The Q&A Archives: Starting A Garden on New Land

Question: We purchased a wooded lot last year and are in the process of building our house. We are trying to plan a garden or a variety of small gardens to add to our 2 acre lot. I would like a low-maintenance flowering shrub garden (i.e., lilacs, flowering almond, roses, etc.), an herb garden and a vegetable garden. Our lot was heavily wooded and we would like to keep it "woodsy", although there are some open areas now. Do we need to prepare our soil? Will these gardens thrive in this environment? What plants will best suit what we are trying to achieve?

Answer: It sounds like you have some fun ahead of you! Most of the plants you mentioned do best in full sun and may not do well in competition with tree roots, so you are going to have to make some choices. You should also run some basic soil tests to see what condition your soil is in. Your County Extension office can help you with the tests and with interpreting the results. Once you have that information you will be able to prepare your soil to suit the plants you decide to grow -- or grow plants suited to that soil.

Flowering shrubs and herbs are generally low maintenance plants once they are established, with the possible exception of roses. Vegetable gardens on the other hand do take quite a bit of work. While you are making your plans you might wish to look at some basic books about landscaping and gardening in general. One of my favorites is Gardening for Dummies by Michael MacCaskey. In it you will find many helpful pointers on planning, soil preparation, plant selection and maintenance.

Enjoy your new landscape!

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