Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Begin a Garden Project by Kate Sullivan-Sisneros

Author's Garden After Planning
If you have never done any gardening before or have never seen it done, getting started can be a little intimidating.  Where does one begin? 

Step 1:  Begin by asking yourself a few questions: 
What do I want to accomplish?  Do I want to grow vegetables, herbs, flowers, shrubs or some combination of all of these?
How much time am I going to have to tend the garden once it is planted?  What is my budget?  Am I willing or able to irrigate my new plantings?  Am I limited by space such as living in an apartment or patio home?  Answering these questions will provide you with some direction.

Step 2:  What do you like?  When I got started, I began by looking at pictures of different kinds of gardens.  What was I drawn to?  What are you drawn to?  Everybody’s tastes are different.  The library and internet are great sources for the budding gardener.  “Lawnscaping” by Scotts was one of the first gardening books I bought at Home Depot. 

Also, try to notice what you find appealing when going for a walk in the neighborhood.  You could visit different types of gardens such as The Denver Botanic Gardens, The Littleton War Memorial Rose Garden or The Jeffco Jail Rose Garden.  Also Kendrick Lake has a beautiful xeric (adapted to a dry habitat) garden to walk through on Jewell and Garrison in Lakewood.  “Xeriscape Colorado The Complete Guide” by Connie Lockhart Ellefson and David Winger is a good book with wonderful pictures and information on water-wise gardening.

  Step 3:  Evaluate your space.  If you have limited space, container gardening might be just the ticket.  Different sizes, shapes and textures of pots and plants on the patio can change the look and feel of your outdoor space.  The book titled “Cool Containers” by Adam Caplin can be obtained at the Jefferson County Public Library, on, or at the local bookstore. 
If you have a large space and are starting from scratch, you may need to break it down into manageable sections and plan to tackle only one section per season.

Step 4:  Draw a blueprint.  Draw a picture of your ideas on graph paper.  This will become the blueprint for your design.  Use pencil and get a good eraser, as your ideas may change as you go along.

Step 5:  Evaluate your sun exposure.  Full Sun means 6-8 hours of direct sun daily.  Part Sun means 4-6 hours of direct sun daily.  Part Shade means 4 or fewer hours of direct sun daily.  Full Shade means it is protected from direct sun including dappled shade or indirect sun.  Use your blueprint and make note throughout the course of a day.  Mark on it exactly how much sun each site gets.

In Colorado, not all sun is created equal.  Sites that get only a few hours of the hot afternoon sun should be considered as "Full Sun" because of the intensity of the sun it gets.

Don’t be afraid to ask your local nurseryman questions.  Many nurseries employ trained horticulturists who can be additional sources of information.  Sometimes it comes down to trial and error for difficult sites, e.g., a site that gets only an hour or two of midday sun.

Author's Garden Before

Author"s Garden After
I began gardening for the very first time in 2004.  I knew NOTHING about gardening.  I couldn’t even keep houseplants alive.  My husband wasn’t interested in anything regarding the yard except mowing the lawn (and still isn’t interested).  A couple of estimates from a few local landscapers of over $10,000.00 quickly piqued my interest in learning to landscape the yard myself.  From that, I stumbled into something that has become a source of great passion and joy for me.  My best advice for the beginner is to try it.  You might find that you love it too.

Additional resources:
One source of information is the ‘Plant Talk Colorado’ web site at  that offers current research-based information on just about any topic about gardening.
Also, the Master Gardener Hotline at 303-271-6632 with questions.  The Call Center is staffed by Jefferson County CSU Extension Colorado Master Gardeners.