If you're a beginning gardener, just getting started, you've come to the right place.
This article is meant to cover gardening basics, overall concepts and things you should know.
Whether you already have a garden space that’s overgrown and unkept, or you want to convert a blank space into a gorgeous garden full of plants, this article is your starting point on that journey.
I like to think of gardening like art. You are creating a piece of art when designing a garden. That means, although there are specific landscape rules that should be kept in mind, the reality is that all rules can be broken if YOU like the results. It also means that, like art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What may look good to one person may not be appealing to others.
That being said, we are here to give you the basics of landscaping the way the professionals do it. How is it that gardens in professional environments, whether it’s business parks, hotels, exclusive housing developments, or other places that pros are hired for the design and maintenance, all are admired by most people. What is it that they have that many homes do not.
Well, that’s what we want to answer.
Before we get into more details, we want to let you know that, although right now things might seem daunting, it's really not. You don't have to know everything or every plant to have a gorgeous garden, you just need to know, well, the basics.
We have over 2 decades of gardening experience in the professional landscape space, dealing with businesses and their needs, and then homeowners. In that time, we have noticed certain trends, questions and problems most homeowners encounter for which they don’t know the answers.
Read our about us page for more information on us and how we can help you.
Where to start? Well, it depends on what you want to accomplish.
Basics On Transforming A Garden
If you’ve lived in your home for a while, you are probably not starting from a blank slate. Perhaps your current flower beds are overgrown and full of weeds - or at least, plants you think “could” be weeds. How do you know what’s a weed and what is not? How do you know what to do with that overgrown bed?
My own definition of a weed: Any plant that grows where it is not wanted.
You start by cleaning out the bed of any unwanted plants. If you’re just beginning you might not know what to keep and what to throw away, and that is OK. Sometimes, you may just need to get rid of everything. Just know there is nothing wrong with that. It’s fine to do this and then start from a blank slate.
However, if you want to keep what you can, to save money rather than buying all new plants, then this is the way you should go. However, you’ll need to know how to identify the plants that are in your garden so you know what to keep and what to trash.
You can find much of that information here, on Garden Masterz, or go on forums and ask, or search Google.
One of the best ways you can find out is to ask the pros - at Garden Masterz. Join our VIP club and you’ll be able to get personalized advice from us, among tons of other benefits.
Once you clean out your bed, it’s now time to plan and plant.
Choosing The Right Plants
As you might be aware, there are thousands of different plants out there.
If going to the garden center gets overwhelming you know that I mean. Turn this way and that, more plants. Annuals, perennials, plants for sun plants for shade, tall shrubs, short shrubs, small ornamental trees, large trees, and on and on.
The thing to keep in mind is that if you’re just getting started you don’t need to know every single plant known to man and what growing conditions are optimal for each one. There are some basic plants that pro landscapers use in gardens here in the mid-Atlantic of the good ol’ USA.
You’ll see these same plants used in gardens everywhere.
This is because the pros know which plants do well in the gardens they are tending, and which plants to avoid. Many times, designers will specify certain plants because the conditions seem right but eventually, the choice of plant has to be changed because it’s not doing well. It happens.
That’s the thing about gardening and landscaping that all beginning gardeners must remember. Sometimes mother nature is in charge. You can do what you can and use plants you think will do well, but you just never know.
The point here is to not be discouraged. Even the pros don’t always have a green thumb (although it might seem like it sometimes).
Here are factors you should consider when choosing plants:
- Amount of sunlight needed: Check the plant tags if you don’t know See our plant guide here.
- The location of your garden: How much sun does it get?
- The size of your space: Of course, the larger it is, the more plants you’ll need.
- Soil condition: You will always condition your soil with nutrients and amendments. See our article on soil amendments here.
- Plant color and texture: Always use different colors and textures.
- Focal point: Will your garden have a focal point? Will it be a larger plant, ornamental tree, or something else such as a fountain or birdbath?
All of these topics are discussed in articles here on Garden Masterz. So browse around and have fun.
