3 months ago I moved into a brand new house and unfortunately the builders left my garden a state. It's bumpy, sloped and contains lots of objects like nails, broken bricks and plastic (I've yet to dig up the dead body which I'm pretty sure I'll find!).
As such my garden is on ongoing project. The picture below is what it will look like when it's completed (which I will replace with an actual photo!)
Now I'm lucky. I've known what I've wanted in my garden for the last 15 or so years with my BBQ design going through a change pretty much every year.
However in other ways I'm unlucky. At our last house I started to clear the garden and had a stroke (I was 24).
Obviously that took some time to get over. 2 years ago I started to clear the garden again and in the week between gardening I came off my motorbike and fractured my spine.
Now my wife says I'm as stubborn as a mule, so this year I will get our garden sorted. Luckily its a pretty blank slate (bar the slight imperfections that can be fixed with hard work).
If you're a office monkey like me (I'm a graphic designer) gardening will give you:
Blisters (which will turn into hard skin)
Muddy shoes (which your other half will shout at you for)
Before you start any gardening buy some gardening gloves and some radox. You'll thank me later!
Step 1: Getting To Know Your Garden!
This is vital as then you can figure out what you have to work with.
Second: Figure out your soil type.
This is important as you can then figure out what will grow well and what wont.
There are 3 main soil types:
Soil contains a high volume of clay which holds too much water normally due to poor drainage.
If your soil has a high clay content add gypsum (and maybe a little sharp sand) and mix extremely well. This not only helps improve the drainage with also adds aeration and makes good strong roots in plants. Gypsum breaks down the clay particles but doesn't affect the PH.
Soil contains a high volume of sand which doesn't hold enough water due to too much drainage.
If your soil has a high sand content you need to add organic material and lots of it! Mushroom compost and Chicken manure (with sawdust) will help improve sandy soil, but sandy soil is the hardest to improve as the nutrients get washed away.
The perfect soil. Holds enough water for plants yet has good drainage.
It is a mixture of sand and organic matter. The sand allows water to drain yet the organic matter holds the required water for the plant roots.
If you're going to plant anything then I suggest you also by a soil PH kit.
Certain plants like different PH levels (for instance Aloe love alkaline soil yet Viola don't).
Third: Determine your needs.
What do you need your garden for?
Are you a foodie and would love to grow your own herbs, fruit and vegetables?
Do you have children that need some play space?
Do you have a burning desire for that perfect BBQ?
Do you have a pet?
All these criteria will lead to different types of gardens. I would love to grow my own vegetables for the kitchen, yet I suspect my 2 children might have other ideas. I suspect my Guinea Pig wouldn't mind though!
Fourth: Figure out which direction you garden is facing
This will determine how much sunlight your garden will get.
My garden is North/South facing which means I get a lot of direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Some plants love this, some don't. However it will affect soil moisture levels (due to evaporation).
Step 2: Getting Started
Plan, plan and plan! Draw you plans out (as you have the measurements right?) on paper.
Then transfer your design to the garden. I personally use chopsticks and balls of wool as both are cheap.
Measure from your wall/fences etc and stake with a chopstick. Once you have 2 stakes connect the 2 stakes with the wool to make a visible line. Obviously a bright wool is great at this point (I use red or orange).
I drew my ideas in Sketchup.
As they say in the Army: "Proper Planning Prevents P&#% Poor Performance!"
Step 3: The Hard Work
It might be a patio. It might a herb garden. It might just be a huge square of level grass. Everyone has different tastes.
Whatever you want you are going to have to muck in at this point. Call in your friends and neighbours. Beer is always a good bribe I find, and like they say "Many hands make light work".
I found the general digging I could do myself (it would just take a while). However I couldn't move a 6'x8' shed by myself. So it's time to call in those favours!
If you have any exposed wood: Paint it.
It sounds like a pain in the backside, it is a pain in the backside, but that time and effort now will save you time effort and money later on! Once water has got into the exposed wood it will start to rot it (which means you could end up replacing the panel in a year or two time). And you'll still end up painting it.
If you have any areas of exposed soil that isn't going to have any plants down: Mulch it.
Mulch is a weed inhibitor (often its wood chips). This stops weeds growing as it stops light getting to any weeds. Mulch also has other uses as it helps retain moisture in the soil. Once weeds have grown they'll be a wee bugger to get rid off. Prevention is better then a cure.....
There is one drawback at this point. Money.
So if you have a good paying job, bravo. Any jobs going?
If you don't have a good paying job it's time to pimp yourself out. I chose eBay.
So this leads to....
Step 4: The Proverbial Cash Cow?
So pimp yourself out. Think about those skills you have that you can do something with.
I chose to create a set of Seasonal Charts and sell them on eBay.
I'm a Graphic Designer who's interested in food and gardening so it seemed logical.
You can also use Gumtree & Craiglist (if in the US) to sell services, skills and items you've created with the aim of raising cash for your gardening project.
Step 5: The Space Savers
Fences can support hanging baskets (on the posts) as can walls.
I ran a drainage gutter on the side of my shed for shallow root vegetables. As long as you drill drainage holes and put gravel along the bottom there isn't a problem. My lettuce is coming up a treat in drains!
I would also suggest checking out this instructable.
I did something similar a few years back with old tomato cans mounted to a piece of wood (the irony of growing basil, marjoram and sage in tomato cans amused me).
Step 6: Keep At It
You won't get immediate results. If you're expecting immediate results then you'll be disappointed.
But in the long run you should be happy with your garden.
Just keep at it!
Wish me luck this time..... I think I've had all the bad luck I can handle whilst gardening.
Anymore and I might develope a phobia!