Your success in gardening this year will depend, to a large extent, upon careful planning and preparation. Experienced gardeners know this and will have a plan, even though it may be only a mental picture. Most home gardeners have already been looking over seed catalogs and many have ordered seeds, fertilizers, and supplies. You'll find them also in hardware and garden supply stores, looking over tool and equipment displays, looking for new ideas for saving work and doing a better job.

Gardeners who like to grow their own plants may not save themselves much money, but they can e reasonably .sure of having the plants they wish at the time they plant them. They know the history of the plant and can take their awn precautions against bringing disease into the garden along with the plants.


Whenever soil is either too acid or too alkaline, other plant foods are not readily available and plants may show deficiency signs.

Here are some steps to follow in gardening:

1. Get started early and have a definite plan.

2. Have a soil test made. Soil test kits are available at your county agent's office.

3. Use lime, fertilizer, and organic matter if test shows they are needed.

4. Use adapted varieties. Where ornamentals are concerned, check on hardiness.

5. Treat seeds for disease control or get disease free plants.

6. Plant according to season, hardy plants early, tender plants after danger of frost is over.

7. Follow through on care after planting with cultivation, weed control, and irrigation, if needed.

8. Plan your garden for use. It is possible to have fresh vegetables and flowers for cutting and an interesting garden nearly the year round by planning and careful selection.

Here are some things you can do now:

Plant onion sets, spinach, lettuce and early peas out of doors. Start tender plants such as tomatoes and peppers in hotbed or window box. Transfer to cold - frame later.

Sow flower seeds in window boxes or in coldframes. Remember some do not transplant well. All kinds of ornamental shrubs, including roses, should be planted as soon as possible. Old neglected shrubs can be given a renovation now. Old wood which will not flower well should be cut out. Early spring flowering shrubs are to be again primed after flowering.


Small fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, and currants are more satisfactory for the home gardener than tree fruits. The require less spraying and occupy less space. It is a mistake to try to use fruit trees for shade. They require too much spraying and if this is neglected, the rotting fruit attracts flies and wasps. If you have an uncontrollable urge to grow apples, try dwarf trees. They are small enough to spray with a small sprayer.


Much good lawn seed is often wasted in spring seeding of new lawns or trying to patch up old lawns. Most lawns suffer either from starvation and neglect or the the other extreme of pampering. Many lawns are fertilized too much at the wrong time, cut too short and sprinkled too often. Your lawn will do best if given juts enough attention at the right time and, at other times, intelligently neglected. Don't fertilize too heavily in early spring; don't cut shorter than one and a half inches; don't sprinkle unless there s a real drought, and don't let the grass get higher than three inches before cutting.

Patch up the bare areas with rye grass this spring, plan to control weeds, including crabgrass this summer and postpone the renovation job until late summer or early fall. Soil tests are also helpful here to determine fertilizer needs.

For water ponds nothing, of course, takes the place of the queenly water-lily, both hardy and tropical varieties, but for shallow pools there are some lovely plants that will lift your pond out of the just-water-lily class. None of the following asks for more than six inches of water to grow in, although they will accept more.

Water hyacinth, Eichhornia azurea, produces gorgeous lilac-colored spikes. This prJustify Fullincess-of- the-pond grows rampantly and so needs occasional checking, especially if you wish to combine other water-plants with it. The big yellow hardy water-lily contrasts beautifully - with it, so if the pond is deep enough in the center, you might try growing the yellow water-lily there and "edging" it with the floating hyacinth. If you wish to have the lilac color in the center, you could use as an "edging" the delightful primrose willow, Jussiaea longifolia, which has yellow evening blooms.

For fragrance, the water-hawthorn, Aponageton distachyus, will delight you. The flowers are Y-shaped and come in white and rose. If you are lucky, the water-garden nursery you patronize might have a violet variety. The water hawthorn blooms even in shady ponds, a fact that may be worth noting in your case.

Water poppies, Hydrocleys nymphoides, make a gay picture alone or grown in combination with other plants. They look like large California poppies floating on the pool water. The rounded leaves are very attractive, too. Although the blooms last only a day, new ones constantly pop up to replace them.

For excellent cutting flowers, grow marsh marigolds, Caltha palustris, In colors of yellow, pink, or white. The pond should be fairly large even though not necessarily deep to accommodate them, for they grow three feet tall.

