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Landscape Design Tips for the Total Beginner

By Staff Writer
Share to PinterestLandscape Design Tips for the Total Beginner
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There was a gardening renaissance during the pandemic. Forced to stay at home, amateur gardeners finally had the time to tackle ambitious outdoor projects, and many lockdown gardens were born.

Tinkering in your backyard is one of the most rewarding pastimes you'll ever take up. Start by sketching a plan, and visit other gardens throughout the process for inspiration. If you're keen to overhaul your own green space, it's possible even if your horticultural knowledge is currently non-existent. You will learn as you go and adapt; get the basics right, and you'll be well on your way.

01

Pay attention

Share to Pinterestwoman sitting in doorway looking into backyard

Before you do anything in your garden, take some time to observe the play of light and the movement of the sun throughout the day. This will inform where you put sun-loving and shade-loving plants.

Knowing what USDA hardiness zone you're in is important too, and you should group plants with similar needs to optimize your garden. Read the instructions on the items you purchase from your nursery. Spacing advice, for example, should be followed for the best results!

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02

Soil and a good foundation

Share to Pinterestman digging in the backyard

You might need to clear your site, which can be laborious, so mentally prepare for the elbow grease and hours spent digging. A portion of your lawn likely has to go too. Then it's all about soil quality.

A soil test will establish whether your growing medium lacks nutrients and is at the correct pH level. Incorporate nutrient-rich organic matter from the beginning, and your garden will thank you—peat-free compost helps soil with moisture levels, whether you're working with dry soil or clay. Winter is the time to cut back and add mulch.

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03

Design principles

Share to Pinterestwoman designing a garden on a tablet

Vary your plant textures for a more compelling visual narrative. When planning your layout, think about how big certain plants will become because you don't want to run out of room. In general, it's a good idea to work with layers—shorties in the front, medium-sized plants just behind them, and tall dudes at the back close to your property's borders.

Think about how formal or wild you want your garden to look. Super manicured gardens require structured, symmetrical plants.

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04

Planting done the proper way

Share to Pinterestman dumping seeds from a packet into his hand

Again, read the directions. If a pack of seeds comes with a recommended planting depth, stick with it. Give potted plants from the nursery a thorough drink of water when you first pop them in the ground. And get the timing right, especially if you're starting a veggie patch—soil temperature is a make-or-break factor.

Creating resilient labels for your plants will serve you well if you aren't making notes on a garden map.

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05

Pests

Share to Pinterestwoman building a garden fence

Arm yourself with the tools you need to effectively keep pests at bay. Prevention is better than cure, and the organic route is preferable to chemicals.

To that end, certain plants put off certain pests, including deer, and neem oil is beneficial. You may need to build fencing to prevent stray dogs and animals from wreaking havoc.

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06

Make life easier for yourself

Share to Pinterestwoman planting in the garden of her home

Pick plants that suit the conditions in your garden, and aim for hardy, low-maintenance species that you don't need to water often, if at all. Try to choose mostly perennials to minimize the work you have to do every year, and ensure there's color in your garden from season to season.

Phlox is a fabulous option with its pink and purple hues. It loves moisture, whereas bearded irises, grasses, and eryngiums thrive in dry conditions. Gorgeous peonies are long-lived too.

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07

Lifestyle practicalities

Share to Pinterestplacing irrigation into potted plant

Ask yourself what you need from your garden to elevate your domestic life, and what does your garden need from you? Consider areas where you'd like more privacy and select trees and shrubs for borders.

If you're away from home a lot for work or travel, then a timed irrigation system is a worthwhile investment.

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08

Figure out how to cut costs

Share to Pinterestwoman examining a small outdoor plant at the garden center

Use materials from your current garden to forge a new one. Old bricks can form paths, and found rocks can build walls. You'll save loads of dough if you learn how to propagate plants from cuttings, and self-seeders will aid your cause.

Go for smaller perennials—sure they take some time, but they'll save you money and settle in better than their larger counterparts, as will young bare-root trees. Patience is a virtue here.

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09

Know when to call in the pros

Share to Pinterestman putting a pond into his backyard

There's a lot you can DIY in a garden with a bit of research and resourcefulness, but you also need to recognize when a task is beyond your abilities. It's great if you have a friend or family member who's an experienced gardener you can call when you're in a quandary.

If you've got a large garden, you'll likely want to stick to one manageable area and project at a time or call in reinforcements. if you're going all out, jobs like pool installations are often best to leave to expert contractors.

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10

A journey, not a destination

Share to Pinterestwoman looking at vegetables she picked from the garden

Don't be afraid to remove shrubs and trees you planted that aren't gelling in your outdoor space or don't suit a particular spot. If they'll survive a move, consider finding them a new home!

Finally, set short-term goals while acknowledging that your garden will be a constant work in progress. You can add to and tweak it over the years when your budget and growing skill allow.

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