Garden Design: Aspect, Soil and Climate
Garden Design: Aspect
Check the aspect of your garden:
Shady side: Only morning and evening sun in summer, often moist and cool.
East: Morning sun, perhaps cold drying winds.
Sunny side: Plants need extra watering.
West: Evening sun, perhaps rain, wind.
Note those areas of your garden which get the most sun and those which are in permanent shade and establish where the prevailing wind blows from, so that you don’t have your sitting area in its path or plant any delicatethere. You might even find you have a wind tunnel in your garden, in which case a hedge, trellis or screen-block wall will deflect some of the wind without redirecting it at an increased speed as a solid wall would do.
Garden Design: Soil
Theprovides your plants with food, water and support. Just dig a shallow hole and take a handful of soil out and feel it. Sandy soil does not form crumbs, in fact it falls through your fingers. It is free draining but needs organic matter which will improve the structure so that it will retain food and water.
Clay soil is sticky and can become quite unworkable although it retains moisture and nutrients. This soil type needs cultivation. In autumn it should be dug or rotavated and left for the frost to break it down. In spring organic matter should be added again to lighten the structure and free the food and moisture.
Loam is a mixture of sand, clay and silt, the ideal soil to have in a garden. Working this soil makes gardening a pleasure. It is sticky enough to hold sufficient moisture, light enough to allow the excess water to drain away. This type of soil needs only the occasional addition of nutrients to make it the perfect growing medium for your plants.
Chalky soil is very light and provides little nourishment. It appears usually in a thin layer on porous chalk. Chalky soil is also alkaline; this of course limits the choice of plants that will grow on it. A regular addition of organic matter is absolutely essential to give your plants a chance.
The subsoil is a compact layer with little organic matter but it contains essential minerals. The surface of the subsoil should be broken up with a garden fork to aid the penetration of the roots which helps to support the plant. This is particularly important if you plant mature or semi-mature trees and shrubs.
Neutral soil has a pH of 7; below 7 the soil is acidic and above 7 alkaline. There is a vast choice of plants which grow in a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soil. Probably the best known plants which thrive on acidic soil are rhododendrons, camellias, heathers and pines but also vaccinium, pieris and zenobia and many more should be tried.
Again there are a vast number of plants which grow on chalky or alkaline soil, such as the Judas tree, yew, Mains sieboldii, Rosa Alberic Barbier’ and verbascum. If your soil is alkaline and you want to grow rhododendrons and azaleas grow them in tubs. It is possible to change the pH of your soil. It is expensive and labour-intensive and this change will sometimes only last a season after which you will have to renew the soil.
When working in your garden avoid standing on the soil. It will damage the structure. A board laid on the ground will distribute your weight and limit the compression.
Garden Design: Climate
It is useful to know your local climatic conditions. It will help you with the choice of your plants and avoid costly mistakes. Find out how high the rainfall is, what the temperatures are and how many hours of sunshine you can expect. The growing season starts later on top of a mountain than in a sheltered town garden. Record the sunny, shady, dry, wet, sheltered and exposed parts of your garden. It will then become obvious to you where to have your sitting area and you will be able to choose the right plants to suit your conditions. It is possible to alter the micro-climate; trees, shrubs and fences make good shelter belts. The plants which are planted in these protected areas will benefit from the warmed up soil and flower and fruit all the more easily. Very sunny parts could be partially shaded by a specimen tree such as a flowering cherry or a Gleditsia japonica.