If you're a beginning gardener and want to learn how to plant a garden but you don't know the first thing about it, you've come to the right place.
Our guide is what you need to show you the way. Whether it's a flower garden, a perennial garden, or anything in between, we've got you covered.
Our goal is for you to have a professional looking garden created by you, the beginner. Not only is this possible, it's easy to do once you know the basics. We break down all the steps for how to plant a flower garden below, so read on...
The first thing you should know, even before getting started, is that planting a garden with just flowers is not the way to have a landscape that looks like it was designed by a professional. Let us explain.
The Basics Of Flower Gardening For Beginners
Most gardens need to include a variety of different plants to help set them off visually. Besides flowers, you should also include shrubs and possibly even a tree or two, although any tree should be an ornamental tree - one that grows smaller than the trees you see in the woods.
While you can see examples of flower beds containing just flowers, depending on the location and size of your own gardens, this may or may not be a good choice.
You can see from the above image, this garden consists of mainly flowers, surronded by a hedge. This garden was surrounded by walkways and looks great in this location.
Take note of the design of the flowers, how they form an "X" design. Also note the statue in the middle. This could have easily been an ornamental tree that grows small such as "crape myrtle" or "lilac." Here they chose to use a statue instead.
If you're garden is in the middle of your yard, then incorporating just flowers may be the way to go.
If however, your garden is against your house, against a fence, or a larger area in general, the addition of shrubs and/or ornamental trees will help fill the space and add much needed interest. Notice in the large picture at the top of the page how the large shrub is to one side, separated from the flowers by a stone walkway. A great design.
So if you want to include flowers, shrubs and trees, how do you know which ones to plant?
Step 1: Choosing Plants For Your Garden
If you want to learn how to plant a garden, some basic knowledge of the varieties of plants would be helpful. Even if you're a beginner, you probabably have SOME knowledge of plants, so you should start there. Do you like certain plants or flowers? Put them on your list of plants to include in your garden.
Another way to get familiar with plants is to visit your local garden center. Take a look at the different flowers available. Are they annuals? Perennials? What is the difference and when should you use them? Read this article to find out.
When do the flowers bloom and for how long? How tall do they get? Do they need full sun (8+ hours of sun)? Partial shade (4-6 hours of sun)? Full shade (4 hours or less of sun)? Are they drought tollerant or can they get by with less water?
All of these factors will come into play when learning how to plant your garden.
Next take a look at the shrubs and ornamental trees available for sale. Ask yourself the same questions that you asked for annuals.
Finally, look at gardens of family and friends. What plants do they have that you like? Ask questions. If the answers aren't apparent, use an app to identify the plant. The one we like is called "Picture This."
On this app. your take a picture of the plant and the app. will use the picture to ID the plant. Although errors do crop in from time to time, we find it to be fairly accurate. We use the free version and it's available for apple or android. Check it out HERE.
While doing research, you should be making a list of the plants you like and might want to include in your gardens. You'll want to include larger plants in the back and shorter ones in the front. Make sure you consider the plant's size once it's fully grown.
If however, you're purchasing a slow growing plant because you want less maintenance, and the size you've bought is small, it might take many years to get to full size and by that time, you're changing the garden anyway.
That being said, once you have the list of plants in hand, it's time to move on to the next step.
Step 2: Design Your Garden
When people have an idea they want to plant a garden but they don't know how, they'll make the one mistake we often see. They won't create a design at the beginning.
Instead, they'll designate a spot and then buy plants piecemeal, a few here and a few there. Some one year, some another year, etc. However, this most often results in a garden that looks disheveled. It's certainly not the look you're after, or the look we want you to have.
Now, if you're budget is tight and you cannot afford to purchase enough plants fill your garden as you're starting, we understand. We've been in your spot. If this is the case though, at least you should know the final design of your garden so that as you buy plants, you can add them over time and end up with the final overall look you want.
The Garden Design - Location, Location:
First, you'll want to designated a space where you want your garden and figure out it's size.
Will it be on either side of your front door? On the side of your home? In the middle of the yard? Bordering a fence?
These are just a few examples.
If you've already decided you want to learn how to plant a garden, then you most likely already know where you want it. If not, this is the first decision you need to make.
The Garden Design - Plant Selection:
Now that you've decided where your garden will be located and it's size, you'll want to narrow down your list of plants to the ones you want to include.
You'll want to use a variety of sizes and textures of shrubs and maybe even an ornamental tree - plus flowers of various sizes, textures and colors.
The design should put larger plants, usually shrubs, toward the back of the garden, progressing to shorter plants as you approach the front. For gardens in the center of the property such as ones you can walk around, having a focal point in the center of shrubs, a birdbath, a fountain, or anything else you think would look good, is a great idea.
Design the garden with shrubs and ground cover, leaving open areas to plant flowers, either annuals or perennials that come back every year.
Use grouping of plants instead of one here and one there etc. You'll notice more professionally designed gardens do this. It's rare to see a pro garden design with just one of anything, unless it's a focal point plant such as an ornamental tree.
These design tactics will give you a professional look. If you want more ideas, drive around to apartment complexes, industrial parks, hotels and shopping centers and take note of the attractive gardens you see and like.
Get our free guide that will teach you even more professional techniques that will have your gardens looking spectacular.
The Final Design:
Here are some good examples of garden plans. These examples use software, as you can readily see.
