Now that the snow is gone and the weather is getting warmer it feels like the perfect time to start thinking about ways you can add to the curb appeal of your home.

Gardens are one of the easiest and most eye-catching ways to improve curb appeal.

Time and time again I hear people say “I have no idea how to plant a garden” or “I’m no good at gardening…everything I plant dies”. You don’t have to be a master horticulturalist to create a beautiful and thriving garden, you just need to know a few basics to get you started and the rest will fall into place!

Know Your Zone

In Ottawa, our zone is “5a”. What does this mean? This tells us what type of plants can be planted that will survive our climate.

Frost Free Date

It usually is not recommended to plant any flower beds or shrubs until around the 20th of May. A great rule of thumb is to wait until the Victoria Day Long Weekend. This year, Victoria day is May 23rd and in case you didn’t know, even though all stores are closed for the holiday, most garden centres are open!

The Direction Of Your Home

In order to correctly select plants, it is important to know the direction the front of your home faces so you are aware of the amount of sunlight it receives every day.

South-Facing: Sunny for most of the day – optimal growing conditions for many flowering plants, however this also means that your soil will dry out much faster and will require extra watering.Look for plants that have small leaves to reduce moisture loss from the hot sun, silvery foliage that reflects sunlight and furry foliage that traps moisture.

North-Facing: Shady and cool – great for architectural foliage plants and flowers requiring more shade. To avoid casting even more shade, place large shrubs at the ends of your garden.
Look for plants with large and thin leaves and plants with glossy foliage.

East-Facing: Sunny until mid-afternoon – perfect for plants that require half sun.

West-Facing: Sunny from noon to evening – ideal conditions for full-sun plants and part-sun plants. Just make sure you position full-sun loving plants in the brightest areas of your garden.

Buying Plants

There are 2 categories of plants you can purchase: perennials and annuals. Perennials are plants that are planted once and come back every year. Annuals are plants that need to be replanted every year and die at the end of the season.

Walking into a garden centre sometimes can be overwhelming, but don’t panic! Perennial and annual plants are usually separated into two different sections.

I like to consider the perennials in my garden as the staples of my garden and I think of annuals as bright and pretty space fillers that I place around the perennials to add pops of colour.

When shopping for plants it is important to take a look at the plant’s label for 2 key reasons: To determine how big the plant will grow and to find out if the plant requires sun, shade or a mix of both. This information will ensure that your garden will not become overcrowded and that you are not wasting money purchasing plants that are not conducive to the direction your garden faces.

Preparing The Soil

Start by outlining the shape you would like your garden to have. Dig up this space and remove all grass, weeds, stones and rubble so you are left with a fresh canvas. It is always helpful to add bags of black earth to your garden to ensure you have enough soil to dig planting holes.

To increase the quality of the soil and to improve the retention of water and nutrients in your soil, depending on the size of your garden, add a couple of bags of compost or manure and mix together with the pre-existing soil/added back earth in your garden. Bags of black earth, compost and manure can be inexpensively purchased at any garden centre.

Planting Your Garden

Most container-grown plants are planted the same way. About an hour before planting, while the plant is still in the container, thoroughly soak the plant using a hose or watering can. Dig a hole twice the size of the pot and a little deeper than the pot. Sprinkle a little bit of bone meal (this can be purchased from any garden centre) in the bottom of the hole. Remove the plant from the container and gently massage the root to loosen it up and place the plant into position. Refill the hole and firm up the soil around the plant using your hands.

After your garden is complete, add a 2 inch layer of mulch over the soil surface. Replenish this layer of mulch each year.

Maintaining Your Garden

Watering your garden 1 to 2 times per week is sufficient. Water your plants to ensure that the water reaches the roots, but avoid water logging your garden. Most gardens require an inch of water a week. If you are using a sprinkler to water your garden, a great tip to ensure you are not over or under watering your garden is to place a bucket in your garden marking a 1 inch level. Once you have reached the 1 inch mark you know your garden has had enough water. Don’t forget, the appearance of your plants will tell you a lot about its watering needs. Believe it or not, overwatered and underwatered plants look similar. They will appear wilted and droopy. If this happens, it is best to test the soil with your finger. If the soil is wet then you are overwatering your plants and if the soil is dry then you are underwatering your garden.

Water your garden late in the evening or early in the morning. This ensures that more water gets to your plants and less water gets evaporated from the sun and hot soil.
Do not spray water directly on the leaves of your plants. Water your plants under the leaves at the stem. This prevents mould from growing on the leaves and prevents the sunlight from creating burn marks on the leaves.

I really hope that this information helps and you are inspired to start gardening!