring flowering subjects in the same area, or this will be a “blank” for the rest of the season.

Often you have to ensure that the soil for many rock plants is not too rich, or growth will be too strong, and unmanageable. A shallow depth of soil and compost, in equal parts, in pockets, or a shallow pocket of soil with but surface dressings of compost, is a good general guide.

Plants which prefer dry conditions and make a rosette of leaves or which resent dampness around them, will do best if a layer of gravel chippings, 1/2 in. thick, is laid around and between them. Many of the Saxifrages are examples in this category.

Most rock plants need to be planted fairly firmly. The usual planting season is in autumn but spring planting is also satisfactory – bear this in mind when starting a garden. Most rock plants are sold in pots, in any case, so that there is less difficulty in deciding when to plant.


13. September 2010 by admin
Categories: Garden Management, Starting a Garden | Tags: | Comments Off on Starting a Garden from Scratch – Garden Planning


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