Column: Garden contemplations

Community GardensA

by Val Loseth, the Wheelbarrow Gardener

Much of our world today is based on visual stimulation and instant gratification. We are bombarded with images from magazines, television and social media feeds, such as Instagram and Pinterest. We see pictures of lush green gardens, bright and colourful flower beds, amazing backyards with decks, pools and fire pits. We want what we see, and we want it now. What you don’t see is a disclaimer as to the amount of preparation and labour that goes into the picture perfect garden. You don’t see the physical and environmental attributes of the yard that allow that garden to flourish. So what is it then that you should take notice of before you consider adding a new garden or updating the old?
Things to consider before putting the shovel in the ground:

The size of the yard, are you working with a narrow lot or an acerage? This will determine the size, type  and quantity of plants, always keep in mind the mature size of the plants both above ground and below, they do tend to grow.

Soil condition is one of the more important physical considerations. Whether you have sandy, rich organic or clay based soil will make all the difference in the world when it comes to how successful any garden will be. It’s important to know what you’re working with before you even start. 

What is the hardiness zone, are there pockets in the yard that have micro-climate characteristics? Knowing this expands the choices of plants and provides many more exotic plant options, you could be the envy of the neighbourhood with that one plant that no one else seems to be able to grow.

Light and shade patterns, what is a sun drenched area in the am, becomes a deep shade zone later that afternoon due to the 40 foot Spruce tree beside the house. Certain plants require specific number of hours of sunlight to grow successfully, so knowing how the sun moves around the yard spring through summer will ensure success with the proper choice in plants.

What happens when it rains? Where does the water go, does it pool in low levels of the yard creating soggy wetland conditions or is there good drainage? Where are the downspouts on the house located, high volume run off can uproot delicate plants, cause soil erosion and flooding issues for both your home and garden.

Neighbours and the neighbourhood are other factors that you should consider. Is there an unsightly fence or a noisy dog that disturbs the serenity of the yard. Is there a need for privacy planting? Are there landscape requirements from the developer, specific types and calipers of trees, and and timeline for them to be planted?

These are all important factors to consider, but none is as important as the lifestyle that your family leads. Taking the time to think about how you and your family will use the garden will also help you to determine the extent of which you want to create a garden worthy of a pin on Pinterest. 

Do you have the following?

Time: Do you have an abundance of it, or are you running here and there never having a moment to stop and smell the roses? Gardens don’t look after themselves and although there are many options for low maintenance there will always need to be a time commitment made.

Energy: Looking after a garden takes energy, different levels based on your plant choices and design of course, but exerted energy none the less. How much energy are you and your family willing to spend?

Money: Gardens are not cheap, how much money you are willing to invest in the garden will certainly make many of the choices for you, keep in mind it does not all need to be done at once. Building a garden in stages is not only smart dollar wise it allows you and your family to grow with the garden. 

Hiring a professional can cost you money initially, but it most certainly can save you time, energy and money in the long run. If figuring out all those points discussed earlier seems a little daunting and the idea of trying to choose the proper plants puts you in a panic, let me figure it all out, that is after all my job!  

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