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Finding the Best Gardening Style for Your Personal Lifestyle

Catherine is a proponent for responsible stewardship of our natural resources and covers topics of plant life and sustainable living.

A small tree can be a nice focal point in a large garden bed. Here a blooming Brugmansia ("Angel's Trumpet") is an eye-catching centerpiece. Source: Catherine Tally 2014

A small tree can be a nice focal point in a large garden bed. Here a blooming Brugmansia ("Angel's Trumpet") is an eye-catching centerpiece. Source: Catherine Tally 2014

What Defines a Garden?

A garden can be anywhere you choose to grow your favorite things. It's a place to feel close to nature; it's your peaceful haven. There is no rule about the size or location of your plot. Your garden can be as unique as the gardener and should suit what you are willing to give it in terms of time and effort. A container garden or two can be just as satisfying to one as a planted acre is to someone else.

Are you one who loves fresh-picked fruits and vegetables and the spontaneous snip of herbs for your latest dish? Perhaps you love to arrange flowers, or you just enjoy relaxing in your private Eden where the birds sing, and butterflies flit about.

Here's what you have to do when planning your garden:

  • Consider your expectations.
  • Evaluate your available space.
  • Study your sunlight exposure.
  • Think about the time you wish to devote to your garden.
Curved borders have a more relaxed and natural feel. They invite a garden guest to meander and explore.

Curved borders have a more relaxed and natural feel. They invite a garden guest to meander and explore.

Grow Your Own Food

Urban gardens can be very successfully grown on balconies in containers or planted compactly in backyard beds. If your soil is hardpan or dusty, and the expense and time of digging and amending the soil doesn't appeal to you, a raised bed is the perfect solution. Stacking stones or building one from cedar planks to a height of 2 feet by 4 feet width by 6 or 8 feet in length will provide enough space to feed a family of four or more from a variety of edibles.

The framework will need to be filled with a combination of compost and topsoil. Irrigation can be set up w/ drip systems or soaker hoses on a timer so that the garden will receive consistent amounts of water even during vacation time. PVC pipes can be arched over the bed and attached with covers for cold protection, shade screens, or bird netting as needed. Raised beds are the basis of the French intensive gardening method and can support many plants for large harvests with less water, fewer weeds, and healthier outcomes.

On a smaller scale, pots can be filled much the same way and watered by hand. The Earth Box System is designed to be self-watering and weed-free and has an optional staking kit. It only takes a 1.5 cubic foot bag of potting soil and can support enough veggies to easily feed two people.

Dwarf fruit trees including tropical varieties and berries of all kinds do as well in pots as in the ground, so there really are no limitations to growing edibles except for the full sun requirements of six or more hours daily. Leafy greens and tubers can grow in less light.

Vegetable varieties are plentiful. They range from disease-resistant hybrids to openly-pollinated heirlooms, and grafted combinations. If growing in containers, look for determinate-type tomatoes and compact melons and squashes. There are even upside-down planting bags for those with small spaces who like to grow tomatoes without staking them.

Gardens can look like anything!

Gardens can look like anything!

How To Calculate Soil Volume

  • Measure the length, width, and height of your bed. Convert all measurements to the same unit. For example, if your bed is 6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 16.5 inches high, convert the inches to feet so your new measurements are 6 x 3 x 1.4 feet.
  • Multiply all the measurements together: 6 x 3 x 1.4 = 25.2 cubic feet.
  • Divide the answer by 27 to get the number of cubic yards. In the example above, your bed would need 0.9 cubic yards of soil.

Plant an Earthbox

Plant a Cutting Garden

Who doesn't love a fragrant garden full of lovely flowers? It can enliven one's spirits and brighten the dreariest day. Flower arrangements bring nature's beauty inside, provide calming aromatherapy, and tell our visiting friends how special they are. The real beauty is that it doesn't take a large space for loads of blooms. Unlike edibles, you can grow gorgeous specimens in either sun or shade.

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Flowers can be planted from seeds, bulbs, flats, and nursery pots. There are the seasonal annuals with the showiest color for our flower beds like snapdragons and stock. Flowering shrubs like roses, lilacs, camellias, and gardenias, and the hearty perennials repeat their cycles year after year. I think the perfect gardens use all of these for non-stop performance. It may be a bit of work to start, but those bulbs and perennials will pop up each season like clockwork.

Lilies, tulips, peonies, irises, alstroemerias, ranunculus, dahlias, gladiolas, and narcissus are all examples of bulbs that are ideal for cutting.

Biennials that grow one season and bloom the second include foxgloves, hollyhocks, delphiniums, and Canterbury Bells.

Perennials include salvias, geraniums, penstemon, coreopsis, daisies of all varieties, lupines, hollyhocks, columbines, and many wildflowers. They are all spectacular in bouquets! Plant hearty summer flowers from seeds like cosmos, zinnia, and marigold. The seeds from the spent blooms can be easily harvested and planted the next year.

Evergreens, ornamental grasses and ferns, berry sprigs, fruits, rose-hips, and vining tendrils all make excellent accents in flower arrangements. Again, most things can be grown equally well in containers, beds, and side yards. It is just important to make sure that your selections have the same light and watering needs when combined in a planter or bed. Container gardens offer the freedom to change a look easily with limited expense and effort.

This East facing bed is full of partial sun plants and features a trellis of birdhouses and a cherub birthbath. | Source

This East facing bed is full of partial sun plants and features a trellis of birdhouses and a cherub birthbath. | Source

Versatile Container Gardens Transform Patios

Unleash your creativity with easy container gardens using the popular concept of the "thriller, filler, and spiller" combo.

