If you are planning a new garden design this year, it is important to start off on the right foot. Gardening can be a fun and rewarding thing to do. But not everything will always go according to plan. One way to make sure that things go as well as possible is to make sure you create a good garden design before you begin. If you are creating a plan for your garden, here are 10 common garden design mistakes to avoid:
Not Starting With the Big Picture
No matter how large or small your garden may be, not starting with the big picture is a mistake. We should always start with a holistic approach – looking at broader patterns before we zero in on the details.
In garden design,we do not begin by looking at individual plants we want to grow. Rather, we think about the garden as a whole ecosystem, and the energies and substances that flow through it. We think about sunlight and shade, wind and water, climate and weather patterns. We think about these things before we even contemplate honing in on the minutiae.
Not Getting the Basics In Place
Many gardeners find it tempting to wade straight in, creating new growing areas and sowing seeds. But good garden design involves thinking not only about the plants in a garden, but also the systems that will keep those plants healthy over time.
When planning your new garden, one of the first things to think about is getting the basics in place. At a bare minimum, you should make sure that you integrate a good water management scheme, and composting system, into the design.
Neglecting The Importance of Hidden Garden Elements
It is very common, in garden design, for people to focus on the visual elements in a garden. But those things we do not see are often most important to the system as a whole. Whatever kind of garden you are designing, for example, it is very important to think about the soil – the complex soil web that teems with life hidden below the ground.
Taking care of the soil, and implementing systems that work to preserve and enhance it, and protect its biota, is crucial. Think about how no dig gardening techniques can be used over time to protect and improve the soil. And how your design will enable these techniques to be used.
Creating New Growing Areas That Are Too Large or Too Small
Whenever you are thinking about creating new growing areas in your garden, think about size. Those that are too large, or too small, could pose problematic.
It is common for new gardeners to be overly ambitious. They might create huge new growing areas without really considering whether or not they have the time to tend them. They may also forget to consider how easy those areas will be to tend. A bed or new growing area that is too large may involve stepping on it in order to manage it. But this can cause problems with soil compaction.
A bed or growing area that is too small, however, can also cause difficulties. A gardener may find that they simply do not have enough space to grow what they need or want to grow. They may be tempted to overcrowd these areas, which can cause a range of issues and reduce yield overall.
Not Thinking About Access and Other Practicalities in Garden Design
As mentioned above, growing areas that are too large can be difficult to tend without stepping on and potentially compacting the soil. But this is not the only access problem that can arise with poor garden design.
One key thing to think about is how often you will visit a particular growing area or other element in your garden. One great rule of thumb for good garden design is to place areas visited most frequently closest to your home.
When thinking about access and practicalities, it can also be helpful to think about how often you will make the journey between different garden elements. (Between an annual kitchen garden and a compost heap, for example.) Elements that you must travel between frequently should be placed as close to one another as possible. And should have a good pathway between them.
Choosing Plants Not Suited To Your Climate in Garden Design
Once you have thought about the above, thinking about plants will be very important too. One of the big mistakes new gardeners make is choosing plants because they like them, or like what they can provide. Rather than choosing based on these things, it is very important to choose plants that are suited to your climate zone, and the weather conditions in the area where you live.
Looking at hardiness ratings or USDA planting zone guidelines can help to guide you in the right direction when you are creating a garden design.
Choosing Plants Not Suited To The Microclimate Where You Live
In addition to looking at the general climate and weather patterns in your area, it is also crucial to look at your garden’s specific microclimate when making plant selections. A plant may be good for growing in your climate zone, but it might not work in a specific location in your garden. For example, it may not like to be planted in a frost pocket, or in a particularly dry location in the lee of a wall.
When thinking about garden design, forgetting to take immediate conditions into account is a common mistake. And it can lead to a number of problems that will mean that your garden is not as successful as it could be.
Forgetting About The Soil When Making Plant Choices
Another key environmental factor often overlooked when making plant choices is the soil. When choosing plants, it is very important to think about soil type. So you have a clay soil, a sandy soil, silty soil, chalky soil, or a perfect loam, for example.
You need to think about the benefits your soil type confers, but also the negative attributes it possesses. One thing to think about whether soil is waterlogged or free draining. You should also consider the fertility of your soil. Is it high in nutrients? Does it have good structure? Another thing to think about is, of course, its pH level. Is it acidic, neutral or alkaline? Make sure you know these things before you make your plant choices.
Not Thinking About Wildlife as Well as Plants in Garden Design
A successful garden ecosystem does not just contain plants. It is sustained by the wildlife that are present too. When thinking about garden design, choosing plants and determining the best layout and elements to in include, think about this. Think about how you can attract beneficial wildlife to your garden and keep it around.
You can attract wildlife to your garden and keep it happy with the plants you choose. But also through including other elements in your garden design. A wildlife pond, and a brush pile, are just two examples. Forgetting wildlife when planning your garden is a big mistake to make.
Forgetting to Consider Your Own Place in the Garden System
When designing a garden, it is important to think about plants and wildlife. But it is also crucial to think about human elements of the system – the gardener or gardeners. You need to think about what you bring to the system, and what you need or want from it.
Remember, even when we work with nature rather than fighting it, gardens need a gardener. And a good garden always depends, at least to an extent, on the gardener who tends it.
Do you have any tips to share for good garden design? What mistakes have you made? How did you overcome them? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.