How to Design a Small Garden

Even if you don’t have a lot of space in your yard, you can still create a lovely garden that makes the most of what you have. Make a detailed plan for the layout of your garden and the plants you want to include before you start digging or planting. Look for plants that thrive in your climate and are small enough to fit in your garden when they reach maturity. With the right plants, your small garden will only require about 1 hour of weekly maintenance.

Part 1 Choosing the Best Location

1. Choose a location that receives 6–8 hours of sunlight per day. Because most flowering plants and vegetables require full sun to thrive, choose the sunniest spot in your yard for your garden. Even if the area receives little light during the day, you may be able to grow plants that thrive in the shade.

Plants that do not get enough light will not produce as many blooms or grow as well.

2. Choose a location near a body of water. Look for a location that has a natural water source or is close to your outdoor hose attachment. As a result, the soil will remain moist, making it less likely to dry out and kill your plants. If you can’t put your garden right next to a water source, make sure it’s as close as possible.

If you want to help keep the soil hydrated, you can also build an artificial pond or water feature.

3. Choose a location where you can easily access your garden. Look for a spot in your yard where you can enjoy your garden from a window or a spot in your yard where you can see it from a window. To make it easier to care for your plants, make sure you can easily walk into your garden. Avoid putting it in a difficult-to-reach location, as this will make it more of a hassle.

4. Calculate the amount of space you have available for your garden. Stretch a measuring tape across the length of the area and make a note of the measurement on paper. Then take a measurement of the area’s width. Check your measurements to ensure they are accurate so that you can plan the space effectively.

Plots grow best in rectangular areas, but you can make your garden a different shape, such as a triangle or circle, if it fits better in the space.

Tip: Place wooden stakes around the perimeter of the area and connect them with twine to help you visualise the size of the space.

Part 2 Following Design Principles

1. On a piece of graph paper, plan out the layout of your garden to scale. Make an outline on paper so that each grid square equals 12 or 1 square foot (0.046 or 0.093 m2). Begin by drawing longer rectangles for your garden beds that are to scale for the actual size you want them to be. Then, for each different plant, divide the rectangles into smaller sections, assuming that 1–2 plants typically take up 1 square foot (0.093 m2). Allow an 18-inch (46-cm) space between garden beds so you can easily walk between them and care for your plants.

If you want a garden bed that is 3 by 8 feet (0.91 m 2.44 m) and each square on the graph paper equals 1 square foot (0.093 m2), you would draw a rectangle that is 3 squares tall by 8 squares long. This bed has enough space for 24–48 plants.

Work in pencil so you can easily erase and change the design.

Look for digital garden planners online to assist you in designing the layout.

2. For the most compact growing system, use square-foot gardening. Make a grid on your design so that each square is one foot (30 cm) by one foot (30 cm). Create a list of the plants you want to grow and label each square on the grid with one of them. Make sure you know the final growing sizes of each species so you can easily manage how many plants of each species you can grow in the square.

Typically, 1–2 individual plants of a species can be planted in a 1 square foot (0.093 m2) area, but if they are small growths, you may be able to plant more. Speak with a gardening centre employee who can assist you in selecting the best plants for your needs.

3. Arrange your design in such a way that there are focal points. Aim for 1–2 unique aspects of your garden design to stand out from the rest of your plants. This could be a statue, fountain, or small tree in the middle or on either side. Consider where you want people to focus or have their attention drawn when they look at your garden, and design your garden around those areas.

Focal points make your garden feel more inviting and visually appealing.

Paths in your garden can also help draw people’s attention in specific directions, allowing them to flow visually.

4. Place plants that are similar across from one another to create rhythm and symmetry. Rather than using different plants in each of your garden beds, use the same plant or plants with similar textures or colours that are placed across from one another. As a result, when you look at your garden, it will appear more inviting and will make the area feel more balanced. Make sure the plants on each side of your garden are roughly the same size, or your garden design will look haphazard and unbalanced.

5. To make it feel more enclosed, make the edge height 13% of the horizontal length. Making your garden feel enclosed will make you feel more at ease while working in it. Measure the horizontal length of the garden area and choose plants or design elements that are at least a third of that length.

For example, if you have an 18-foot-long (550-cm) garden, aim for plants that reach up to 6 feet (180-cm) around the edges.

6. If you want a place to relax, include seating in your design. Look for outdoor seating that fits your space and matches your style online or at gardening stores. Draw the seating in your design and make sure there are paths leading to it. Seating can be placed directly in the grass or on tiles or pavers for a flat, even surface.

Avoid using furniture designed for indoor use because it is prone to mould growth and becoming dirty as a result of weather exposure.

If you don’t have the space, you don’t have to include seating in your garden.

Part 3 Selecting Your Plants

1. For better soil, choose raised beds that are 12 in (30 cm) deep. Look for raised beds or containers that are at least 4 feet (1.2 m) wide and 12 inches (30 cm) deep to allow room for the plant roots to grow. Avoid making your beds any wider because it will make caring for and harvesting your plants more difficult. If possible, arrange the beds so that they run from north to south to give your plants the most light during the day.

