Post details: The Ultimate Garden Planning Guide


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The Ultimate Garden Planning Guide

Follow our tips now to ensure you will have the most beautiful growing season yet.

Dreams and Designs

Sketch your ideas on paper. It's easier to make changes with an eraser than with a shovel. This is the time to consider garden views from inside the house, traffic patterns throughout the yard, and ways your family uses the yard.

Draw permanent structures such as paths, walls, fences, decks, and gazebos, even if you don't intend to erect them immediately.

Reserve space near hedges, walls, and fences for plants that benefit from the extra protection and shade. Keep plants an ample distance from one another and from nearby structures to allow for growth. Give wide berth to new shrubs and trees; when fully grown, they can take up a lot of space.

Remember to leave open play areas for children. Add exercise areas for your pets where they won't trample plants. Leave yourself room to work. If you plan large beds, add space for stepping-stones or a winding path that will allow access to plants in the middle of the bed.

13 Best Tools

To anyone starting a first garden, buying all the tools can be pretty intimidating. This list covers the basics that you'll need to get started.

- Trowel
- Spade (for digging and transplanting)
- Shovel (for moving earth and mulch, flipping compost, etc.)
- Hoe
- Pruning shears
- Sharp knife
- Narrow digging tool
- 5-gallon bucket
- Cart or wheelbarrow
- Hose
- Watering can
- Hat (for sun protection)
- Gloves

The Dirt on Dirt

In the excitement of spring planting, don't forget the part of the garden beneath the surface. Soil improvement is the most important step for creating a successful garden.

What Kind of Soil Do You Have?

Prepare your planting beds well and your garden will thrive. Loose, crumbly earth that lets in air and moisture and doesn't become waterlogged encourages plant roots to develop.

Be sure your garden has the proper pH (acid-alkaline balance) and fertility. Most county cooperative extension services provide soil testing. Or you can buy a soil-testing kit at a local garden center for about $12. It will tell you if your soil is too acidic (sour) and needs lime, or if it's too alkaline (sweet) and needs sulfur or gypsum. Most perennials like an average pH count of about 6.5.

Soil tends to be acidic in rainy regions, alkaline in desert areas. Midcontinent gardens generally lean toward neutral soil.

Even when very fertile, soil that is too acidic or too alkaline will let plants die of malnutrition because some nutrients don't dissolve as well under acidic or alkaline conditions. The presence of organic matter, such as compost, makes the soils at either end of the spectrum more neutral.

6 Steps for Quick Compost
If you want to make compost in a hurry, follow these simple steps.

1. Start with a 6-to 8-inch layer of plant material. (Use spent blossoms, pruned trimmings, lawn clippings, and other garden debris. You can add eggshells, fruit and vegetable peelings, and coffee grounds, too.)

2. Add about an inch of manure or a sprinkle of nitrogen fertilizer (such as the kind made for lawns -- but not with a weed killer included) to each layer of plant material. This gets the pile "cooking."

3. Cover with a 1-inch layer of garden soil.

4. Repeat the layers until the pile is about 4 feet high.

5. Water the compost pile whenever you water the garden.

6. Turn the pile at least once a month so it gets ample oxygen.

Better Homes and Gardens



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