5 Winter Questions

5 Winter Questions

It’s the coldest day of the season. Everything that had started to grow in the warmth of January is turning to mush. My hummingbird feeder nectar froze in one hour. DSCN2414 2

Clearly it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll spend your summer in the garden!

Of course all my faithful readers will have read the page called Client Site Analysis. It’s really designed to help the homeowner identify ALL the needs (constraints and opportunities) of the site. But if you’re planning to design/revise/amend your gardens yourself, it would be easier to take a more functional approach. What’s more, your “garden” actually consists of many mini-gardens. Even if you have just a small property with little ground space, odds are you at least have two gardens, a back and a front. For the DIY-er, it would be best (easiest, most practical, most affordable) to deal with one section at a time. If you don’t already have pictures of your property and gardens, why not go out today (before any REAL weather starts up again) and take pictures–many pictures, from all angles, including your views of the neighbours’ houses. Looking at them objectively will really help with the following 5 steps.  So let’s start with…

1. How Will You Use Your Garden?

Do you see yourself escaping the Madding Crowd with a good book and a drink in the seclusion of your secret garden? Or do you prefer welcoming guests every weekend to a backyard BBQ? Is play space for the kids the most important priority? These aren’t mutually exclusive, but would usually happen in different spaces. So in the interest of “dealing with one section at a time”, choose your preferred garden activity. That’s Step #1.

2. What Sun Exposure Do You Need?

If your preferred garden activity is growing vegetables and fruit, you will need the most sun exposure you can find, so that will determine where on your property that particular section is located. On the other hand, if play space is top priority, you will need to locate it where there will be at least a little shade. Or create a little shade. Here’s a little graphic that took me a ridiculous amount of time to create:Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 3.41.59 PM

3. Site Qualities?

Do you have a slope or is the site flat? Does the water drain well or are there areas with standing water for long spells in the spring or fall? Do you have grass, and is it dense or sparse? weedy or mossy? too much or too little? under trees or out in the open? What elements are unchangeable? (Like my neighbour’s massive Douglas-fir–but even that I could have an arborist cut off some of the overhanging limbs…)

4. What is your Gardening Commitment?

This question is partially dependent on the results of Step #1. How much actual gardening work do you see yourself expending? Do you love–or anticipate loving–being out in the “dirt” digging, weeding, lovingly caring for your plants? Or are you afraid of killing anything your touch and therefore need cast iron native, drought tolerant, carefree plants. Probably somewhere in the middle. Answer this step objectively; if you love roses and dream of surrounding your property with a hedge of the wildly vigorous Rosa rugosa ‘Hansa’, that will constitute a pretty significant “gardening commitment”.

DSCN1200 2
Rosa rugosa ‘Hansa’ overhung with Clematis armandii

5. Budget

Last and certainly not least, how much are you willing to spend on this project? One of the chief reasons to separate your property into different projects is to make it all more affordable. And of course, the more of the project you can do yourself, the easier on the wallet. As long as you produce a quality product, not a hack job. I certainly wouldn’t attempt building a deck, but I was able to build a small patio. The larger patio I hired professionals to build, but only because I knew I didn’t have the muscle to move that much sod/sand/gravel/flagstone. If you do, go for it. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThose 5 Questions will take you a long way toward planning and starting your own garden design. You can go back to the Client Site Analysis to fill out some more details, and I’m happy to answer questions here or on my Facebook page. As always, click on Follow to get regular updates here.

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