When the house is new, it will be necessary to plan the garden straightaway, for, however attractive the house, its effect will be commonplace unless the paths, lawns, etc., are laid out and kept in order.
The first thing, when the builders have removed their equipment, is to go carefully over the whole plot and gather up remaining rubbish.
This will largely consist of broken bricks, etc., some of which will serve a useful purpose—the bricks, for instance, may come in for making the foundations of a path— but as a rule most of what is left behind should be got rid of by digging a hole at some spot distant from the house and burying it.
The surface being cleared, the next thing is to plan out the space. In deciding on a scheme, your own particular ideals and needs must be considered first ; where there are young children, an uninterrupted strip of lawn where they can play is imperative. This is unnecessary if the household consists of adults. The lawn in such cases may be a mere strip, surrounding, say, a sunk garden or a lilypond.
You may desire a trim garden, but do not wish to spend much time on it. Your best plan, then, is to devote most of the space to flowering shrubs, since they require little attention. If gardening is your hobby, a few shrubs will be the most you will tolerate. The bulk of the land will then be devoted to perennials and raising annuals. Thus the ‘lay-out’ is governed by your own particular circumstances.
The scheme being decided on, the work of putting it into being may be started. To mark out the boundaries of paths, beds, etc., cut a number of short sticks and peg out the ground. Do not depend on the eye for getting straight lines, and do not guess at measurements. It will save much time if all these things are done with careful accuracy. Straight lines should be obtained by stretching out lengths of twine: all measurements should be actually measured.
The boundary lines being indicated with pegs, subsequent work can be done according to the demands of the season. Put in the perennials straight away, if the calendar requires it, by digging up just enough of the land to take them, even though there is no path made up, and the edges of the bed are not formed; or rake over a sunny patch and make seed beds in what seems a chaotic wilderness. The pegs, however, will tell you that, when the work is advanced, this bed will take its place in the scheme of things.
In preparing the flower-beds, lift off the top layer of earth, if the surface is covered with grass. If the turves are merely turned into the soil, they will give trouble for years to come. It is much better to burn them or bury them elsewhere.
A satisfactory lawn can seldom be made from the original grass covering the plot. It may look well enough when forming a part of a field, but the grass will be too coarse for a lawn. The best plan is to clear the surface, level it, and sow good grass seed, or have it rcturfed. This latter course, however, is expensive.
For paths, few substances are better than gravel, well rolled in. On clay land, and where there is a chance of water logging, gravel paths should be provided with a substratum of porous material. If possible a strip of concrete or, better still, flagstones, should run alongside the house. Crazy paving is excellent in appearance, but not always practical in use. Few materials make a better edging for a sunk garden, for a path leading up to a rockery or for the approach to a sundial; but where the path is needed for walking purposes it is clumsy and very dangerous.
Make your garden a restful place where you can sit quietly and read or have a nap in the open air. Let there be a shady corner where your wife can take tea on a hot summer afternoon, or where the children can do their home-work. It is not enough to grow flowers in a garden, there must be an ‘atmosphere’ as well.