The sacred lotus makes a fine oft flower, too, for large pools, for the blooms of pink, cream, or red "are immense and fragrant, and the foliage and seed pods are beautiful and interesting.

The bog-bean is a plant that grows well in the water near the edge for it will travel up a moist bank. The foliage is lush and soft, and flowers are dainty and white.

Dracocephalums also will clamber up the bank. Particularly attractive are D. palustre with rose-colored blooms similar to snapdragons, and D. forrestii with blue flowers.

Water-garden nurseries usually have on hand aquatic-garden catalogs. In them you will learn of other desirable plants for your pond. However, if water-lilies are indispensable with you, by all means grow at least one or two varieties even though you try other water plants.

Things to keep in mind for a beautiful garden

Main principles on the garden's design

Bring the Japanese feeling into your garden with these basic steps. First of all, embrace the ideal of nature. That means, keep things in your garden as natural as possible, avoiding to include things that could disrupt this natural appearance.

For example, don't include square ponds in your design as square ponds are nowhere to be found in nature. Also, a waterfall would be something closer to what exists in nature if we compare it to a fountain. So you also have to consider the Japanese concept of sumi or balance. Because one of Japanese gardening design main purposes is to recreate large landscapes even in the smallest place. Be careful when choosing the elements for your garden, because you don't want to end up filling your ten by ten courtyard with huge rocks.

As a miniaturized landscape, the rocks in the garden would represent mountains and the ponds would represent lakes. A space filled with sand would represent an ocean. By that we assume that garden masters were looking to achieve a minimalistic approach, best represented by the phrase "less is more".

The elements of time and space

One of the things westerners notice at first are the many portions of empty space in the garden. In fact, these spaces are an important feature in Japanese gardening. This space called ma, relates to the elements around it and that also surround it. The concepts of in and yo are of vital importance here, they are best known to the Western civilization by the Chinese names yin and yang. If you want to have something you have to start with having nothing. This is an idea quite difficult to understand, but it is a rule of thumb in Japanese gardening.

An important clue in the development of a garden is the concept of wabi and sabi. There's no literal English translation for those words. Wabi is about uniqueness, or the essence of something; a close literal translation is solitary. Sabi deals with the definition of time or the ideal image of something; the closest definition might be time strenghtened character. Given the case, a cement lantern that might appear unique, would lack of that ideal image. Or an old rock covered in lichens would have no wabi if it's just a round boulder. That's why it is important to find that balance.

Ma and wabi/sabi are connected to the concepts of space and time. When it comes to seasons, the garden must show the special character of each one. Japanese garden lovers dedicate time to their gardens every season, unlike the western gardener who deserts in fall just to be seen again in spring.

A very relaxing view in spring is given by the bright green of new buds and the blossoms of the azaleas. In summer, the lush foliage in combination with the pond offer a powerful and fresh image. The vivid spectacle of the brilliant colors of dying leaves in fall are a prelude for the arrival of winter and its white shroud of snow.

The two most important gardening seasons in Japan are spring and winter. Japanese refer to the snow accumulated on braches as Sekku or snow blossoms. Yukimi, or the snow viewing lantern, is another typical element of the Japanese garden in winter. The sleep of the garden in winter is an important episode for our Japanese gardener, while for the western gardener spring is the beginning of the work at the garden. Maybe because of the eastern point of view as death like part of the life cycle, or perhaps the western fear to death.

About garden enclosures
Let's see the garden as a microcosm of nature. If we're looking for the garden to be a true retreat, we have to 'set it apart' from the outside world. Because of that, fences and gates are important components of the Japanese garden.

The fence and the gates have both symbolism and functionality. The worries and concerns of our daily life have to stay out of this separate world that becomes the garden. The fence protects us from the outside world and the gate is the threshold where we leave our daily worries and then prepare ourselves to confront the real world again.

The use of fences is based in the concept of hide/reveal or Miegakure. Fence styles are very simple and are put in combination with screen planting, thus not giving many clues of what hides inside. You can give a sample look of your garden by cutting a small window in the solid wall that encloses your garden if that's the case. Sode-gaki, or sleeve fences, are fences attached to an architectural structure, that will only show a specific view of the garden from inside the house. Thus, we're invited to get into the garden and enjoy it in its entirety. That's what makes the true understanding of the garden, to lose in it our sense of time and self.

