Designing a new garden layout can be a source of great joy. Not only can your garden become a calming feature of your home, but improving the layout can make maintenance much easier year-round. To keep things simple, stroll through your neighborhood and look for gardens you like. What plants are thriving, even on the hottest days? How often do the homeowners need to water? Are they growing food, or just flowers? Your goals can be easier to define if you know what thrives in your region.
If you’re looking to do something complex for your yard, it’s probably best to consult an expert like the ones you see here. But to start, here’s what you need to consider to start your own custom garden layout.
Low Maintenance Weeding Options
Do your best to make life hard for weeds in your yard. Plan for mulch, and if you have pets, make sure you put down cedar mulch to repel fleas. Plant flowers that bush out and shade their own roots to prevent weeds from building strong roots, and make sure you pull weeds after you water or after a good soaking rain.
Find Plants that Thrive in Your Area
Keep an eye out for plants that thrive in your neighborhood. If your neighbor has wonderful roses or peonies, check out how much sun they get and when. As a general rule, peonies like to be planted and left alone. If you move them, they’ll take a while to come back, so pick a sunny spot and give them room.
Roses need morning sun and airflow to avoid mildew. In every new garden layout, unless you’re planting a riot of annual flowers, give the plants some space so they can fill out.
When seeking out vigorous plants, take care to contain some to avoid a garden takeover. In some regions, mint is a lovely addition, and in others, it’s a pest. Rudbeckia, or black-eyed Susan, loves the heat and will happily bloom all through the most breathless time of the year, but it will also choke out other plants. Keep these plants contained by planting them in a small bed or simply burying them in a pot.
For all-season color, start with bulbs. Tulips and daffodils are quite hearty, especially if your region enjoys a real winter. If it doesn’t freeze where you live, consider putting down a flowering groundcover or vine, such as vinca, to get early spring color.
You can really boost the quality of your soil while you plant your bulbs in the fall. If you’ve mulched with fine cedar or pine bark, it may already be breaking down. Turn it under and apply another layer after you plant your bulbs. Add compost if you have it. While your winter garden is dormant, consider putting out solar lights to brighten the space; many solar lights can be purchased for very little money, replaced or given fresh batteries when those fail, and they look great against the snow.
Spots for Annuals
While you’re working to get perennials started, make room for annuals. Plant dianthus, zinnias, and portulaca in clumps. If your winters are mild enough, start portulaca from seed and allow them to go to seed in the fall; these charming little flowers will fill up holes in your flower beds and add a beautiful boost of color.
There are some annuals that you will need to pull before the go to seed. If you plant celosia or cockscomb, make sure to pull them before the first frost. These hybrids can re-seed some unpleasant weeds if allowed to spread.
Work with the Sun
Keep an eye on where the sun is brightest or where there’s little shade. If you want a vegetable garden, the sunniest spot is your tomato patch. Make sure to clear a spot for vining plants, from flowers to cucumbers and squash.
Check Your Calendar
Tomatoes planted early may flower and produce earlier, but tomatoes need a certain amount of daylight to really produce. Don’t force things; it will only lead to frustration.
To reduce the risk of pests, consider the timing of your plantings. If your neighbor is donating zucchini at an alarming rate but you never seem to grow any, you may have vine borers. Carefully review your planting calendar. Oftentimes, you can protect your tender plants from pests by planting a bit later. In the midwestern United States, vine borers can be avoided in zucchini, cucumbers and other squash plants by planting after May 15. By that point, the vine borer larvae have already chosen their homes, so your vining garden plants will be safe.
Water and Drainage Considerations
If your yard slopes away from your home and you want a vegetable garden, make sure you till perpendicular to the run-off or your soil will just follow the water downhill. Try to put moisture tolerant plants in low-lying areas, or consider putting a pond there.
If you choose to put in a pond that will collect run-off, be very careful about what you put on your lawn. The fertilizer will create a green lawn and a green pond. If you must fertilize, set up a water feature in a free-standing pot. Add a solar fountain for easy water circulation, and consider a floating solar light to brighten the area as well.
Lights and Accessories
Solar lights are a great and simple addition to any garden. Outline your paths with them, or put a light you can focus where it will highlight a night-blooming plant, like moonflower. You can also brighten your garden with a white flower border along walkways, or white marble chips as a decorative mulch. If you enjoy dining outside, consider adding strings of solar lights to create an outdoor room.
To create a garden that works with your life, start small. Don’t invest in large plants that you may have to move later. Work with annuals of varying sizes so you can get an idea of what perennials will work well in a spot. If you have serious drainage issues or are really struggling to get larger plants started, considering bringing in a pro to help with soil quality and water run-off.