We were lucky.  We started with trees. And no matter what I plant in our backyard garden. the mature hardwoods that came with the place will always be the stars.

Not so for my friend.  She’s  living in a new house on what looks like an old corn field.  There’s nothing going on her backyard but grass. 

Boring.  But she wants to change that.  So here are 4 steps for creating  a garden. 

1) Lay out your bed(s.)  Then increase the size.   I suggested she use surveyor stakes or a garden hose to make the shapes–then live with them for a while.  Most of us make our beds too small and way too  narrow.  Think of your house from Google Earth and you’ll get a better sense of scale. 

2) Improve your soil.  If you’re living in a new house, chances are the ground is compacted and the builder took all your topsoil away.   My solution is to go up.  Here’s a mixed border in my yard built on cardboard last fall.  If you don’t have a truck to bring in topsoil and compost, buy bags and mix it on site.  1 bag topsoil and 1 bag organic humus, to 1 bag composted cow manure will work just fine. 

3) Start with shrubs and small trees.  Flowers come and go.  Garden beds need year-round structure.  Always think fall and winter interest before you consider spring and summer flowers. 

4) Finally, Find an independent nursery in your area, go there, ask questions and make friends.  Big box stores may be fine for nails and light fixtures, but I’ve seen lots of plants in their garden centers that just don’t like the weather here.   A good  local nursery will be stocked with locally grown plants.  They’ll do well for you.

Now it’s your turn–any advice from the seasoned gardeners out there for someone just starting out??  We were all beginners once, remember.  What have you learned along the way?

PS.  Campbell Road Nursery on Tryon in Cary is my go to nursery.  Stone Brothers and Bryd in Durham is great for growing supplies and good advice.   And it wouldn’t be spring (or fall) with out a trip to Camellia Forest in Chapel Hill.  The coolest trees and shrubs  in my yard came from Cam Forest.