The Q&A Archives: No Idea where to start!

Question: I am new to gardening and feel very overwelmed. i have a huge back yard and up til now it has been my dogs yard. Over the years I have tried to get a handle on the weeds in the lawn,slowly it is coming around but I have no Idea how to start a flower garden and if I can plant bushes/shrubs with flowers and what is pet friendly?

Answer: The nice thing about starting a garden from scratch is that you can design it in any shape you want and put all kinds of annuals, perennials, shrubs and even trees in the garden. Start by deciding where you'd like to place your new garden. Check around to see how much sunshine/shade the site gets. What you discover will help you choose the right plants for the right spots within your garden. Not all plants like all day sunshine, but not all flowering plants will flower in the shade. So make notes - does the site get all day sun (8 hours plus), part day sun (morning or afternoon?) or is it mostly in shade?

After you have an idea of what kind of sunshine the site will get, start making a list of the plants you'd like to include. I think one of the best gardening references for your area is Sunset Western Garden Book. Your garden center and book store have copies, as does your library. Go though the book and read about the plants that appeal to you and make notes (plant size, exposure, watering needs, etc.)

After you've done your homework and have a list of plants, get your soil ready. Remove all vegetation (either by digging or rototilling) then rake the area level and spread 3-4" of organic matter over the top of the bed. Dig it in to a depth of 8-10" and then level the bed. Now you're ready to plant. Try placing the plants in the bed, rearranging until you're happy with how they look. Then plant them all, water them well and enjoy your new garden!

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