You’ve just moved to a new house and the garden is a wilderness… What to do and where to start? The planting is undoubtedly the most rewarding and exciting point in the production of a garden and this is why it is so important to understand and prepare your site. So often, we pay no real attention to this planning stage, planting what we like where we like with no real thought for the longevity of the plants and how they are gong to impact our enjoyment of this outside space. Some horticultural good sense is required and this is where we come in.

First off, decide what sort of garden you want. Who is going to use it and what for? If you have kids who want to play football, rabbits in a run, yourself reading a book or a desire for an outside entertaining space you will need to design your garden to fit these needs. You can always tweak things around later. Plants can be moved, but you’ll need a theme so that you can have a blueprint to follow. You may decide to go for a wildlife garden or a barbecue based garden. It is entirely up to you.

At some point you need to see what the micro climate of your space is. Where does the sun rise and how does it set? Which bits of your garden are sunny and which bits are mossy and damp? Do you get a lot of rain or do you have to contend with salty sea air? Is your land sloping? Are there any large trees that need to be worked around? Most importantly, what type of soil do you have? Is it loamy or chalky, alkaline or acidic?

It is a good idea to call your local public utilities provider or municipal planning department, in order to determine whether or not there are any pipes, cables, or other surprises lying beneath your soil. Discovering something by accident may prove costly.

Get yourself a sheet of paper, a pencil, a cup of tea and go to an upstairs window. Draw out the boundary of your garden, Mark an arrow pointing north, draw in any permanent features that you cannot change, making sure to draw in the umbra or shadow under any trees. Now decide where you would like to place that deck, and this bed, that lemon tree and this pond. You can mark these out on the paper then go downstairs and use an aerosol to mark out on the ground. Then go back upstairs and have another think. It is advisable to spend a couple of days on this.