Do you have a plain yard out back, incredibly dull and only used for occasional BBQ nights with friends and families? Well, I’ve got the easy steps for you to transform that space into a vibrant garden landscape!
What are you waiting for? Keep reading to get started:
(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Table of contents
- 1. Survey your property for garden landscaping ground
- 2. Choose non-invasive plants you want in your small garden landscape
- 3. Choose simple structures you want to add and finalize the finer details
- 4. Install your plants and structures, whether by DIY or hiring a professional
- 5. Maintain the garden landscape on a weekly to monthly basis
1. Survey your property for garden landscaping ground
If you’re starting from scratch, head to this article on how to get you started in designing your landscape using basic landscape principles. Otherwise, jump to these following steps:
- Draw out your property on paper with all the existing features. You don’t have to be artistic about it; just mark down their general positions, and you’re good. Alternatively, you can go to Google Maps, set it on satellite images, zoom in over your property, and print that out instead!
- Go outside and measure your home and existing features with a measuring tape. Note these measurements down on your drawing or print out.
- Observe your available yard space and figure out where you want to put your garden. Here is a helpful checklist for you:
- Ensure it is a place where there will be plenty of sun for the garden.
- Decide how big you want it to be based on the available space.
- Decide what it will be used for. Will it be used for gardening flowers or edible plants, a decorative feature in a lounge area, or an outside dining area experience for guests?
- Decide on the type of garden. Will it be containers and pots, an in-bed garden, vertical planters, hanging planters, or wall planters?
- Once you’ve decided on the above, outline your garden area on the drawing/printout with the measurements and other necessary details.
- Look at your drawing/printout and outline the paths you need to go around the garden. This way, you avoid stepping on any plants and garden soil, so as to avoid plant damage and soil compaction.
- Optional: Decide whether you need or have extra space to install hardscapes like a pergola, a built-in seating area, or an outdoor kitchen area.
Once you’re clear on the above, set yourself a reasonable budget for the plants, materials, and structures you need to purchase. This could also include any professional service fees you decided you’d be needing help with. As a rule of thumb, about 10% of your home’s value is a big enough budget to do most projects; so if your home costs $100 000, spend $10 000 on landscaping. You can certainly spend less; that is entirely up to your discretion, willingness to DIY, and your ability to talk your friends into helping you out.
2. Choose non-invasive plants you want in your small garden landscape
Depending on the objective of the garden, you will want to use different plants. For example:
- Do you want to do edible gardening? Pick the veggies, fruits, and herbs you WANT to grow. Maybe add a couple of edible flowers and insectary plants to encourage a healthy bug population. By having them in your garden, you’ve got buddy helpers to manage pests and pollinate your plants. Head to this article to know more about edible gardening and how you can get started!
- Do you want a purely ornamental garden? Pick all the pretty and bright foliage and flowers you like. Try not to go too overboard, though. You want the garden to look nice and subtle, not an eyesore.
- Do you want a low-maintenance garden? Pick native plants in your area and drought-tolerant plants for the bare minimum of care. This doesn’t mean you should pay them no attention at all, though! It just means they can go a while without constant babying since they are suited to your local seasons and rainfall.
- Do you want a wildlife garden? This is where you specifically grow a garden to attract bugs, birds, and small critters to live. Everything from the plants to structures are chosen to accommodate and provide their basic necessities. Not a popular option, but if you’re an avid fan of observing the outdoors, this is the garden for you.
Important note on the plants: Ensure that the plants you choose are non-invasive. I cannot stress this enough. It can be hard to manage these plants, and if you don’t spend enough time maintaining the garden space you’ll end up with an unruly and unorganized yard. Because of their crazy speed of growth, invasive plants can be impossible to keep up with. They are also known to choke out other plants and are very hard to get rid of once planted. Research your plants carefully, so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Here are a few invasive plants you should avoid planting:
- Yellow tulip
- Wild safflower
- Stemless thistle
- Amur honeysuckle
- Shining geranium
- Fig buttercup
- Japanese and Chinese wisteria
- Bee bee tree
This is but a small portion of invasive plants to avoid planting and may not apply to all areas. Different regions will have their own list of invasive plants one should never buy, propagate, sell, or cultivate. So be sure to check with your local cooperative extension website for this list or ask them directly through their contact page.
Also, take note that your chosen plants are suited for the place you chose, whether it’s shaded, semi-shaded, or full sun. You don’t want to come out one day to check on your garden only to find a majority of them wilting because they aren’t getting enough sun or turning brown because they got too much.
It’s ok if some plants don’t work out the first time. You learn as you go along, so you can do better next time!
Lastly, if you’re really lost on choosing the right plants to buy and wondering how you make a small garden look nice…
Here’s are some tips:
- Pick a color theme and use this to choose non-invasive, colorful plants.
- Keep it simple with 2-3 alternating colors with diverse plants.
- Remember that less is more; only add on more plants once the earlier plantings have taken root and flourished.
3. Choose simple structures you want to add and finalize the finer details
Let’s start with your pathways. You already know where you want to place it, so let’s go down to its specifics:
- What material do you want to use? Paver stones, flagstones, bricks, gravel, dried bark, or nothing but mown grass? This is entirely up to your own discretion.
- Do you want it to be a completely man-made path, mixed with natural grass growing around it, or just pure grass?
- How wide do you want it spaced? Whether it is to fit 2 people walking together or a lawnmower for monthly maintenance.