Unleash your creativity with easy container gardens using the popular concept of the "thriller, filler, and spiller" combo.

Create Inviting and Peaceful Retreats

A single bench, potted plants, and some wall art, or a mural can transform the back of a shed or garage.

A single bench, potted plants, and some wall art, or a mural can transform the back of a shed or garage.

Patio furniture placed on the lawn or around the garden is inviting.

Patio furniture placed on the lawn or around the garden is inviting.

Make a Perfect Spot to Relax

When creating a personal outdoor haven, think about the things that help you relax. Perhaps it's the soothing sound of a trickling water feature, the chirps and songs of feeding birds or the swaying of palms and ornamental grasses. Whatever it is, you will want to have a place to sit to enjoy it all. If your space allows for it, an outdoor room with deep cushioned seating arrangements, lanterns, outdoor grilling, and dining will allow gathering for entertainment. How lovely to experience a beautiful sunset with the fragrant waft from flowering jasmine or a statuary garden with white iceberg roses reflected by a full moon! A small bistro table and hanging votives in the midst of planted containers might provide the perfect setting for a romantic glass of wine with your partner. For others, a short walk with a book in hand to a small sheltered, secret garden in an unused side yard might be a slice of heaven. Your only limit is your imagination!

Consider the Ambiance of a Fire Pit

Your garden can include a small space for sitting and enjoying the warmth from a safely screened fire pit.

Your garden can include a small space for sitting and enjoying the warmth from a safely screened fire pit.

Make a Cozy Outdoor Room

This simple seating area is set under a temporary gazebo and features battery-operated paper lanterns to add a magical ambience in the evening.

This simple seating area is set under a temporary gazebo and features battery-operated paper lanterns to add a magical ambience in the evening.

A potted Japanese maple between two chairs creates an intimate space on an open patio.

A potted Japanese maple between two chairs creates an intimate space on an open patio.

How To Bring It All Together

Stately trees, shrubs, lawns, and flower beds complement each other nicely on a larger property and help define main entrances and specific areas of use. On a smaller scale, trees and shrubs work to provide privacy or give shade and curb appeal. Trees also serve as play places for children and markers for the seasons as they bloom, change color, and drop leaves.

Patios and balconies are more intimate but can contain the same elements. Utilize "up spaces" like walls with tiered containers. Don't overlook side yards and backends of garages. They offer secret places and areas of sun for sprawling veggies like zucchini and watermelon.

When choosing plants, pick for year-round seasonal interest. Think about what you want most from your garden and how involved you wish to be.

Suggested time savers for less work and more enjoyment include:

  • slow-release fertilizers
  • weed barriers
  • mulches
  • timed water delivery

Gardening organically will attract birds, lizards, and beneficial insects as a hard-working pest-control team. Consider attracting them by adding a birdbath and seed-producing flowers or a pollination bed. In spring, add layers of compost, leaf mulch, and worm castings to the garden for healthier, deep-rooted plants. Natural pest control and great soil save even more time in the long run.


There is a garden for every personality and every need. The "perfect garden" can only be defined by the individual. However, you see it, no matter your budget, it is within reach and can be had with a vision and a bit of passion to get the job done. No doubt, it is worth the effort!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Catherine Tally

Comments

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on August 07, 2015:

Thank you, Mary! I do most of my things in pots too which I place in among the mature plants in my flower beds. They are easier to care for during hot seasons and drought. When we move I will miss the plantation shutters. Shutters of any kind will always be my favorite window treatments because of the look and ease in directing light. I really appreciate the shares and posts on pinterest - bless you! Wishing you many happy moments and peace in your garden-

Cat:)

Mary Hyatt from Florida on August 07, 2015:

I just came back for another visit to your beautiful garden. I couldn't help but notice those lovely shutters in your window. I had some just like them in my old house, and just loved them.

I loved looking at your flowers. I grow the Angel Trumpet, too.

Most of my gardening is done in pots since I have very little yard space in my new apartment.

Well, you know the sad story of my tomato fiasco , now I'll stick with flowers.

Going to share this lovely Hub here and will Pin to my gardening board.

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on September 25, 2012:

Hi oliversmum,

Thank you! I am delighted that my hub gave you some great ideas. I hope you feel inspired to create a lovely spot that suits you just right! I appreciate your stopping by to comment:)

oliversmum from australia on September 24, 2012:

cat on a soap box Hi. What wonderful information and photographs. So many different layouts and colors. You have given me so many great ideas.

Thank you for all this information. Thumbs up and Awesome. :):)

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on September 12, 2012:

Good morning, Audrey! Thank you for the lovely compliment. You have really brightened my day. I am so glad that you enjoyed this. :)

Audrey Howitt from California on September 12, 2012:

What a beautiful garden you have created!!! Just lovely!!! Sharing this!

Chris Hugh on June 10, 2012:

I love your pictures! I had a planter box put in a couple months ago and I haven't done anything with it, but you are inspiring me. I wonder what would be a good thing to plant right now. I'm in Northern California/SF Bay area. But not in SF. :)

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on April 16, 2012:

Hi, Millionaire Tips! You've made me smile with your comment about being too lazy and wanting to move in. haha! It sounds like a potted palm, chaise lounge, and small table for a margarita would suit your garden style! Of course you can come visit, but be warned that I might put you to work if you move in (: I really appreciate your congrats and compliments- thanks for stopping by!