How to - Gardening Basics

Measure your garden's conditions

Whether it's brand new or more established, where do you start with a new-to-you garden?

Whether your garden is a blank canvas, waiting for colour, or an established landscape full of bushes and blooms—how do you measure its conditions?

Assessing a blank slate garden
If you’re starting your garden from scratch, Paul Zammit, director of horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Garden 

  • On a bright and sunny day draw 
a plan of your yard on graph paper recording where the sun hits 
your garden at 10 am, noon, 2 pm and 4 pm. Charting the areas of shade on graph paper will give you 
an indication of how much light 
your yard gets.
Assess the wind exposure (and what direction it blows in from); measure how well the soil takes up moisture or drains when it rains; 
and add organic matter to the soil—whether it’s sand- or clay-based, 
the principles are the same. (Get the dirt on your soil.)
  • Think about how you’re going to utilize the space, for example, will kids or pets be using the garden?

Assessing an established garden
If you’re moving to a house with an established garden, Belinda Gallagher, head of horticulture for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario, recommends:
  • Snapping a picture of your garden, downloading it to your computer,and switching it to black and white. This helps you see the shapes of the plants and helps you identify overgrown areas.
  • Avoid pulling things out right away. Let the garden grow for a year or two and observe what the previous owner has done.
  • Taking a stroll through your neighbourhood to see what people are growing and get an idea of what will succeed in your yard.

Read more in How to and Gardening Basics

  • Page 1: How to assess your garden

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