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Planning Your Yard and Garden
by Jerry Filipski
by Jerry Filipski


Gerald (Jerry) Filipski is the gardening columnist for the Edmonton Journal, a position he has enjoyed as a freelance writer for the past 12 years. Jerry also writes for Canadian Gardening, the new Alberta Gardener as well as for the lifestyle magazine of P&O ferries. Jerry also does numerous public speaking engagements including some major gardening conferences and workshops as well as question and answer sessions for Wal-Mart and Rona.

May 18, 2008

Here is a list of things to watch out for when planning your yard:

  • Make an outline drawing of your house and yard. It can be simple, but a scale drawing is very helpful when planning your landscape design.
  • Gentle curves add interest to your landscaping. Use a garden hose to outline a pleasing shape before breaking ground.
  • Use some restraint in the selection of plants. A good rule is to limit yourself to three kinds of shrubs in the front yard. Consider color, texture, growth habits, etc.
  • Add interest with an accent plant and colorful bedding plants near the front door.
  • Pay close attention to the information about the mature width and height of the plants, and don't plant too close to the house.
  • Using plants in odd-numbered groupings (e.g. 3,5,7 etc.) is more interesting than even numbers. It is better not to arrange the shrubs in straight lines like toy soldiers. When one plant dies or is stunted, it becomes very obvious in a straight-line setting.
  • Use trees to frame and shade the house, not to hide it. Choose trees with a mature size which will be in good proportion to the size of the house. If you are in a new subdivision with a narrower yard keep that in mind as well when choosing a feature tree. Putting a tree that gets 30 feet wide on a lot that is 33 feet wide is a poor choice.
  • Spend time in preparing beds utilizing good organic matter and fertilize regularly--it will pay off. If you put this off until after you plant adding organic matter or soil conditioners becomes very difficult.
  • My old landscape design instructor taught me a principle that I still use to this day. The idea of landscape design in a yard, especially a backyard, is to create a series of 'outdoor rooms'. This breaks up the expanse of the entire yard and creates areas and pockets of interest throughout the yard.

These 'rooms' can be created by using low hedging as border defining plants or through the use of a shrub bed or even something as simple as an edging material to break up the run of one area and define another.

  • Don't be afraid to use your own likes and dislikes in the plan. Decide early in the plan if you are following a formal idea such as an English garden or if you are going totally informal. This will help you in your planning.
  • Have a budget in mind when designing and planning your yard. Far too many gardeners have 'Cadillac plans' and a 'Volkswagen budget'. Before you begin a project that will be an investment, take the time to carefully price out the plants, trees, shrubs and accessories to see if your plan is a reasonable one.

Remember that the entire yard need not be done in one fell swoop either. Many gardeners will construct their yards over a period of several years in order to accommodate their financial situation as well as work load. Trying to do too much all at once can make the task a drudge and a chore rather than an enjoyable one.

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