How to - Gardening Basics

Start your garden from scratch

Ellen Novack

Is your yard a blank slate? Here are expert tips to getting your garden blooming

You have just purchased a home in a new subdivision where there is nothing but a patch of dirt. There are beautiful gardens in your area, but a trip to the nursery with its myriad of choices leaves you overwhelmed. You visualize a glorious garden, but where do you start? 

Envision your garden
First decide what you want. Whether it is to entertain or to relax, or needs to be child- or pet-friendly, you need to consider both how and when you would spend time outside. You next have to determine the pattern of sun and shade in your yard. These answers will help with your design and determine which plants can live in your space. 

You can design the garden even before the sod is laid, explains designer and landscaper Neil Masson, owner of ExperTrees in Mississauga, Ont. Dig out the shape of the garden before the sod takes root, avoiding the expense and labour of digging up the grass at a later date.

Choose a focal point
To decide on the shape of your front garden, Masson suggests starting with the front door as the focal point, making the entrance welcoming with walkways and patio stones and working from there. If there is an architectural accent, such as a bay window, then the garden could match the rounded shape. 

Design your space
“One of the biggest mistakes gardeners make is that they design their garden beds too small,” says Masson. “Generally the garden bed should come out at least half the height of your house so it looks balanced. Design from the street.”

Once the bed is shaped, consider the bones of the garden—those structures such as tool sheds and fences as well as walkways, water features, rocks and lighting. Masson recommends positioning large rocks to point in the direction you want your eye to follow, and to build them at various heights to direct the eye deeper into the garden.

Nourish your soil
Soil is as critical as sun. Whether it is clay or sand, acidic or alkaline, amend it with topsoil or compost, and use plants that thrive in your earth.

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