10 tips to read before starting a flower garden

Gardening offers a plethora of benefits for people no matter what their age or physical ability. It reduces stress, builds self-esteem, decreases the risk of dementia and provides physical exercise. Some people plant gardens to grow food, whereas others plant gardens full of flowers to beautify their property.
Are you interested in gardening but unsure where to start? Starting a flower garden can seem like a daunting idea, but it doesn't have to be with these tips. Familiarizing yourself with the spot you want to use and some basic flower gardening concepts can get you started on your venture successfully.
1. Get to know your site
Before starting to plan your flower garden, take some time to really get a good feel for the spot you are going to use. Over the course of a few days, monitor how much sunlight the site receives, the times it is in the shade and if it is exposed to significant amounts of wind.
2. Familiarize yourself with the soil
Another important aspect of gardening is the soil type. Watch to see if it stays wet after a rain or irrigation event or drains quickly. Today's Homeowner explains how to determine the soil texture; flowerbeds with high amounts of sand or clay need amending with compost or topsoil for optimum plant growth.
3. Learn about the local climate
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has divided North America into 11 different hardiness zones based upon average temperatures to give homeowners and gardeners an idea about what plants are suitable for a specific area. Use the National Gardening Association's zip code finder to determine your growing zone and then research what plants grow best for the zone. It is also important to get a rough estimate on the last frost occurrence in the spring and the first frost date in the fall; the span of time between the two is the growing season length.
4. Think about your personal style
Are there flowers you absolutely love and want to include in a flower garden? What are your favorite colors? Do you want the space to attract butterflies and bees? Take some time and mull over these questions, thinking about your personal style. This helps determine the direction you follow for the design so it suits your personality.
5. Educate yourself on the different types of plants
Plants are classified as one of three types, based upon their vegetative growing habits: annuals, perennials and biennials. Annual plants complete their life cycle in a single season; perennial plants return year after year, continuously growing; biennial plants have a two-year life cycle, growing vegetatively the first and blooming the second. For more information, read up on the different types at Wonderoplis, a site sponsored by the National Center for Families Learning.
6. Think about the time you can commit
Gardening takes time and effort, even after the initial planting early in the season. Plants need watering, pruning and fertilizing. Be realistic with yourself about how much time you can devote to your flowers before you plant anything and adjust accordingly.
7. Plan for staggered blooming times
The ultimate goal with a flower garden is beautiful blooms on the plants you choose. But no one wants the garden to bloom all at once and look barren the rest of the growing season. Choose plants that vary in their blooming times for continuous color through the spring, summer and fall.
8. Decide on seeds or transplants
Flowers are grown from seed or purchased as young, immature plants. Seeds are much cheaper to buy but need to be planted earlier in the season; transplants are more expensive but provide a significant head start on establishing a flower bed.
9. Incorporate nonliving elements
A flower garden doesn't need to only have flowers. Add some creative nonliving elements such as a trellis, a birdbath, metal garden art or gazing balls. These elements add variety and an extra touch of personal style to a flower garden.
10. Sketch out your ideas
After you've taken the time to think about all of the above points, switch your focus to sitting down and putting those ideas on paper. Sketch out the area you are working with and play with different layouts until you create a design you love.

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