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New Year, New Garden! – Part I: Determining Your Space

New Year, New Garden! – Part I: Determining Your Space

Tue, January 4, 2022 by Lucy Contreras, Manager of Plant Collections | in Botanical Gardens

Happy New Year! It’s that magical time where, if you’re like me, you address personal inadequacies with a cheerful shout of “New year, new me!” after making zero effort to actually work on self-improvement. While my early-year mantra is mostly me being facetious, there are certainly worthy resolutions that can be made. One good option? Starting a home garden!

Upper Left Wing

Perhaps your trips to Brookgreen Gardens have ignited a spark to start a garden at your own home and you just don’t know where to begin. Since the world of gardening can feel vast and overwhelming, we’ll start by taking it one step at a time and making this New Year’s resolution a reality. Each blog will focus on a new step or element, ultimately culminating in our end goal: starting and maintaining a new garden! The steps taken are what we do here at Brookgreen when establishing a new garden, just on a more manageable, home-sized scale!

Gomphrena pulchella 'Fireworks' at the Old Kitchen

So where do we begin? Our first step is determining our planting space. To do that, we need to first look at our living space. Do you have a yard at home that you can garden in? Maybe you live in an apartment or condo and don’t have a ton or really any yard space. Gardening doesn’t have to happen in the ground! For those who lack outdoor space, we turn our sights to containers.

Container outside of the Wall Lowcountry Center

Gardening in containers creates a mobile plant, assuming your container isn’t too big or too heavy! They can be a great accent to a doorway, a garden bed, or on hardscapes like patios or decks. While admittedly you will be more constrained with pots, they are an excellent way to incorporate plants into your yard, or even inside your home! Containers can also be a good choice when your soil conditions are not conducive to what you want to grow (clay soil, anyone?). Here at Brookgreen Gardens, we use large containers at the Welcome Center Plaza to help dress up our hardscape, but you can also find other containers throughout the gardens, even included in plant beds, like at Bethea's Garden.

Container in the potager garden at Bethea's Garden

For those who have a yard to play with, you will have a little more space to let your plants sprawl. But before you break out the shovel, the first thing you want to do is determine where you want to create garden beds. Does the area have sun, shade, or something in between? You also want to consider if your soil is dry, wet, or also in that in-between area. Determining what conditions you have is a very important step to save yourself from garden challenges and frustrations in the future. For instance, growing shade-loving ferns in the sun is typically a recipe for disaster!

Thelypteris kunthii

You will also want to think about what you want to grow. For example, if you want to plant vegetables, you will want a spot with a lot of sun. Maybe you’re more interested in planting trees or shrubs? You will want to maintain ample room from the house to ensure you won’t have to referee the fight of Tree versus House fifteen years down the line.

Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem'

For now, your two main objectives are to observe and research. First, observe the conditions for the areas you want to plant, whether it’s in the ground or in a container, noting sun and soil moisture (if you're container gardening, you get a pass on soil moisture!). This will determine what you can grow. If you want to grow cucumbers but your garden is in dense shade, it’s unfortunately not going to work. We want to set ourselves up for success, and the first part of doing that is working with what we have. The second thing we need to do is some basic research. If you have a plant you know you want to grow, like a live oak, research how big it grows and what light and soil conditions it needs. Depending on the size of your yard, you may find a particular tree will be too big and isn’t the best fit for your space. This step will help those of us going into this with a plant wish list in mind to see what is doable before we make the leap - and what we need to plan alternatives for.

Lani's Garden

Starting a new garden is a fun and exciting journey, and one that will create joy and satisfaction for years to come. Focus on your observation and research “homework” until next time, when we dive into our next topic: Deciding What to Plant in Your Space. This will help you establish the basics and get your garden planning off on the right foot. Until your garden is complete, and even after, you can get your garden fix (and maybe some inspiration!) here with us at Brookgreen Gardens!

See you in the Gardens!

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Off US Highway 17 Bypass, between Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island

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