What to do first?

melody-s(USDA 7, Sunset 4)May 8, 2012

I am in the process of buying a home with 1/2 acre on a hill. I am new to gardening in this climate, and I will be moving in early July. The previous owners did a fair amount of work and (bless them) removed all the blackberries which was apparently a huge job. The existing garden doesn't quite suit my tastes and there is a lot of open space.

I am planning ahead and would really like some ideas of where to start. There is so much space and I am at a bit of a loss for where to begin. I would love ideas on the best ways to spend the first summer in my new garden.

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Hire a garden coach, consultant or designer to assist you.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 1:01PM
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Don't rush into planting all over everywhere until you find out what is actually there. There may be some plants that are just emerging now that you may want to keep.

I would find a nice spot and put in a vegetable garden and spend the time tending that looking at the yard and how you plan on using it.

Keep a tight lid on that blackberry, it will want to return.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 2:15PM
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For the first summer, just keep it watered, the weeds under control and the lawn mowed :-) Do nothing else unless it is to ID any plants unknown or unfamiliar with you (you can post images online here or hire a consultant to visit or bring samples to a good local nursery). Actually, the typical recommendation is to make no major changes until you've been on the property for a year - or close to. That way you can a)determine ALL the plants that may be growing, as many appear and/or flower at different times, not just in summer; b)determine what works or doesn't and what you like or don't and c) gather some ideas on how you want to use the space - entertaining areas, a cutting garden, a vegetable garden, room for kids or pets, etc. and if there are areas you need to screen or views to enhance. THEN you bring in the coach or designer!

And it never hurts to gather an album of photos or magazine pics that illustrate ideas or plants you would especially like to incorporate :-)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 2:25PM
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pat_tea(PNW, Van,WA)

The only thing I would add is to visit garden centers and nurseries to get familiar with the plants that grow in your new area. If you go once a month you will see different plants. Take notes and join a garden club to meet gardeners in your area. Good luck. You can also do some containers to keep your gardening juices flowing.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:07AM
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melody-s(USDA 7, Sunset 4)

Thanks for the input. Yes, it does make sense to just observe and maintain for the first year. I will have a new greenhouse to play in so I guess it would be best to work on that and containers until I figure out what's what.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 12:39PM
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kristiepdx(8b, sunset 6)

I totally agree with waiting a year before you do anything. I recently bought a house (2 years ago) and being a first time home owner made many alterations that first year. Without knowing what anything was, I allowed my husband to "top" a 35ft native dogwood, hack two 15ft camellias down to stumps, cut back a flowering quince by 1/2, rip out entirely a 10ft oak leaf hydrangea, removed 8 rhododendrons.

(the nine 40 year old arborvitae really DID need to go though)

If I would have waited a year, I would have known what all this stuff was. Then I could have moved the stuff I liked to a more appropriate location. I am kicking myself now.

Fortunately, this was only a small fraction of landscape. The little old lady that lived here REALLY loved her flowers. I live in paradise.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 9:55PM
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If there are weeds in the lawn or landscape, don't let them go to seed.

Remove dandelions & weeds by hand with a tool as they appear. In a pinch a screwdriver after a soaking rain works to get the root out. The weed hound tool works from standing, but wear a cushioned glove as my palm grew sore with the action of the tool. At 1st glance it seems like there are only a few dandelions, but then when you start looking closely you can find hundreds if the lawn hasn't been "plucked" before. Don't over do it the 1st day with the new tool.

Ask a gardening friend to come over & help identify plants and weeds. A repeat visit now and then would be helpful for that first year.

We did that for our daughter & hubby when they moved in to a home in winter that had been vacant for a year. We drew a simple sketch on a clipboard and another sheet of paper held a list of the names of plants. As we looked closely we found both loose and attached plant tags. I matched up what I could & left them with possibilities to fill in once plants bloomed or shooted up more as it was in March.

We also smothered weeds with burlap topped with arborist wood chips around shrubs & topped off the existing mulch. Having a bit of warning about weeds to look for helped them be on the alert. That first year I took at least 5 minutes each visit to do a quick look to see what was appearing and added to the sketch or told them about weeds or new plants that had sprouted up.

Later we found horsetail in the tall bearded iris bed, so it was helpful to have rest of the yard in shape.

Hope that helps

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 9:56AM
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