While this is a good method if you have the software, you don't need to do this. Just a rough drawing on a piece of paper will do.
Experiment with different plants in different locations, keeping the larger ones in the back if the garden is against a fence or wall. If the garden is in the middle of the yard and/or can be walked around on all sides, larger plants should be towards the center with shorter plants to the outside edges.
You might end up withe something like this:
Step 3: Purchase The Plants
The obvious next step is to purchase the plants. Here's where things could get interesting...
You should know that there is a good chance that the plants you picked will not be available for purchase once you go to the store. If you're shopping at a large garden center this will be less of an issue, but if you're going to Home Depot, Lowes, or other stores where gardening is not their main business, you'll run into this problem often.
At this point, you'll have to decide if you want to substitute similar plants or wait and search until you find the ones you want.
This choice is yours and I have to say, when it comes to our client's gardens, we've done both.
If you're not using your own compost, also purchase the soil ammendments in the quantity needed. For most medium sized gardens we'll use 1-3 bags (2 cu. ft. size) of garden soil.
For more information on the types of soil ammendments we recommend, read this article HERE.
Step 4: Prepare Your Garden Area
Here's where gardens are made or lost. How you prepare your garden is one of the most important aspects to whether plants will grow or struggle.
Preparing By Killing Off The Old Growth:
If you're planting a new garden where grass has been growing, you must remove the grass first, either by stripping it, which is labor intensive, or by killing it using a chemical grass killer. CLICK HERE to see what we use. Once that's been done, you'll remove the dead grass from the area, which is an easy task once it's dead.
If you're garden is being installed in an area where there used to be an older garden that's now filled with weeds, you STILL need to kill everything within it.
THIS IS AN IMPORTANT STEP THAT SHOULD NOT BE SKIPPED.
If you fail to remove or kill EVERYTHING that's been growing within the new garden area, you'll be haunted by constant plants and weeds seeding themselves and growing within the garden. You'll then be faced with the task of constantly removing them, but here's the thing... the task will be never ending. You'll always have more appearing later.
We've seen this over and over again with our mowing clients that plant their own gardens. They fail to do this step and their gardens are usually filled with weeds. Don't let this happen to you.
Now a caveat. Nothing is perfect. There will most likely be SOMETHING left behind - some roots from weeds you don't see, some seeds you won't see, and more. This is to be expected.
Just clear the area as best you can and you'll have much less hassle later than if you didn't do this step.
Preparing By Adding Soil Amendments:
If you're preparing the entire garden, add soil amendments and mix them in using a shovel or spade. If you don't know what soil amendments are, click here to read an explaination. An alternative option is to prepare each hole where the plants will be planted.
Using a steel rake, level the garden dirt into it's final surface.
Step 5: Layout Your Plants
Take your plants and lay them out in your garden. Place all of them in their final place. Be sure to place larger plants in the back of the garden and smaller ones in the front.
Doing this before planting is a good idea because it gives you the overall look of the garden once it's done and if you don't like it, you can experiment by moving things around.
Once you have plants in their final spots, using a spade, mark a line in the dirt around each pot, marking where it will go. Since you'll be diggin holes approximately 2 times the width of the pot, mark your areas accordingly.
Step 6: Plant The Plants
Removing the plants from their spots, dig the holes, being sure not to dig them too deep. READ THIS ARTICLE HERE for information on the depth of plants when planting.
Place the plants in the holes, sprinkle a slow release fertilizer over the area of the hole (see what we use HERE), then fill the hole with dirt, patting down as you go.
Continue the planting for all plants in the garden.
Step 7: Mulch The Entire Garden
It's important to mulch your garden once the planting is done.
It might be temping to skip this step, but you shouldn't. Mulching not only gives a garden that finished look, but even more importantly, helps keep the soil from drying out too fast. This will help plants survive, should rain or watering be less than adaquate.
You can use any type of mulch you want to get that desired look.
We like using a natural looking dark brown mulch, which gives the gardens a real classy finished look. Some of our clients like red mulch, which we also like for some house styles.
The choice of mulch is really up to you. It's a personal preference.
Whatever you do though, DO NOT use rubber mulch in your flower gardens. We have one client that does this. For what reason we don't know.
Wood mulch decomposes and gives nutrients to the soil over time. Rubber mulch will not break down at all.
In addition, it's not good for the environment and will only mix into the garden as you plant over the years. This will build up to the point of needing to be removed and starting over with the garden soil from scratch. It's not something you want to do.
Step 8: Water The Garden
Oviously, plants need water to survive.
You should water the garden immediately after planting. The only exception is if your weather forecast is predicting a good soaking rain within 24 hours. If not, water.
Watering your garden immediately after planting helps the soil settle around the plants, filling in empty spots. Plus, it gives plants an immediate drink. After all, you don't know when the plants were watered last, so it's best to do it immediately after planting.
How To Plant A Garden - The Synopsis
That is it. If you've followed along, you'll have a garden you can sit back and enjoy. Not only will it have colorful flowers, but be filled with different textures of foliage from shrubs and trees. It will truly be a professional looking garden.
Here's the summary of steps you'll want to do:
We know that the first 2 steps are the most important for the professional look, so we want to give you even more information to help to accomplish you goal.
CLICK HERE to get our free report on how to design a professional garden that will turn heads!
Be sure to comment below with any questions or comments.