If creativity is missing in your life then get gardening. Whatever size canvas you have to work with you can create the most wonderful sights, smells, textures and tastes by working with nature. Your garden can be a wildflower-filled wilderness or a pungent herbal paradise; you can feed your family from your soil or tempt frogs, bats and hedgehogs into your very own wildlife reserve. But no matter what your aims are, it is essential that you take a few things into account before you rush off to the garden center.
The first thing to consider is the environment in which you are hoping to create your green paradise. You should be trying to achieve a perfect balance between the conditions in your garden – the soil type, the amount of sunshine, wind and rain it receives – and your aims for the garden. By so doing you should have a garden that requires minimum intervention of any kind, be it heavy watering or pest control. A green gardener does not attempt to grow plants that need a lot of water in a dry, wind-swept garden or in a large, heavy container on a balcony, for example.
To assess the capabilities of your garden, observe it at different times of the day: notice where the sun reaches at certain points in the day, where the heaviest frosts are, where the drainage is at its poorest and where the wind hits.
To find out the type of soil you are dealing with, take some in your hand and rub it between your fingers. If it is sticky and rolls into a ball it is clay soil; if it is crumbly and dry and looks grey it is chalky; if is gritty and will not form into a ball it is sandy soil; and if it is smooth and silky it is silt. It is also useful to determine the acid/alkaline balance of your soil by using a pH testing kit, available from garden centers. Some plants prefer one soil over another; for example, roses dislike sandy soils, and rhododendrons and azaleas love an acidic soil. Also, if you are in an urban environment with a garden close to a busy road, you may want to get your soil tested for lead content by the local environmental department. Should contamination be high and you want to grow edibles, then don’t despair – container gardening is a good option, or you can build some raised beds with clean topsoil.
Once you know the capabilities of your garden, you must then consider how much time and effort you are willing to put into your garden and how much space you have in which to achieve your aims. If you have limited time then growing fruit and vegetables may not be the thing for you, but tending to a few herbs in a window box and growing perennials and self-sowing annuals in your beds should be perfectly possible, and just as pleasing to the local wildlife.
Stay with us to see What to Grow, Part 2.
Photo by: John Casey -