How to Make a Good Garden


One person’s idea of what makes a good garden will differ from another’s. And what is the best treatment for any specific garden must take into account its function and appearance. The climate, the soil and the needs of plants must also be considered if disappointments are to be avoided. Having said that, there are a few general basic guidelines which can usefully be borne in mind and are applicable to almost any garden:-

Simplicity of design and layout makes for ease of maintenance, with a consequent saving of time, effort and expense.

The design, layout and planting schemes should be practical and meet your own needs and lifestyle. What suits a neighbour may be totally inappropriate.

How to Make a Good Garden  Garden

Planting needs to be in size, scale and proportion to the house and to the site. When it comes to the look of the garden, the desirability of an acceptable appearance throughout the year is the common factor. Otherwise the scope is enormous and largely a matter of taste. Some prefer to have subdued colour and interest year round. Others opt for spasmodic bursts of brilliance at particular times of the year.

COMPLEMENTARY FEATURES OF A GOOD GARDEN

Paths and paved surfaces Grass is out of the question where heavy wear is likely and year round usage vital in all weathers, for example walkways from the house, to garage, patio, greenhouse or garden shed. In all these circumstances grass soon turns to a quagmire and hard surface are called for. When it comes to the choice of hard surfacing, don’t choose in isolation — be mindful of the wide range of construction materials available. And when adding to existing hard-surfaced areas, always stick to the same type and colour of product as the original, to avoid ending up with a hotch-potch effect. Generally speaking, look to a low maintenance, hardwearing, easy to clean surface.

Concrete, tarmac and brick all look right in the company of brick buildings, but all need to be laid in a workmanlike manner. As does simulated stone, which suits stone-faced dwellings and walls. But here price tends to be a limiting factor. Concrete will provide an acceptable, basic, functional, inexpensive surface which will eventually mellow into almost any setting.

Gravel for paths and driveways can prove to be something of a problem. And gravel must never be viewed as an inexpensive option, for it most certainly is not when properly laid. Initially, it should be laid on a firm, deep, hardcore base; but even so, gravel paths and drives eventually become weedy. They need regular attention and they need topping up. Inevitably, too, gravel sooner or later finds its way onto the lawn to damage mower blades.

Crazy paving is another controversial subject, and it is not for the inexperienced to lay. It must be laid on a concrete base if uneven settlement and breaking up is to be avoided.

Paving slabs of one sort or another form a good serviceable surface, provided they are bedded onto a 5 cm (2 in) layer of level, well firmed sand. Paving slabs offer a good starting point for newcomers to try their hand at path and patio construction. Lay each slab onto five dabs of ready-mix concrete — a dab at each corner and one centrally is usually sufficient to prevent any side movement on the slabs. But even with paving slabs, time spent consulting a construction manual is time well spent — before making a start. Alternatively, get on-the-spot advice from a local builder.

Stepping stones (paving slabs set in grass).

These make a useful access through the garden, without resorting to the rigid lines of a continuous path; and again, provided they are bedded on sand and dropped onto five dabs of concrete, they are quite steady and serviceable. But don’t use slabs smaller than about 30 x 45 cm (12×18 in) or you risk some see-saw movement. Also, see that they are set 12 mm below the surrounding lawn level, so as not to catch the mower blades.

Walls

The present day tendency is to keep walling to a minimum — to reserve it perhaps for building retaining walls for terracing, constructing raised beds, or for building features like barbecues — and to turn instead to hedges and fences for barriers, screens, divisions and shelter.

Wall building, for whatever purpose, is not something to be undertaken lightly. The initial cost is high, and the beginner is well advised to leave the job to those with knowledge of the subject, as mistakes can prove costly — especially when it comes to retaining walls. These need adequate weep holes, and they need to be strengthened within precise limits if they are to withstand the considerable weight and force of soil and water from behind. The inexperienced could try their hand at low walling, such as around raised beds. But as with path laying, do consult a construction manual first.

