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Planning Retirement Online

Got a new garden? 

January 2008

We are at the beginning of the year and some of you could well be moving house or even starting a garden from scratch.  And wondering where to begin..

The first thing to do is find out what kind of soil, if any, you have in your garden. Soil is the foundation of successful gardening and constantly needs improving. Any soil will grow something and because of this gardeners are apt to take their soil for granted and not add anything to it in the way of fertiliser or compost. But good soil, rich and healthy, can enable a gardener to get twice the results with half the effort.. The first thing to do then is to get a soil testing kit from your local garden centre or DIY shop, and test the PH of your soil, thereby getting an idea of the type of plants your soil will support. You may also have different types of soil in different parts of your garden. It is easily apparent whether soil is light or heavy but only a chemical investigation will reveal whether it is acid or alkaline. Once you have discovered your soil type or types, you can go ahead with suitable planting for the location and soil type. There are several types of soil testing kits available; those that allow only a single one-off test, mid range kits that allow approximately five tests and there is a hand held PH meter with a probe that's pushed into the ground giving a quick and easy - but not necessarily 100% accurate - reading, which will allow repeated testing and last for many years. I have one of these and for a general guide it is excellent and cheap enough.

If you are moving into a newly built house you might find that you only have a very thin layer of soil with some turf on top, that has been laid as an afterthought on top of all the builders' rubble. It would be a good idea to remove the turf, import some topsoil to a depth of about 18 inches, then replace the turf.. If your house has been built on a very rocky subsoil, you won't be able to grow anything deep rooted such as trees. So it really pays to take a spade and examine what lies underneath the top surface of your new garden...

The other aspect I consider important when starting a garden from scratch is to check the drainage.. If your garden is very soggy and the rain water doesn't drain away very well, or worse, it drains away towards your house if you're on a slope, then it's well worth considering having your garden land drained. This involves getting the services of a landscape gardener or builder who will lay a network of pipes under your soil that will drain the water away either into the main drain or a soakaway. Yes, you will have the upheaval, but only once, whereas you will never make a decent garden out of soggy waterlogged ground..

Now you have tested your soil and made sure that the land is well drained, you are ready to start planning your new garden. If you are less mobile than you once were, it might be worth considering an easy maintenance garden with lots of level paved or gravelled areas and low maintenance planting such as Phormium Tenax (green and bronze,), Senecio, Viburnum Tinus Variegated, Fatsia Japonica, Lonicera Baggesons Gold, Dogwoods and hardy palms, to name but a few..

Your garden design should be tailored to suit your needs.



   Amazon book - Gardens Through Time: 200 Years of the English Garden   Amazon book - RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening: RHS Bi-centennial Edition (Royal Horticultural Society)
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