1 Choose the site. Define the space. Contain the size. Don’t overwhelm yourself with work. Start on a small scale.
2 Choose the plants: Is the site mostly shady or sunny? Find plant lists appropriate to the site. Choose trees 1st. The globe is warming: plant trees. Anticipate that these trees will cast shade. Choose plants for shade to plant under & north of your trees. Choose lots of shrubs, maybe 10 different kinds. Shrubs are low maintenance. It is okay to plant 1 of a few of them. Balance those with 2 & 3 of other kinds of shrubs. Choose groundcovers. These are essential to control weeds. Choose many different groundcovers. Plant 2 or 3 plants of the same groundcover together. Plant different groundcovers in different parts of the garden. Plant shady groundcovers under shrubs.
3 Buy lots of compost. You can order it by the truckload from Cedar Grove or buy it in bags. Cover the garden site 2 feet deep. Plant in the compost.
4 Buy the plants. No single nursery will have all of the plants you want & need. Call around. Look in the phone book under Nurseries. Google: Seattle Nurseries. Visit ALL of the nurseries near you. Order plants by mail, if they are unavailable locally.
5 Space the plants at appropriate distances. Find out how big these plants will get. Give them enough room. If you don’t, you will have to move (or remove) them later. Plant shady groundcovers under shrubs. Fill spaces between shrubs with groundcovers. Leave some room for perennials.
6 Add a few perennials. You will want the color & excitement of perennial flowers. But don’t use too many. Perennials require much more work than other plants.
7 Cover open ground with mulch. Buy shredded bark. Let fallen leaves be mulch. Put mulch from your compost pile or worm bin over open spaces in the garden. Always mulch around new plantings. Do not put mulch more than 2 inches deep.
8 Patrol your garden regularly: become territorial. Pull up weeds. See that plants don’t shrivel or turn brown from lack of water. Water regularly during summer. Replace dead plants. Make peace with insects & encourage spiders. Speak firmly to destructive animals. Put snails in paper bags & throw them in the yard waste bin.
9 Buy pruning tools. You need pruners, loppers & a folding pruning saw. Go to a big hardware store. Cut off dead & broken branches. Learn about pruning. Buy a book which illustrates pruning & other gardening techniques. The Sunset Western Garden Book is good to start.
10 Invite people to visit your garden. They will give you useful advice. You will be motivated to improve your garden. Their comments will make you proud. Join the Northwest Perennial Alliance & become 1 of the Open Gardens.