Before The Dirt: Pre-Plan Your Garden


The first step in planning a garden is probably determining what kind of garden you would like to have. Gardens range in style and purpose so it is important to have a clear idea of the kind of garden you are trying to grow. Some main types of residential gardens include: flower gardens, vegetable gardens, zen gardens, herb gardens and formal gardens. Some of these are best suited to specific climates and locations. In order to make a good decision about the kind of garden you want to have it is important to know a few things about the space your garden is going to be taking up and the weather conditions that may help or hinder your garden’s growth.


Where you live will greatly influence what you are able to do in your garden. It will probably be almost impossible to grow a tropical garden in Canada and rather silly to grow a cactus garden in a rainforest. You will achieve the most pleasing results in your garden if you make sure to grow elements that are native to your area; easy to grow; or simple to replace. If many of the elements in your garden are fairly uncomplicated, it will leave time to maintain your more precious orchids and roses.


While every gardener had the best intentions, it is important to know how much time is going to be spent maintaining the garden. Annuals must be replanted every year which allows you to recreate a new garden every year. However, the drawback of annual flowers is the need for constant upkeep. Annuals are comparably thirsty plants and need to be well-watered (but not over-watered). Many annuals require “pinching” or “deadheading” for better flowering. For many of us, the value of perennials, which will leave behind seeds that re-grow the next season, can be appreciated for the lack of tending needed.


Make sure your garden’s soil is healthy. Healthy soil grows stronger plants and attracts fewer pests that might damage your plants. There are some simple ways to test your own soil. Ideal soil for growing veggies in your own garden will crumble easily when you attempt to form a shape from it. If it holds shape to easily, it may be too moist and overworking wet soil can damage the soil structure for several growing seasons, seriously reducing the likelihood of healthy plants. If you soil seems dusty, it is probably too dry for many plants and will most likely be harder to work.


Take a look at the space of your garden. This will help decide what should be planted and where. Think out the logistics of your garden. Where are faucets located in relation to your various plants? Are there any areas where the ground is uneven and unlikely to drain properly? How do sun and shade play across the area? Are there places that are unlikely get sunlight? It may be a good idea to sketch your area. The more time you spend planning your garden the more pleasing your final result will probably be.


A garden should also have a visual composition. The plants, flowers and/or various statuary pieces should work together in the given space to create something aesthetically pleasing. Think of how your garden looks from different angles and vantages, like from house windows and doors. Great looking garden fountains are available at

Color palettes

Pay attention to your color palette. There are many ways to choose the colors of your garden. While there is neither right nor wrong in color selection if you’ve contemplated your palette ahead of time you will have greater control over the final appearance. Some of the most simple color schemes select from either warm or cool tones, while others rely on a single color for a striking monochromatic effect. While for an interesting and dramatic look you might select several analogous colors like shades of red and red violet and then use a complementary color, like golden yellow as an accent. Depending on the kind of garden you are planning you may want a wide variety of colors. Try to create grouped plantings when using many different colors to create a design and visual flow. Many single colored flowers will look dull from a distance.

Composing your garden

Appreciate the space you are using. If your garden is going to be planted along a fence or against a house wall use a vine to add height and shape to your garden. Examine textures and shapes. To keep balance in your garden, make sure to use not just long stemmed flowers but also groundcovers and low plants with a variety of leave sizes and shapes.

Add focal points

By using a fountain, birdbath or other piece of statuary, you can add year round ornamentation as well as a focal point for you garden. If you plan your garden carefully it can be beautiful year-round and not just at the height of the growing season. By using many planters and pieces of statuary in your garden you are have the advantage of complete control over your garden’s shape. Take a look at some garden planter options. A garden consisting of planters can be arranged and rearranged to suit different moods, and different seasons to create something that provides visual interest year round. So if your having trouble deciding on a permanent look, using planters can give you design flexibility. Planters also provide shape and allow for greater control over plant growth.


When using planters it is still important to think about the heights and textures of every flower and plant and the containers that hold them.

Use ornamental rocks and small pieces of garden statuary to compliment taller planters. Place something tall and with an interesting texture and bright color in the center of your planter and surround it with lower, more simple textures for balance.

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