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 
recommends:

  • 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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