Some garden plants are toxic, and this can be a problem if pets or children will be near the garden. Flowers like oleander and tobacco can be toxic if ingested or handled. If you have curious pets or children, you may want to design your garden to keep them out or skip the risk entirely and plant something else.
Another thing to consider is allergies and asthma. Flowers are beautiful, but not everyone appreciates pollen in the air. Plants with no flowers, like ferns, are a safe bet. The OPALS ™ scale rates plants by their potential to cause allergies, and has been adopted in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Room to Grow
Also consider how much space you have. You could plant a garden the size of your entire backyard or the size of a shoebox. Plants, even of the same variety, need space to grow. They have to spread roots and get enough sunlight. Planting too close together means scarcer resources for the plants, which means less of a chance of blossoming and producing fruit. Check the planting instructions before buying to ensure that you have the room to plant what you want and get results.
Tidy up your Garden
After all your hard work, you want your garden to look as beautiful as it can. This means regular cleaning. So get a nice sturdy rake to remove all the leaves and dead material from the lawn. For most people it also makes a lot of sense to get a pressure washer to clean up all the dirt from the patio and/or driveway. I recently came across this website where you can find all kinds of information on the subject and find out what is the best pressure washer for you.
Plant Friends and Enemies
Before you design your garden of dreams, think about what will be near it. Black walnut trees secret a chemical called juglone, mostly through their roots but in other parts of the plant as well, that acts as a pesticide. Pine trees, sunflowers, and ferns also secret chemicals to keep other plants from growing too close to them. If you have these on your property, make sure you not only put your garden away from these plants, but that the rain doesn’t run off from those plants to your garden. Black walnut, pines, and ferns don’t kill all other plants, and there are plenty of hardy plants that can deal with growing near these.
Do you have pets? While solid waste can act as a good fertilizer, liquid animal waste has alkaline salts that can hurt or kill plants. Secure your garden if it will be sharing a yard with Fido. Some things you might want to think about before you plan your dream garden is how plants live with each other. Plants can be like siblings: they get along and support each other, or they fight each other to the death. Plants that support put nutrients in the soil that help other plants grow, attract beneficial insects, or act as natural pest deterrents. For example, beans help put nitrogen in the soil, which is good for other plants. Dill attracts ladybugs that will eat the aphids that feast on the leaves of your plants. Deer hate onions and garlic and won’t eat where they can smell them.
Perennials and annuals
All plants grow, blossom, produce seeds, and die. They might die after one year, like marigolds, or, like giant Sequoyah trees, live on for thousands of years. Annuals will bloom for a long time but die at the end of one season and must be replanted. Perennials live for two years or more. They take longer to grow and blossom for a shorter span of time, but will come back year and year, with an average life span for flowers of 2-5 years. Tulips and lilies are examples of popular perennials. Some perennials blossom in the first year of planting, like foxgloves and strawberries. Annuals tend to be cheaper per plant and are often bought in bulk. However, they must be replanted each year, which might drive up the cost of planting and require more labor, but they have the benefit of blooming longer. Because they keep their flowers longer, tend to attract insects like bees that will help pollinate all of your plants. They also bloom within their year of life, whereas perennials don’t necessarily bloom in the first year. You might not want to wait through a whole year or two to finally have flowers in your garden.
That is important, especially for the new gardener, because the sight and smell of a fresh and bright blossom is rewarding. A flower often signals that we must be doing something right. If a plant blossoms, it’s ready to reproduce. Plants and people aren’t that different when it comes to reproduction: you're just not interested in it when you're hungry and stressed out. Likewise, gardening can feel like a lot of hard work for nothing on a hot and brutal day without any sign from the plants that the fertilizer and weeding is working. So, if you're just starting out as a gardener, try growing some annuals with your perennials as a motivator to keep going. There are plenty of annual flowers to choose from, as well as fruits and vegetables, like salad greens and melons, and herbs like parsley.
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