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Establish your garden

Site and soil condition

The prevailing factor regarding the site of any planting involves the amount of light that location will receive and how often. Generally the more sun the better as shade can be created. Another consideration is what surrounds the site and for what purpose it is to be used for. A south facing wall is considered a good location for many plants as it offers shelter and reflected heat. Surrounding plant life may indicate the likely success in establishing plants on your chosen site. You may also draw conclusions as to the soil condition through what is currently on the site. Ground moss may indicate the soil does not drain freely.  Good soil should drain freely but hold moisture. It should contain nutrients, organic matter and living organisms as well as having a ph level of between 6.2 and 7. Other factors to consider include; prevailing wind (exposure), pollution, coastal considerations, soil contaminants, pests and pathogens.

Plant species selection

There are countless number of plant species with new ones being discovered all the time. There are two elements in selecting a species, location and labour. The right plant in the right location means less labour in keeping it healthy. Such as, placing a water loving plant in badly draining. The right plant though may not offer the characteristic required for your space. This is where labour need be considered. Maintaining a plant in the wrong location will require more time and money. Placing a water loving plant in well draining soil means more time spent watering. Through the balancing these two factors the selection will only be a matter of choice. Other factors to consider include; resistance to pests and diseases and any special requirements needed to maintain your selected plant.

Site and soil preparation

Clearing a site of any unwanted plants (perennial weeds especially), shrubs and structures should be done first. Check the path of the sun over your site as this may suggest the best location for plants. Check the type of soil you have, acid, alkaline or neutral and modify as required. Construct any hard landscape features before planting. Cultivate the soil add organic matter. Double digging is best as the impact on organisms in the soil is minimised. This though may not be practical depending on the size of the site. Soil preparation should not be attempted when the ground is dry and hard or wet and boggy. Another factor to consider is checking the nutrient content of the ground and modify if necessary.

Planting and 1st yr establishment

Planting can be divided into two general categories, sow on site and sown elsewhere. Sow on site means that the plant will be grown from seed on site. To do this you will need to place the seed onto the soil at the correct time of the year and at the correct depth leaving sufficient free space around each seed. Some seeds require an adequate period of cold, heat or water before germination will begin. Seed can be scattered and raked over. They can be sown into drills or channels then covered using a draw hoe. Or they can be placed directly into a hole in the ground, such as with bulbs. Seed must be sown at the correct time of year as many seeds will either rot or be attacked if germination does not start soon after planting. Weeding is recommended as is watering during dry spells. Some plants may need staking, netting/fencing, screening or even a fleece. Plants sown elsewhere have already germinated and will range from shoots to fully grown and established plants. These will always go straight into the ground sometimes giving an instant effect. These are normally sold in pots which can be removed and the plant placed directly into a correctly sized hole firming the soil around it. You may also plunge plant, meaning you leave the plant in the pot so that it may be removed more easily later. This is normally done for plants that are less hardy during winter and will be brought indoors during that time. Again weeding, watering, staking, netting/fencing and fleece may be necessary. In both cases watch for signs of disease and pests. Another factor to consider is handling the plant gentle during plantings and protecting the roots from sunlight.