Creating an inviting and beautiful landscape can seem like a daunting task. While you may need to put in some sweat equity, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. Once you master these basics, you’ll be on your way to creating a beautiful outdoor space you can enjoy all year.
Identify the Area
First things first. You need to identify the area you want to design. It is best to start with a small area. You can always add to a project later on, but taking on too much at first can be overwhelming if you’re a beginner.
Identify the Purpose
Next, identify the purpose of the area. Is it simply for curb appeal? An extension of your home for entertaining? A space for relaxing and enjoying nature? Or an active garden for your flowers and veggies?
Identify Time, Energy and Money Commitment
Once you identify the purpose of the space, you need to identify how much time, energy and money you can commit to your landscape. This needs to be realistic so you can set yourself up for success.
- If you’re an avid gardener and like to spend a lot of time in the garden, something higher maintenance is appropriate.
- If you love to garden, but only have time on the weekend, you’ll want something that is manageable within the time you have.
- If seasonal maintenance is all you have time for, you’ll need to a landscape that reflects that.
- If your outdoor space is simply there for your enjoyment only, then hiring someone to do the job, and routine maintenance is the way to go.
Identify Site Basics
Regardless of how much time you can dedicate to your yard and garden, it is essential to identify site basics. This allows you to have success no matter what your knowledge or commitment level is.
Things to note:
- How much sun, shade, and wind does the area receive? It is also helpful to note what cardinal direction your area faces. This can help with plant selection.
- Monitor the moisture levels of the area.
- Does the area get hit by natural rainfall?
- Do you have a sprinkler system that will water the area regularly?
- Is there a hose easily accessible for hand watering if needed?
- Does the area flood when it rains, or does it dry quickly?
- Get a soil PH Test. This will help identify what nutrients are needed to keep your plants happy.
- This can be done at any English Gardens locations.
- Our team will analyze your soil and recommend amendments to keep it optimal for your plants. This should ideally be done each spring, or at the very least before each large planting project.
Now that you have a plan, it is time to get plant shopping and planting.
Right Plant, Right Place
The single most important factor in the success of any landscape or garden is right plant, right place. The right plant can thrive with the right conditions, decreasing its susceptibility to diseases and insects, and increasing its longevity. This means you are selecting plants that meet your yard’s conditions. This can be hard when you have a specific plant or look in mind. Our experts can you help you find suitable plants that match the look and feel you are trying to achieve.
Resist the urge to select larger, more established plants. Starting with smaller plants, can save you money and increase the longevity of your landscape and garden. The smaller the plants, the longer your garden can go before needing a major renovation, or things start getting too crowded. It is important to always check plant tags prior to planting. This will tell you how large the mature plant will be as well as how much space is needed between plants. It is safe to assume that plants will get larger than what is indicated, so plan accordingly!
Now it is time to start selecting your plants. Start with your foliage plants. It’s easy to think about the flowers we want blooming in our yard and forget about what it will look like between blooming cycles. A successful landscape design will start with foliage first and add blooming plants in second. When flowers aren’t in bloom it is important to have interesting focal points throughout your garden. Select plants with a variety of foliage in different colors, shapes and sizes. Pairing dark red or burgundy foliage with bright green grasses, or blue needled trees will have your garden showing color all season. These are the plants that will hold interest between bloom cycles of your flowering plants.
Aim for Continuous Blooms
When selecting flowering plants, read the tag for bloom times. You should aim for continuous blooms. A great landscape will feature plants that bloom from early spring through late fall. Choose a few of your favorites for each point during the year, and plant throughout your landscape to have blooms all year long.
Mix it Up
Mix up the types of plants you use. Use a mixture of deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves each year) and evergreens to create interest all year. Evergreens and garden structures like fences and stone walls are the bones of your garden. Think of the places where snowfall looks the best and use evergreens to create a beautiful landscape even during the winter.
Make a Subtle Statement
Use topiaries, variegated plants, or weeping varieties to create a focal point or make a subtle statement in your garden. However, it is important to use these varieties sparingly. Use one or two to frame a walkway, or as a focal point in your yard, but don’t go overboard. In this case, less is more.
Plant Shrubs in Groups
Ideally, shrubs look best when planted in groups. Use a few as specimen plants. Mixing it up throughout your design helps create focal points.
Plant Perennials in Massings
Perennials look best when planted in mass. Planting several together to form a “puddle” will make them look more naturally occurring and less formal. Planting in rows or lines has a more formal look.
Care and Maintenance
Now that you have your beautiful new landscape installed, it is time to keep it looking its best.
The most important factor in the success of your garden is adequate water. This is especially important that first year. Newly planted trees and shrubs need water 3 to 5 times a week depending on their size.
