Too often, landscapes just happen without much planning. “Just Because” landscapes often wind up with not only visual problems, such as large plants hiding or overwhelming smaller ones, but serious challenges such as large plants blocking sunlight from reaching smaller plants. Companion planting becomes a real thing, too, when you consider problems such as the way that black walnut trees can challenge the growth of other plants.
First Step in Planning
Whether you are starting with a bare lot or cleaning up the visuals and other considerations in an established garden, one of the first things you need to do is to draw a map of your area. It doesn’t have to be perfectly to scale, but it is a good idea to have it at least roughly proportional. If you can manage it, exact measurements are truly handy. They help prevent problems such as over-planting an area or allowing enough room for a large tree.
Second Planning Step
Add notes to your basic map. These can include existing trees, shrubs or other plants that you wish to keep, soil types, general slope of an area and whether you have exceptionally dry or wet areas. Check the agricultural zone for your area, if possible, and make notes about weather patterns. If you can manage it, look for decade or longer trends in climate behavior. Your local newspaper office might be helpful with this latter part, or just sit down with some of the older residents of your area, especially those who have beautiful gardens.
Third Step: Selecting Plants
Selecting plants for your garden should take many factors into consideration. Climate, soil type, highest and lowest possible temperatures, and trends such as frequent flooding or wildfires. In a very real sense, your landscape, whether it covers several acres or is restricted to a patio or even a windowsill, is a small biome over which you have control. Generally, plants come in a variety of general categories. Personal taste as well as environmental factors are important.
- Plant size: Trees are likely to be the largest plants in your garden, although some cacti or succulents can reach a respectable size. When selecting large trees, such as Queensland bottle trees, dragon trees, or olive trees, be sure to discover their probable largest size. Even if your trees are not likely to reach maturity during your tenancy on your property, you will save future owners headaches if you plan to give large trees plenty of growing room.
- Soil preference: Most plants respond well to a well-drained loan soil, but some have picky soil preferences. For example, glauca grass trees need a specific type of mycorrhiza to thrive. The easiest way to get the mycorrhiza is to get some of the soil from around a healthy grass tree. Add that soil to the earth where you are either planting your tree in your garden or even in the potting mix for one you plan to grow in a tub. To encourage the mycorrhiza to multiply, mix one cup brown sugar with 12 gallons of water, and use the mixture to water your tree.
- Highest and lowest temperatures. This is an important thing to know, especially if you want to grow a fruit bearing tree such as avocados. Avocados originate in tropical or semi-tropical rain forest areas. They like both warmth and moisture. Fortunately, they are not picky about soil as long as it is fertile and well drained.
- This is another biggie when it comes to growing plants. Plants get other things from rainfall besides moisture. Rain washes carbon dioxide out of the sky. It combines with soil to become accessible to plant roots. Lightning and ozone create nitrogen in the atmosphere. This is also washed into the soil. Nearly as important, rainwater does not contain chlorine or any of the other chemicals added to water during modern processing.
- Extra dry or extra wet conditions. This is going to be important to your selection of plants, especially large trees. Many plants, include certain trees, get root rot if the soil is too moist. For example, dragon trees, even though they like a moderately moist environment, still prefer well-drained soils. Plants such as the golden barrel cactus, which is a desert plant, prefer dry or xeriscape surroundings.
Planning Your Garden or Landscape
Planning your garden or landscape can be a lot of fun. After you consider the physical requirements of your plants, you will want to also think about the visual esthetics of plant placement. It is almost like painting a picture, except instead of colored pigments, you are using living plants. Trees can be a focal point. Shorter vegetation can be placed nearby, while the very lowest growing should probably be in front of that.
While your environment is important, your personal taste in plants, the feel you want your garden to project, and even the garden furnishings you add say a lot about you and contribute to creating the environment or feeling that you want to enjoy in your outdoor spaces.