7 Steps to a Successful Garden

by Jo-Anne Hilliar

7 Steps to a Successful Garden presented by STIHL

Whether you have a new, non-existent garden or an established old garden, these step-by-step instructions will help create an aesthetically pleasing landscape with healthy, environmentally-friendly plants.



 1.The first step is research. Factors to consider:

  • The immediate climate and micro-climates of your garden will affect your choice of plants and their placement.
  • Your predominant soil profile will indicate the correct compost/fertilizer combinations to use.
  • Choose plants that thrive in your rainfall, resulting in lower garden maintenance and minimal watering once the plants are established.
  • Depending on the severity of frost in your area, choose plants according to their frost tolerance.

2.Choose a garden design style that compliments the architecture and interior décor of your home. These should complement each other through a common style in order to achieve unity, balance and harmony. Also consider your climate, layout and design.

3.Use the basic principles for garden design:

  • Unity and simplicity – use colour and texture
  • To create interest – use plant combinations
  • To add tension, mystery and surprise – use the placement of hard landscaping

4.Sketch up a rough plan of your garden as you envision it, bearing all principals in mind. Use enlarged photos of the garden and sketch in the rough shapes of trees, shrubs, paving, swimming pools and water features. Draw new lines over initial outlines and new shapes over old ones to help clarify the ultimate effect. Then draw a final version to scale using graph paper and a scale of 1cm = 1m.

5. Choose plants to compliment your design theme and plan. Choose trees first, then large shrubs, smaller shrubs and perennials. Try to ensure that ⅔ of your plantings are evergreen. Choose water-wise plants which are low maintenance. Where possible, choose indigenous and endemic plants, that is, those that occur naturally in your climatic region.

6.Comprehensive site preparation will promote the health and speed of growth of new plants.

  • Mark the new beds clearly with stakes.
  • Turn the soil in the beds, breaking it up into smooth soil.
  • To improve soil quality, add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted kraal manure.
  • Spread compost and manure evenly over the soil surface, turning it thoroughly with a fork.
  • Remove plants that require repositioning or are no longer required.
  • Tidy the plants by removing dead branches and reshaping shrubs.
  • If shade in the bed is heavy, consider underpruning shrubs to allow light to permeate through the understorey planting.
  • Position plants correctly before digging holes.

7.Maintain your garden with constant and correct watering, fertilising and pruning to ensure its healthy appearance throughout the seasons.

  • Water three times a week or every second day when evaporation is minimal and more frequently during hot or windy weather.
  • Apply compost every 12 weeks by spreading the feed evenly over the ground and turning lightly with a fork.
  • Watch out for pests and diseases and take the necessary action immediately.

In our next article we will investigate the 'Principles of Design – The Passion' in greater detail.
Written by Jo-Anne Hilliar Landscape Design Consultants
joanne@hillscapes.co.za Tel: 031 266 4650

Jo-Anne Hilliar Jo-Anne Hilliar

Jo-Anne Hilliar
Landscape Design Consultant
Tel.: 046 624 1429
E-mail: Send e-mail