By Cheryl Harrison, Master Gardener
Fall is a great time to get a head start on the new garden that you have been dreaming about for next year.
Deciding the new garden’s location depends on the purpose of the garden. Will it be a quiet area for relaxing? Look at the view from outside and also through the windows from inside your home when assessing potential locations.
Consider the growing conditions. Is the potential location windy, sunny, shady or combination sun/shade? It may be important to know the location of utility lines and pipes depending on how radical the planned change to the landscape. Do you have access to water? New plants usually need supplementary water for their first year. Also check the area for flooding and provide drainage when necessary.
Think about garden structures……perhaps an arbor, fence or pergola or maybe a bird bath or bench? For larger structures, you may need a construction permit. A landscape professional can be a great person to consult at any stage of planning.
Soil condition is vey important to the growth of plants. Newly built homes often have very little topsoil layered over nutrient poor subsoil. It may be necessary to dig out some of the subsoil and replace it with good topsoil. This “digging” step is when to be aware of the location of your utilities.
Create a new garden by edging the chosen area with a sharp shovel or edging tool then placing the material (usually a combination of grass and soil) into the centre of the new garden location. Smother unwanted growth by covering the area with 4-5 layers of newspaper, or cardboard, and water it down. Then layer topsoil about 15 cm (6 inches) on top and add additional organic material like composted manure. Finish the new garden bed with a 7-10 cm (3-4 inch) layer of mulch. The newspaper/cardboard layer, and the mulch will eventually decompose to become part of the garden’s soil.
Your new garden bed is ready for planting. Choose plant material by looking at plant catalogues and on web sites. What a great way to spend a fall or winter afternoon!