Someone posted in a facebook group asking for advice for landscaping and starting a garden for a brand new “blank canvas” yard.

My thoughts, speaking as someone who also started with a “blank slate” and made a mix of good and bad calls.

Make note of the sun and shade patterns over the course of the year. Where are the wet spots when it rains? If in a snow area, where does the snow stick around longest, where does it melt first? All this tells you about your micro-climates, which can be good when you are picking a spot for a finicky plant.

Focus on the quality of your soil. You can buy the best plants in the world but if you have crappy soil “stuff ain’t gonna grow”. Hint: if you need a jackhammer to till the ground, it’s crappy soil.

Order a lot of veggie / tree / flower catalogs and also visit the library and check out a huge stack of “idea” books. Go to the local garden center and look at the plants they have for sale. This is great for seeing how the flowers actually look “live” and not just in pictures.

Get a topographical map of your property (you can usually get them from the county/city offices), make a zillion copies of it, and work out your ideas. Dream big. Be picky.

Start with annuals and “disposable” plants your first year. This gives you time to spend a year just watching the yard and thinking about what to plant where, what trees you would like, what are your favorite plants, and realistically, identify (and rule out) what would you really love to grow but it just isn’t going to work in your garden zone. (I’m looking at you, olive, avocado, and grapefruit trees). Remember that it’s easier to dig and move a small flower than a tree, once you’ve planted it.

Be willing to fail: not everything you plant will live. Make DAMN sure before you plant anything potentially invasive (like mint). Because that stuff will not only live, but THRIVE.

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