Got that all done? Cool, let’s move on to other things you might want to consider, like adding structures to your yard:
- Do you need to add edgings around your garden for a well-defined border? Usually, bricks, concrete blocks, stone slabs, or even a scattering of large stones are enough to mark the garden’s edge. Some skip this step and use a layer of mulch to define the garden area without any borders. Again, totally up to your imagination.
- What about tall fences for privacy? You can even customize your fence by adding hooks to hang potted plants and create a vertical garden.
- What about simple features to attract wildlife and beneficial insects to your garden? Not for a wildlife garden specifically, but a bonus feature in your garden such as a birdbath, feeding stations, or a bug hotel. Why a bug hotel? Check out this article on beneficial bugs!
- What about furniture? If you’re not planning on installing a built-in seating area, take this time to choose your table, chairs, sofas, and other items.
For any heavy-duty work, such as cementing the area, adding a water feature, adding a sun deck, or creating a pergola, it can sometimes be better to hire a professional. Don’t do it on your own unless you know what you’re doing or are willing to learn and possibly pay more money if you mess it up. Youtube has a lot of great instructional videos if you decide to give it a shot. Just double-check to make sure whatever you build is up to code, not in violation of local ordinances, doesn’t damage utility lines, and is all-around safe.
4. Install your plants and structures, whether by DIY or hiring a professional
The most straightforward bit to start with is the garden first. You need to give the plants some time to take root before installing any other structures. However, in some situations, you can do both simultaneously.
- Will your plants be in pots and containers? Get those ready, purchase your soil, place your plants in, and done! The next bit is mostly just arranging them according to what looks good to you in their designated garden area. Then you can move on to adding your structures.
- Will you be using hanging planters, vertical planters, or create a wall garden? This is somewhat similar to potted plants, but you hang them up instead on a section of your wall or fence and it works great for really tight spaces. Find a good sturdy place to install hooks to hang them and purchase chain link planters or macrame hangers to give it a more finished look. The best part about this is that you can probably get the structure and planting done in 1-2 days, provided everything is ready beforehand.
- Do you want a raised bed garden? You can read this article on tips to get you started with a raised garden table! But otherwise, a raised bed garden is just like a container garden but larger. It’s mainly used to grow food plants because of how easy and accessible it is to do your gardening. And you can start with fresh soil if your garden soil isn’t up to par nutrient-wise. Raised bed gardening can be done simultaneously as you add structure(s) but focus more on establishing the garden first.
- Do you want a traditional in-bed garden? You can read this article on how to do in-bed gardening. This method requires you to do some digging, analyze your soil and prepare any amendments needed. Arguably, this gardening type is more lengthy because most of your time will be spent waiting for the soil to be ready after adding your amendments.
Once you got those out of the way, next are the structures you want to install:
- Start with the rock edgings around your garden. This will not take too long unless you are planning to create a mini fortress. Seriously, it’s just rock placements; go nuts!
- Next is to lay out your pathway. The simplest way to do this is to place paver stones along the designated path, jump on them a couple of times to ensure they are level, and that’s it! There are definitely better and more decorative ways to go about it. In this case, hiring a professional to help you and give suggestions may be best unless you have a clear idea of what you want.
- Finally, add in your other features like the structures for wildlife and furniture to complete the look.
For any other larger structures to be added, ask yourself whether you can do it on your own or if you’re better off calling in a skilled tradesman to do it. If it is the former, then space your days and weeks out to slowly add them in. It won’t be finished in one weekend, but it will be worth it when you’re finished.
Note: Ensure you don’t overcrowd the space. Sometimes less is more, which is why establishing the garden and simple structures should come first. People and new purchases are like dragons in essence – you see something you like and decide to hoard it before realizing you don’t have the space for it. Totally not me with my own plant hoard somewhere in my apartment haha … totally not.
5. Maintain the garden landscape on a weekly to monthly basis
Now that you have your small garden landscape ready and looking snazzy, here comes the hard part: maintaining it so it looks consistently immaculate. Here is a maintenance checklist for you to follow through:
- Check your garden weekly. Clear out any dead or dying plants. If they are still salvageable, prune the damaged parts and give them some time to recover. If it’s clear that they won’t bounce back, discard them and get a new plant.
- Prune your plants lightly on a monthly basis, especially if they start to go unruly. This primarily has to do with vining plants, shrubs, hedges, and trees. But general pruning will help stimulate new growth in your plants. But I suggest leaving intensive pruning to once a year during early spring when it’s guaranteed your plants will grow fresh leaves and branches.
- Pull out any weeds around your garden. You can apply mulch or landscape fabric to prevent this, but personally, I think inorganic mulch like gravel will serve you better.
- Water your plants as needed every other day. Alternatively, you can install a drip irrigation system (Amazon link), so you don’t have to worry about accidentally killing your plants because you forgot to water them. This goes back to knowing your plants’ profile and how often they need to be watered. Get to know your plant, and they’ll grow happy and carefree.
- Rake away fallen leaves seasonally and if the fall mood takes you, crunch them satisfactorily under your feet. To make better use of them rather than throwing them away you can compost them, shred them into mulch, or keep them in a pile at a corner of your landscape for wildlife to take shelter in. Or even use them for bedding in your vermicomposting project!
And that’s your small garden landscape done and ready! Happy planting! 😀
Leave a Reply