Even novice gardeners can create a backyard showplace with some help from a professional. Here are a few tips from Harold Taylor, who has worked as the outdoor display gardener at Longwood Gardens, a 1,050-acre horticultural center in Kennett Square, Pa. (pop. 5,273), for three decades:
- Plan ahead—Before buying plants, determine the sun’s exposure on the planting area. Will the garden receive full sunshine or partial shade? Select your plants accordingly.
- Determine your gardening goal—A landscape garden of bushes and shrubbery will give you maximum coverage with minimal maintenance. To brighten the area, a patch of annual flowers will provide a long season of color. For purposeful p
- Start small—Make sure you enjoy gardening before digging up the entire lawn. Remember, you always can build upon your success.
- Novices should select native plants—Instead of purchasing tropical transplants, invest in the area’s native plants, flowers and vegetables. These already are tested with the climate and soil, so your chances of success are increased.
- Know your soil—Beginners may get away with digging a hole and dropping in seeds, but if you want to dramatically improve your results, you’ll have to learn about the soil. A soil test will determine the pH (acid and alkaline) level of the earth, as well as the basic nutrients present. You can do the test yourself using a kit from a garden center, or most county extension services will test your soil for a small fee.
Finally, once you’ve planted your garden, visit it often. It’s the only way to stay a step ahead of pests, make sure the plants are receiving adequate water and eradicate weeds quickly. “It’s always a lot easier to remove a small weed than a bigger one,” Taylor says.