Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he has been trying his hand at being a freelance writer. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.
Moving into a new home is life-changing — particularly if you’ve just moved into a new home with an outdoor area.
That’s because our outdoor spaces like gardens and patios allow us to relax and give us room to express ourselves. In the words of green-thumb and writer Michael Pollan: “A garden should make you feel you've entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant.”
But not everyone has acres of green space to play with. Or, if you do have a large garden, then you might find yourself at a loss with what to do with the newfound responsibility.
So, here’s a quick guide to help you prioritize your outdoor space and get the most out of your new garden.
Planning a Garden
If you’ve just moved into a new home with a garden, you may be tempted to head straight to your local nursery and buy everything that’s in bloom. However, buying and planting without a clear plan isn’t sustainable, and is unlikely to yield the kind of results you’re really looking for.
The garden of your dreams starts with a clear vision and an accurate blueprint. Start by pulling tape on every flowerbed and boundary line. Next, observe the amount of sun each area of your outdoor space gets, and make a note of shady or exposed areas. Finally, get your hands dirty and test your soil quality — is it chalky? Clay-like? Gritty? These factors will impact the kind of plants you can choose from and will give you clearer direction.
If you’ve moved state, you might be surprised by the effect a new climate will have on your gardening plans. There are 13 different hardiness zones in the U.S., and each zone has its own set of rules and best practices. Reach out to green-fingered neighbors or garden center assistants to get a better insight into the seasonal changes in your new state and how they’ll affect your ability to sustain a healthy garden year-round.
Carry Over from Previous Projects
As exciting as moving can be, leaving behind a cherished outdoor space is painful. However, you don’t need to abandon all your hard work when you move, and should seriously consider transplanting your favorite flower, shrubs, or trees into your new outdoor area.
However, successfully transplanting plants takes forethought and a gentle approach. Start the process early in the morning before it becomes too hot, and water thoroughly before you dig up the plant you will be transplanting. When moving the plant, hold it by the roots and base of the stem, and consider staking it for a few days if you think it could benefit from extra support.
Of course, plants aren’t the only things you may wish to bring with you when making a move. If you suspect you’ll feel a little homesick when you move, consider bringing the outdoor lighting from your previous home. It might sound strange, but fairy lights and glow jars can give you a sense of continuity between your previous house and your new home.
Working with Limited Space
Small outdoor areas are tricky. It's tempting to overfill a small space like a balcony or alleyway with as many plants, chairs, and lights as possible. Usually, this just results in a crowded feeling and may be stressful to maintain if you’re watering around wires or cushions.
To make the most of small spaces, focus more on the transition between indoor areas and outdoor spaces. For example, if you have a balcony you can blur the lines between inside and outside by bringing nature indoors. You can decorate with potted plants near the balcony door and can experiment with vine plants that trail from outside to inside. This will make your outdoor area seem larger and will bring you a host of physical and mental benefits.
Landscaping and Lighting
Landscaping is both a joy and a headache. On paper, your ambitious landscaping plans always look perfect. However, when you try to translate those plans from paper to nature, you might find a few stumbling blocks.
Ease yourself into landscaping by starting small. In your first year at your new home, try something realistic like DIYing your dream patio. This will help you establish a theme in your new outdoor space, and will give you a better idea of sightlines if you have a large garden and plan on sitting outside frequently.
After you’ve settled in, you can start to consider larger landscaping projects. As ever, start with a clear plan before you call in the diggers or start building permanent structures. This plan should center around a clear focal point like an impressive tree or structure. Try your best to extend the appearance of your garden beyond its actual bounds by utilizing borrowed landscape from surrounding natural features like mountains, hills, or neighboring gardens.
Getting the most out of your outdoor space is all about planning and preparation. Create a blueprint before you move too quickly, and be sure to speak to expert gardeners in the new town that can set you on the right path. If you have a small space, consider bringing nature indoors and borrowing landscape from surrounding features that create a sense of cohesion and make your new garden feel that much larger.