Friday, 13 December 2013

5 Things you should know before planting a garden

1.       What is the ph your soil?

The degree of acidity or alkalinity of soil is referred to as its ph level. You can get a simple soil ph testing kit from the garden centre. Different plants prefer different ph levels.  Ph is measured on a scale from 0 to 14 – 0 being the most acid, 14 being alkaline and 7 being neutral.

Most plants will grow in neutral soil, some, for example, rhododendrons and azaleas prefer acid soil, others, like Cercis and Aucuba prefer an alkaline soil.

2.       What type of soil do you have?

Soil is composed of small particles which vary in the degree to which they can hold water which influences the consistency of the soil.  Soil containing a lot of particles derived from soft materials like clay will hold a lot of water and create be sticky and heavy.  Soil containing a lot of particles derived from harder materials like granite will not hold much water at all creating a light, free draining soil.  Soil types are described on a scale ranging from clay at one end to sandy at the other end.  When you get a good balance of the two you will have the perfect soil which is referred to as a loamy soil.

Different plants prefer different soil types.  Many plants suitable for a clay soil will not enjoy growing on a sandy soil and vice versa.

3.       What is the aspect of the garden?

The direction the garden faces will influence the light levels in various parts throughout the day.  Some gardens are in full sun all day, others receive very little sun at all.  It is more likely that part of the garden will be fully shaded all the time, part will have the sun all day and one area will have dappled shade for most of the day. 

It is important to choose plants that prefer to grow in the light conditions specific to any given part of the garden.

4.       What are the ground conditions?

A high water table or an underground stream or drainage problems caused by compacted or heavy soil will cause waterlogging which will influence what will enjoy growing in your garden.   A garden built on a very rocky site with a lot of chalk will be free draining and will dry out very quickly. 

Some plants thrive in a bog garden whilst others will simply rot and prefer a dry, sunny position.

5.       What plants are already in the garden?
When you move house take time to find out what is already growing in the garden before starting to re-plant.  This will reveal the type of plants that like the conditions in the garden and therefore what other plants will also be suitable. It is not only the wanted plants that you’re looking for, but also any undesirables that are lurking under the blanket of winter.  Mares Tail and Bindweed both go to ground in the winter and will need to be dealt with before any new plants are introduced.

Prarie planting in a garden in Woking, Surrey designed by Linsey Evans Garden Design.  If you'd like help with designing your garden please get in touch.  Visit my Web site and Facebook page for more project photos.  

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