Here is a reference for how much water different sized plants need. (The # is in reference to pot size)
- #1 to #2 At least 1 gallon
- #3 to #6 Two to 3 gallons
- #7 to #10 Three to 4 gallons
- #12 to #16 Five gallons
- #20 and larger Five to 10 gallons
Keep in mind, rainfall typically only hits the plants’ foliage, and rarely provides enough water at the root ball, which is where they absorb all the nutrients. It is best to provide supplemental water to your plants for at least the first year until they are well-established.
There are a few methods you can use to make watering your plants easier.
- Soaker Hose-A soaker hose is the most hands-off option. These hoses go around the base of the plants and are hidden below a layer of mulch. A soaker hose will allow water to slowly seep into the root system directly. They can be set on a timer, so you know your plants are getting enough water.
- Hose and Wand-A watering wand or adjustable hose nozzle are a manual option for watering. These allow you to adjust the flow of the water to a steady spray and monitor how much water is being delivered to your plants. You want to fill the basin at the base of the plant with water (usually 45 seconds to a minute per plant), allow it to soak in, and then re-water for another 30 seconds per plant.
- Sprinklers-While sprinklers are a great, convenient option for keeping your garden lush all season, they may not be the best solution for watering new plants. First, you will need to determine how much water is being delivered to each plant with the sprinkler. You can place a shallow container or tin can at the base of your plants, run your sprinkler for the normal amount of time, and then measure how much water is in the container. If there is less than a half-inch of water, you will either increase the amount of time you water that zone or have an alternative watering method for the first year. Keep in mind, it is the base of the plants that need to be getting the most water, not the foliage. Consider adjusting your sprinkler heads to focus on the base of the plants.
Just like people, plants need food too. Knowing your plant’s nutrient needs will help them stay happy and healthy.
Your landscape beds typically have 3 types of plants Annuals, Perennials and Woody Ornamentals, each of which have different fertilizing needs.
- Annuals are the flowers and plants that you plant yearly. They are not cold hardy, and are usually planted after the last frost in the spring and will last through the summer until the first frost in the fall. These plants should be fertilized weekly through the growing season with a water soluable and time-relased fertilizer. Learn more about Fertilizing Your Annuals here.
- Perennials are plants that can live for two or more growing seasons. For perennials, fertilizing every 6-8 weeks during the growing season is a general rule of thumb. Stop regular fertilizing after August 1. A final application can be applied around Halloween to promote root growth through the winter.
- Woody Ornamentals are the trees and shurbs of your garden. Some of these plants have variety specific fertilizers like Hydrangeas. Similar to perennials, a general rule of thumb is to apply fertilizer every 6-8 weeks during the growing season, stopping after August 1. One final appilication can be applied around Halloween to promote root growth through winter.
Weeds compete with your plants for water, sunlight, and soil nutrients. For a healthy and beautiful garden, it is important to control and maintain the weeds.
- Tackle weeds often. Make a routine of removing them weekly. This prevents the task from being too overwhelming. Also, pulling them when they first emerge will be easier since the roots are less established.
- Use preventative methods.
- Sprinkle a layer of Preen in the garden or landscape bed to prevent weeds from germinating. Repeat this process every 9 to 12 weeks for best results.
- Adding a layer of mulch in your garden bed keeps the soil cool and suppresses weeds by depriving them of light and heat, where they thrive.
- Water before you weed. This will loosen the soil and get those stubborn roots up more easily.
Pruning is a key component to maintaining the health and appearance of your trees, plants and shrubs. It’s important to remove dead and damaged branches. Pruning also trains plant growth, improves structure, reinvigorates your plants, and adds value to them.
It is important to know when to prune so you don’t damage new growth or prevent the plant from flowering in the future. A good rule of thumb is after the plant is finished blooming it is safe to prune.
Here is a quick overview:
- Early spring prune ornamental grasses, semi-woody perennials, boxwoods, holly, firethorn; woody vines, such as summer and fall-blooming clematis; roses, and summer-flowering trees and shrubs.
- In spring and summer prune evergreen shrubs, forsythia, rhododendrons, and other spring-flowering shrubs. Do not prune oaks and elms during their growing season.
- In mid-summer to late fall dead head flowering perennials and flowering annuals. During the summer, pruning will allow you to redirect the growth of younger plants.
- In winter prune deciduous and evergreen trees. There will be fewer pests in the winter, less impact on the plant’s vigor and the least amount of setback stress. Don’t prune evergreens after July 4th or before Halloween.
Mulch provides several benefits to your landscape and garden beds and can really finish off your project.
- Retains moisture for plants.
- Helps suppress weeds.
- Regulates soil temperature.
- Enriches the soil.
- Adds visual appeal to landscape.
Ideally, a 2-3” layer of mulch should be applied over bare soil. Add a 1-2” layer to existing mulch to top-dress the area. More than that is counterproductive; large piles of mulch get hot and can spell problems for plant roots beneath. Thick layers may also impede water and air flow.
Hopefully these tips and tricks will have you feeling confident to tackle your next landscape design project. However, if you are still unsure, call our experts and schedule a consultation with one of our designers today.