From the gardener’s point of view, the wind turbulence behind a solid wall makes life very difficult for plants, particularly in exposed gardens. The problem arises as the wind whistles over the top of the wall and then drops down behind with a swirling action. This is a problem which can be overcome, although at considerable cost. Use landscape/pierced walling slabs in preference to solid bricks or blocks, as they allow the wind to filter through and, in so doing, slow its speed and reduce its force.

The somewhat harsh appearance of walling can soon be softened with climbers and wall plants.

Fences come in many forms and have a major contribution to make in most gardens. In fact, it is probably true to say that fencing and hedging — individually or collectively — do more than any other feature to improve the environment within the garden. They create shelter and privacy for the benefit of both people and plants. Use fences:

a) to provide instant results.

b) where space is limited. Fences take up relatively little space when compared to a hedge.

c) to camouflage and screen utility areas from view. Trellis, supported on posts, is useful for this sort of work, as it is for any partition or screen within the garden.

d) to provide a physical barrier. Boundary, close-boarded fences of about 1.8 m (6 ft) in height combine strength and durability with shelter. In exposed gardens, wind turbulence can be minimized by erecting 1.5 m (5 ft) high close-boarded fencing and then topping it with 30 cm (12 in) of open trellis.

e) to protect young hedging plants until they become established. Use something like wattle for the purpose; or, alternatively, picket-type fencing makes for a more upmarket finish. Traditionally timber vertical laths are attached to cross rails. The plastic version of today is equally effective and does not need painting.

f) to minimize the harmful effects of early morning sun after overnight frost. It is the over-rapid thaw which causes the damage to plants in these situations, and strategically placed fencing will provide shade and ensure a slow thaw. Trellis is useful to shade a choice bush or plant.

Maintenance of fencing

All timber fencing and fencing posts need painting with preservative every couple of years or so. Where they are in close proximity to plants, use a safe horticultural preservative and not creosote which gives off damaging fumes on a hot summer’s day.

Fencing posts

Most fences are only as good as their supporting posts. And when erecting any fence, bear in mind that one quarter to one third of the total length of the post should be below ground if wind firmness is to be guaranteed. A 90 cm (3 ft) high fence needs 1.35 m long posts. The portion below ground should be treated with preservative before burying.

The traditional method of erecting fence posts is to dig out a hole to the required depth and then set the post in the hole and concrete around. The modern way is to use proprietary metal sockets, although these again need to be pre-set in concrete for stability. Erect the posts as the makers recommend, but always allow at least three days for the concrete to set before bolting the post into the socket. Failure to observe this point can result in the bolts breaking up the concrete.

Hedging is highly effective for screening and for providing shelter from wind. With hedging there is little of the damaging air turbulence associated with solid walls and screening.

When considering the whole question of shelter, there is one useful calculation to keep in mind. On a level site, a hedge planted across the direction of the prevailing wind will normally provide effective shelter, on the leeward side, to a distance equal to four times its height. For maximum protection, the ends of any hedge should have a return, so that damaging wind doesn’t swirl around the ends. When planning any layout, allow a minimum 1 m (yd) wide strip to accommodate a hedge comfortably.

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Planted areas Success in any garden depends very much on having healthy plants that grow and flourish and are happy in their surroundings. One of the best ways to ensure that any new purchase will grow well is to match its needs, as nearly as possible, to the prevailing conditions of its allocated space — with particular reference to aspect, soil and shelter. It is generally cheaper, easier and a great deal more satisfactory to choose plants suited to existing conditions within the garden, than to try to modify the prevailing conditions of the garden to suit the plants.

Climate

Is the garden situated in a mild, average or cold climate area, with very low winter temperatures?

Aspect and shelter Note which parts of the garden receive midday and/or afternoon sun, and are sheltered from cold winds. These are the warmest, most favoured sites, well suited to sun-loving plants. Planting against a sheltered, sunny, warm wall is the most favoured site of all. Likewise, note those areas which are shaded and sunless, or receive only early morning sun. Note those areas which are cold and exposed to strong and chilling winds.

In short, the main things to establish — apart from climate — are which parts of the garden are sunny, which are shaded; and which are sheltered or exposed.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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