Garden design help
  Re: (0...)
I have 5 acres of open land... a gardners dream come true! The problem is that I have completley drawn a blank when it comes to coming up with ideas. There is a tree line (brush line) that goes the entire length; we have chosen to leave this for privacy so I would like to build it out, and make it more pretty and to attract some wildlife. Any suggestions?
  Re: Garden design help by peanutsqueen (I have 5 acres of op...)
a) survey your property and map it. Indicate all existing buildings, drives, fences, trees/shrubs (either as individuals or as a group), slopes, sun/shade, particularly dry/wet areas, streams, bogs, large stones/rock outcroppings... anything that will let you know what you have and where it is. Make note of any problem areas on the map that you want to change, or any features that you especially want to keep.

b) Think about what items you want to have out there: vegetable garden, patio/patio garden, gazebo, woodland walk, secluded garden, cutting garden, etc. Also think about what you want the views to be from inside the house. Is there a room(s) that you use frequently? What do you see out the window now? What would you like to see out the window? Have a view that needs to be 'framed'? A view that needs to be obscured? A view that needs a focal point? Mark the areas on the map that relate to your views, and find the areas on the map that best fit the other features you'd like to have (such as: a veggie garden should be near the kitchen and water, and in full sun). Something like a gazebo could become a focal point out one of your window views (or could obstruct a less desirable view). Once you know where a certain garden should go, a soil test will also be helpful at this point.

c) Once those main pieces are in place, you may see a pattern emerging in their placement that suggests where paths or dividing borders, etc. should go. It may also suggest something that you can use to tie all the areas together (make the path material the same throughout the garden, or repeat a certain color, or repeat the transition elements from one area to the next).

d) As far as attracting native wildlife goes, get some good books (the local library is great for this!) and ask area nurseries, master gardeners, etc. about plants native to your area. Not only will those plants be the most attractive to your native species, but they'll also be the best adapted to your climate and will need the least additional care from you -- something especially nice when they may be located 1/4 mile away from the house with no accessible water supply except for what you're willing to lug out to them!! Remember: animals need food, water and shelter in order to survive. Plan to supply at least the food and the shelter with the plants you select, and, if a stream or pond doesn't already exist on your property, then adding a water feature will supply the last element.

e) This process is going to take a while. Play with your map and see what unfolds when you try different things. If there are a few features you know you'll want (patio garden, etc.), get them started now and see how the rest of the garden unfolds over the next few years. The one thing to keep in mind is that, while most plants can get changed out pretty easily, hardscaping is a much different matter. If you're planning something now that you think will have to be changed later, make sure it's something that won't break your back (or the bank) to switch over.

f) The primary thing is to have patience. This is an ongoing process. Living in a place for several years and getting to know the areas that you use or need the most are two of the best ways to get ideas. Just tackle one area at a time, keeping the broader loose plan in mind, and it will all come together. Remember -- most of those finished landscapes we see in our gardening magazines were many years, if not decades, in the making! There's no such thing as an impatient gardener.
The great thing about gardening is that you always get a chance to start over!

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