What can I do to prepare my garden for beautiful, successful plants?
Keep things simple and manageable - choose one part of your landscape, such as a bare spot, and begin. Start small and the job becomes fun instead of overwhelming.
For example, I have a spot in my front yard where grass will not grow and I plan on creating an island there with a tree and a small garden. By keeping your efforts focused, you will ensure success.
Grow easy-care plants, such as no-fail perennials, and concentrate your choices on a few plants massed together to create an eye-popping combination.
Decide what kinds of plants you like and visit established gardens; this will provide you with plenty of ideas.
Sunlight is the most important consideration when choosing a spot for a garden.
The east side of your house gets morning sun and afternoon shade. The west is the opposite. The south side receives sun most of the day, while the north gets little direct sun.
If you can, plant east or south. Always make sure there is an easy water source available.
Another important consideration is the soil. Before planting, build up your soil with top soil and rich, organic compost.
I personally like mushroom humus as an addition to my soil, but whichever components you use, make sure it is rich in nutrients and organic matter.
Take the earthworm test. If you can dig into your soil with a shovel and it does not contain one to two earthworms, some soil amending is needed. Soils with a pH between 5.5 and 7 usually sustain a flower garden well.
Now is the time to design and create! Put beds and borders where you can see them. Place formal beds close to a home and informal gardens away from the house.
Set tall plants behind a border or in the middle of a garden bed. Relate the garden to its surroundings and make the size right for you.
It all depends on the amount of time, energy and money you have available; it is easier to make a garden larger than sizing it down.
My plan is for an all-season-bloom garden: Try bulbs for spring color; perennials for early summer such as foxgloves, coral bells and dianthus; midsummer annuals could be petunias, marigolds and zinnias; and sedums, asters and goldenrods for late summer.
Evergreens give you a winter interest to carry you through till the next growing season.
Flower gardens enrich the lives of their makers. The goal of the simple gardener should be to enjoy its beauty in exchange for the time invested.
It won't take long until you are planning and creating another simple garden design, so keep on digging!
Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.