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Planning a New Garden #2
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

February 4, 2001

Remember the four steps in starting a garden? Research, planning, preparation and planting. Today we'll turn your research data into practical terms and get a start on planning. Simply put, planning is figuring out what to do and how to do it. One caution: budgeting is a rather important aspect of planning but you know your bank account better than I.
Let's turn the figures you wrote down during your preliminary research into a real-life exercise by taking a practice tour through the nursery. Write your budgeted figure down on a piece of paper and carry it with you. Refer to it often. Every time you think about buying an item, deduct that amount from the total. If you put the item back on the shelf start again at the original sum. As you progress through the plant stock and the hard goods section, you will have ample opportunity to practice this mathematical exercise. If you were able to pick up everything you saw and still remained inside your budget call me: you can afford a full-time gardener and I would like to apply. However, if your theoretical goods trolley was a tad bare when you arrived at the cashier then you will have gained an idea of how selective and methodical your approach to establishing a garden must be.
This walk through the nursery was only an exercise. We are not ready to begin buying, we only went there to put your research into practical terms: financial and actual amounts of plant material. [Besides, we are planning for next year, right?]Did your budget include shovels, trowels, forks, rakes, wheelbarrows, hoses, sprinklers, storage space, bug repellant, sun block, gloves, and hats? Don't forget the chaise-lounges for collapsing into after a day of double trenching. Don't panic- did you also think yard sale and auctions? What about other stuff such as peat moss, lime, fertilizer, mulch, dormant oil, dusting powders and, oh yes, the plants themselves? Relax, eventually you will obtain it all; like your garden, these acquisitions grow with a life of their own.
When you visited the gardeners in your neighbourhood did you remember to make manners? If you did then feel free to ask them if they would keep you in mind when they are dividing perennials and collecting seeds. Don't be afraid to judiciously raid your relative's gardens. When people want to redo their landscaping, offer to take up their shrubs or perennials. These methods are part of a gardening tradition; there are very few plots that do not have bits and pieces from many sources. They will be constant reminders of friends and family every time you see them.
Now you have the materials with which to start and even some plants. Where to put them? Well, as long as you own the bit of property or have permission from the landlord, you can put your garden anywhere. Use containers on concrete, suspend window boxes on fences, balconies and naturally window sills, train vines and other climbers, including espaliered trees, on walls, hang containers from any suitable support as long as both it and the hook is strong enough. Essentially, put your garden anywhere you can. Two considerations are light and soil conditions. Don't put a sunny plant in shade; don't put a cactus into clay. Read the "bio' about the plant and you'll do fine.
We have our ideas, the plants we can afford, we know their preferred environments- we're getting close. The next step in the planning process is drawing up a master plan. Actually you'll find that research produces a plan that requires more research which produces a revised plan that...etc. At some point you need to stop. February is a good stopping point.
As always, talk to the professionals at your favourite plant centre, they will have lots of people there who are very good at research and planning.

Diploma in Agriculture, University of Guelph, 1979 and Diploma in Horticulture, University of Guelph, Kemptville Campus, 1999. In between, and a little bit on the other, been a soldier, an orchardist [10 yrs manager of a large commercial orchard] and a social worker [ten years as interpreter, advocate and linguistic analyst focussing on deafness]. Currently employed at a large garden centre/ nursery as the wholesaler.

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