Planning a Garden can be a daunting task for anyone.

We all garden for different reasons – to provide a low maintenance canvas; to provide year-round beauty; to give us shade or privacy; to positively impact the environment; or to give our families healthy, local food – and we all want something that we can be proud of for years to come.

One of our novice Gardeners sat down with Head Gardener, Linda Petite, to ask some questions and take this quiet time of the year to plan for this year and beyond.

Question: What is the first step in planning your garden – whether you are looking at flowers, shrubs or veggies?

Answer: All gardens are different because they reflect the taste of the designer. Think about your needs, location (sun/shade), colour scheme, form and texture, mature height, spread, and maintenance requirements.

Question: What are some books or seed catalogues that you can suggest for starting my research?

Answer: My favourite seed catalogues are West Coast Seeds, Veseys, Chilterns and Richters. The books I recommend are The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide, A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Garden Design Workbook, and Sunset Western Garden Book. Contact the HCP library at [email protected] to learn more about our resources and if you are looking for a specific topic.

Question: How do you plan for the long-term beauty of a garden? What are some things to consider when you plant? This can be overwhelming for a newbie gardener. For example, I would like one area of my yard have flowers that bloom at different times in the year. Should I try and plant everything at once or bit by bit and add in over time to see how it evolves and what works and what doesn’t?

Answer: Plan for color all season long, design a garden that provides interest in all 4 seasons. Conifers are the backbone of most gardens, as they look good 365 days a year and function as privacy screens. You can plant them in groupings or as single specimens. A mixture of shapes, sizes and color create visual interest all season long. Including shrubs, perennials, bulbs and annuals add extra interest.

Question: If I get a nice day, is there anything I can do outside now?

Answer: Mid to late winter is a great time to get on controlling the weeds, dormant pruning of shrubs, fruit trees and roses. If your soil is not too wet-plant peas, spinach and kale

Question: My yard has no shade. Can you recommend anything that will grow fast in the next couple years?

Answer: A few fast growing shade trees are Liriodendron (Tulip Tree), Acer rubrum (Red Maple), and Paulownia (Empress Tree).

Question: When starting a veggie garden, what are some things to consider? How do I narrow it down to what I want to plant?

Answer: My advice is to dream big, but start small and expand as you gain experience. Consider the location of the garden; most veggies require at least 6 hours sun during the day. You will also want to decide the type of beds; I think that raised beds are best. Make sure you can have good soil too; you can improve your soil by adding organic matter such as compost, leaf mold, animal manure and cover-crops. Make efficient use of the space; grow up, not out using trellis crops like peas, beans and cucumbers. Gardening is a life-long learning activity, keep good notes on your successes and failures and plant what you like to eat!!

Question: How high should garden boxes be?

Raised beds provide better drainage, increase soil temperature and allow you to plant or harvest in just about any weather. Ideally at least 3 feet wide and 6-10 feet long with 18-24 inch depth to access from both sides. Add 3-4 inches of compost annually and have your pathways wide enough between them for a wheelbarrow (18-24inches).

Question: What type of irrigation is best for someone on a budget – both for set-up and water use?

Answer: Drip irrigation is the most efficient as it waters the roots not the leaves. Water in the morning or evening when evaporation rates are less and little goes to waste. Collect and store rain water as well.

Thank you so much Linda for answering these questions!