First, check your sun exposure. For most flowering plants and edibles you’ll need at least 6 – 8 hours of sun per day for the best results. Most people underestimate how much sun they have in their garden. Afternoon sun is the warmest so make sure that it’s 6 – 8 hours of the best sun of the day for your sun loving plants. If you’re growing edibles this is probably THE most important issue for success.
Next, check your irrigation. It’s important due to our drought conditions to be fully aware and knowledgeable about your irrigation system or at least the amount and frequency of watering to assure success in your garden and compliance with local regulations. If you have a controller, learn how to use it. Get instructions online or ask your gardener to show you how it works if you don’t know. There is NO easy answer to “How much/often should I water?” Just as the weather will change our human requirements for water, plants need to be watered according to the weather, not a schedule.
If you need one rule for watering, it is this: Water deeply, less often. OR Water deeply once a week with supplemental water during warmer weather.
Next, clear out the area you’re going to be planting. This is the job that makes you a super gardener and gets you in touch with your garden. It literally helps you get a feel for what’s going on and what your plants need… but, weeding, who doesn’t dislike this aspect of gardening? Gardeners, that’s who. If you’re consistently out there checking your garden while getting ahead of the weeds, this job gets easier and easier with every season because you’re taking steps in advance against weeds in the future.
I won’t lie, in the beginning it might seem daunting but it will reward you with less weeds as time goes on AND it’s the cheapest therapy you can find. Take it (much like this post) one step at a time and do your weeding when you’ve done everything else, start the day prepared to tackle it and then keep up with it each week. You’ll be rewarded quickly with gorgeous plants.
After your areas are weed free, you’re going to amend your soil. You should use specific soils prepared for what you are planting: Acid planting mix, Cactus mix, Harvest Supreme (created for vegetable gardens but excellent for all plants) or All purpose planting mix. The most important thing you can do for your garden is to help the soil drain well. Our soil here is primarily clay and even if you amend the top layer there’s still going to be a hardpan layer of clay beneath it. Try to amend as much as you can and remember when watering that our soil is draining into clay which will hold water during times of heavy rain or overwatering. *We recommend adding pumice to help soil drain to any and all soils, it’s not as light as pumice so it doesn’t float to the top of the soil.
PLANT! Once you’re got everything cleaned, settled and ready, it’s time to plant. You’ll want to select plants that have the same water needs, as well as considering how large they’ll grow. If you want less gardening be patient and give them space, then you won’t have to prune them as much. Get a good idea of how you would like your garden to look before you buy or plant anything. Get your foundation plants first (these are usually the largest plants) and then add filler plants. Lastly add color or small groundcover.
Mulch. An addition that not only makes your garden look finished but also helps plants use less water. Mulch can be just about anything from cedar or redwood mulch, soil top dressings, compost, leaves or even pebbles.
Of course this is a simple overview and you can add many steps to this but keeping your garden simple is always best for maximum enjoyment. Pests are seasonal and should be dealt with as they come, not before then. If you’re out in your garden checking weeds and making sure your irrigation is working, you’ll see pests as they arrive and can deal with them before they become a large problem.
The Outdoor Horticulture staff here at Roger’s is here for you seven days a week to help answer your questions and if you check our website, we have seminars throughout the year to help you become knowledgeable and confident in your garden.