If you don’t want to use raised beds, you can plant directly in the ground in rows.

If you can’t find pre-built planting beds in the sizes you need, build your own.

You can make your own beds out of plywood for a low cost.

2. In your garden, combine ornamental and edible plants. Include at least one to two types of flowering ornamental plants in each of your garden beds where you intend to grow vegetables. To make your garden look visually interesting, choose plants with a variety of leaf shapes and blooms. Speak with the staff at a local gardening centre to determine which plants are the most compatible so that they do not compete for nutrients.

Hostas, hibiscus, allium, salvia, lavender, and sedum are some ornamental plants that can be used in your garden.

Beneficial insects that pollinate and kill other pests are attracted to flowering ornamental plants.

If you only want ornamental or flowering plants, you don’t need to include vegetables in your garden.

3. Choose compact plant varieties to make the most of your available space. If you like the look of larger plants and want to grow them, see if your local gardening centre has compact versions of them. Check the packaging for the final growing size to ensure that they will still fit in your garden beds at the end of the season. Include the plants in your garden design sketch so you can see how much space they will take up.

Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and squash are the most common vegetables with compact varieties, but you may be able to find others.

Planting melons or fruit trees should be avoided because they can be difficult to control and can steal nutrients from other plants.

4. Use companion planting to reduce nutrient competition and manage pests. Talk to a gardening centre employee or look online for information on the plants you want to grow and what goes well with them. To make the most of your growing space, try to place smaller plants between larger ones. If the plants you choose are incompatible with one another, they may not grow to their full potential.

Companion Plant Examples:

· Tomatoes grow well with dill and basil since they protect against pests.

· Marigolds pair with most garden vegetables and protect them from nematodes.

· Try rosemary or sage next to broccoli, kale, or turnips.

· Use nasturtiums to attract aphids away from other plants in your garden.

· Garlic and onions can deter pests, but they will affect the growth of beans or peas.

5. Include a trellis or fence to help plants grow vertically. Place the trellis or fence on the north side of your garden to ensure that the plants growing on it receive the most light throughout the day. Aim for a trellis that is 5–6 feet (1.5–1.8 m) tall to support the most growth. Avoid placing a trellis or fence where it will cast shade on other plants, as this will cause them to grow less efficiently.

Trellises and fences are ideal for vine-like plants like peas, beans, squashes, and tomatoes.

If you want to grow flowering plants off the ground, you can also attach shelves or containers directly to a fence.

6. If you want a wide range of vegetation, try succession planting. In the middle of the growing season, look for plants that have finished blooming or are ready to harvest. Then, to replace the plants that grew earlier, select varieties of plants that thrive in the latter half of the growing season. As a result, your garden will always produce fresh vegetables or flowers throughout the year.

You can, for example, plant radishes or lettuce in the spring and harvest them in the late summer. Then, in the same spot, grow summer squash to harvest in the fall.

Part 4 Tending Your Garden

1. Mulch around your plants to help the soil retain moisture. A 2–3 in (5.1–7.6 cm) layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips, leaves, or peat moss, is ideal. Spread the mulch evenly across your garden, keeping it about 2 inches (5.1 cm) away from the stems of your plants. If you notice that the mulch is becoming thin, reapply it throughout the season.

Mulch also keeps weeds at bay in your garden beds.

2. When the soil feels dry 3 in (7.6 cm) below the surface, water it. Dig a 2 inch (5.1 cm) deep hole in the soil and touch it with your finger. If the soil feels dry, use a watering can or a hose to wet it 6–8 inches (15–20 cm) deep. Check the soil on a daily basis to ensure that it does not dry out and kill your plants.

Plants in containers or raised beds typically require more frequent watering than those planted directly in the ground.

3. Fertilizer should be applied at the start and middle of the growing season. You have the option of using liquid fertiliser or granules that soak into the soil. Half of the fertiliser amount should be applied to the soil near your plants and evenly distributed throughout the garden bed. Water the soil immediately to allow the fertiliser to soak in and provide nutrients to your plants.

You should avoid getting fertiliser directly on your plants because it can harm them.

4. When you see weeds growing, pull them out by hand. Weeds growing between your plants should be checked weekly in your garden beds. Pull the weeds straight out of the ground by grasping them as close to the soil as possible. If you don’t want to pull them by hand, dig out the roots with a hoe or trowel and remove them from your garden.

Avoid leaving the weed’s roots in the soil because they may regrow.

Warning: Avoid using chemical weed killers because they may harm or kill other plants in your garden.

5. Plants should be pruned to keep their sizes under control. Begin pruning at the beginning of the season to encourage new growth and in the middle of the season to keep your garden looking tidy. With a pair of hand pruners, remove any damaged or leggy stems or branches. To help reduce the possibility of rot, cut at a 45-degree angle.

If you cut off more than a third of the vegetation, the plant may not grow back as quickly.

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