The Shape and Size Of Your Garden
One thing you’ll notice as you drive by professionally designed gardens…. they are all curved. There are no straight lines.
There are reasons for that.
First, it’s appealing to the eye. Curves are where it’s at today. Straight lines consist of abrupt corners and angles, something to be avoided.
Second, the grass bordering curved gardens is easy to mow. This is important when it comes to professionals maintaining a landscape. They want to make sure it’s easy to mow around. As a homeowner, you should want this too.
Make your garden beds curved so your mower can get right up to the bedline and ride around it without a problem. Straight lined beds will require backing up your mower many times and maneuvering it around the lines - not a good option.
Consider these factors when beginning to transform your garden spaces and you’ll have a head start to a great looking landscape.
Creating New Gardens
Much of the advice above can be used when creating gardens from scratch - with a few caveats.
First, you’ll want to consider the size and shape of the garden and how it goes with your house.
There are common ways to design gardens around houses. Just drive around some neighborhoods in your area and you’ll discover them.
One is called a “foundation garden.” That is just what is sounds like - a garden that wraps around the foundation of a home. This is very common and something you should incorporate into your home’s landscape.
To do this, you would wrap a garden around multiple sides of the home and in the corner, widen it enough to plant a focal plant, either an ornamental tree (one that stays smaller), other ornamental plants, or something else that adds interest, like a birdbath, water feature, or garden ornament.
You can see in the image above what we mean. It's important here to not do the same thing on each side of the house. You'll notice that on the left side is an ornamental tree. On the right side are 3 large shrubs. As a side note, this is just a basic layout, excluding other plants that would also be included in the garden.
Other options include garden beds within your lawn area. If you have a large grassy lawn area, it’s a good idea to break up that area with a garden. A great shape for a garden located withn a yard is the classic “kindey” shape, rounded on both ends, one end being a larger diameter than the other.
In the previous image, notice we took the concept from the image before of the foundation garden and applied it to a kidney shaped garden in the middle of the yard. Also note on the right is a smaller garden with a birdbath as a focal point. Also notice, if there is a kidney shaped garden on the left with an ornamental tree, there shouldn't be another ornamental tree within the foundation garden.
Once you have your garden shape designed on paper, it’s not time to pick the plants. Use the information from above to come up with a list of plants. Visit your local garden center to see what’s available and narrow down your choices.
You will generally want “sections” of your garden devoted to different plants. You will rarely find single plants in professionally designed gardens (unless it’s a focal point plant), so don’t buy just one of each.
Group plants in odd numbers; 3, 5, 7 plants, etc. This makes for a more appealing look.
Here’s a tip. Find out what plants are native to your location or grow well in your location. Drive around to professional garden installations and get an idea of what plants they are using. Ask a pro in your area if you need help. Garden centers are usually staffed with knowledgeable people. Ask them.
This will start you off with plants that will be more likely to grow in your own gardens.
Before planting, it’s very important to condition the soil. This is a common mistake beginning gardeners forget but it could make the difference between plants that live or die. Using a general soil amendment product will work fine.
At this point, in your garden journey, It’s not necessary to know about different fertilizers and when to use them. You just want to amend the soil with nutrients. Although you’ll find a lot of choice when it comes to fertilizers, the one we like and use is Miracle-Gro Garden Soil.
Lastly plant your plants and mulch your garden for that finished look.
Water, Water Everywhere
The one most important thing you can do to increase your odds of success is WATER YOU GARDEN. Water, as I'm sure you know, is essential to life and that means plant life as well.
We've seen it with our clients over and over again. One of THE most common reasons for plants not doing well is lack of water.
So don't forget this important step.
To get our free guide that will help you with even more pro gardening tips you can start using immediately to transform your gardens, CLICK HERE NOW!
There you have it. A brief overview of how to get started for the beginning gardener.
Want more details? Browse through Garden Masterz. We have lots of free articles going into more details. Or, join our VIP club for personalized advice and other in depth guides.
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