Basic Arrangements
Despite the fact that certain rules are applied to each individual garden, don't think that there's just one type of garden. There are three basic styles that differ by setting and purpose.

Hill and Pond Garden (Chisen-Kaiyu-skiki)
A China imported classic style. A pond or a space filled with raked gravel fronts a hill (or hills). This style always represents mountainous places and commonly makes use of vegetation indigenous to the mountains. Stroll gardens commonly use this style.

Flat Garden (Hiraniwa)
It derives from the use of open, flat spaces in front of temples and palaces for ceremonies. This is an appropriate style for contemplation and that represents a seashore area (with the use of the right plants). This is a style frequently used in courtyards.

Tea Gardens (Rojiniwa)
Function has a greater importance than form in this type of garden. The Roji or dewy path, is the main point of the garden, along with the pond and the gates. This would be the exception to the rule. The simple and sparse plantings give a rustic feeling to the garden.

Formality has to be taken in consideration
Hill and pond and flat styles may be shin (formal), gyo (intermediate) or so (informal). Formal styles were to be found usually at temples or palaces, intermediate styles were suitable for most residences, and the informal style was used in peasant huts and mountain retreats. The tea garden is the one that always fits in the informal style.

The garden components

Rocks (ishi in Japanese) are the main concern of the Japanese garden. If the stones are placed correctly, then the garden shows in a perfect balance. So here are shown the basic stone types and the rules for their positions.

The basic stones are the tall upright stone, the low upright stone, the curved stone, the reclining stone, and the horizontal stone. These must be usually set in triads although this doesn't happen always. Two almost identical stones (by way of example, two tall verticals or two reclining stones), one a little quite smaller than the other, can be set together as male and female, but the use of them in threes, fives, and sevens is more frequent.

We have to keep away from the Three Bad Stones. These are the Diseased stone (having a withered or misshapen top), the Dead stone (an obviously vertical one used as a horizontal, or vice versa, like the placement of a dead body), and the Pauper Stone (a stone having no connection to the several other ones in the garden). Use only one stone of each of the basic types in any cluster (the rest have to be smaller, modest stones also known as throwaway stones). Stones can be placed as sculptures, set against a background in a two-dimensional way, or given a purpose, such as a stepping stone or a bridge.

When used as stepping stones they should be between one and three inches above the soil, yet solid underfoot, as if rooted into the ground. They can be put in straight lines, offset for left foot, right foot (referred as chidori or plover, after the tracks the shore bird leaves), or set in sets of twos, threes, fours, or fives (and any combination thereof).

The pathway stands for the passage through life, and even particular stones by the path may have meaning. A much wider stone placed across the path tells us to put two feet here, stopping to enjoy the view. There are numerous stones for specific places. When observing the basic design principles, we can notice the exact character of the Japanese garden.

Water (mizu in Japanese) plays an important part in the composition of the Japanese garden because of Japan's abundant rainfall. Water can be represented even with a raked gravel area instead of water. A rushing stream can be represented by placing flat river stones closely together. In the tea garden, where there isn't any stream or pond, water plays the most important role in the ritual cleansing at the chozubachi, or water basin. As the water fills and empties from the shishi-odoki, or deer scare, the clack of bamboo on rock helps mark the passage of time.

The flow of water, the way it sounds and looks, brings to mind the continual passage of time. A bridge crossing the water stream is often used as a landscaping complement. Bridges denote a journey, just as pathways do. Hashi, in japanese, can mean bridge or edge. Bridges are the symbolic pass from one world into another, a constant theme in Japanese art.

Plants or Shokobutsu may play a secondary role to the stones in the garden, but they are a primary concern in the design too. Stones represent what remains unchanged, so trees, shrubs, and perennials have to represent the passing of seasons. Earlier garden styles used plants to make up poetic connotations or to correct geomantic issues, but these have little meaning today.

As the the Heian style diminished under the Zen influence, perennials and grasses fell out of use. So, for a long time, there were only a few plants that tradition allowed for the garden. However, in modern Japan, designers are again widening the spectrum of materials used. It is highly recommended that native plants are chosen for the garden, because showy exotic plants are not in good taste. Be aware that native plants are used in the garden, because it is in bad taste to use showy exotic plants. Although pines, cherries and bamboo immediatly remind us of Japanese gardens, we encourage you to use native plants of your locality that you can find pleasing. If we choose evergreens as the main plant theme and combine it with deciduous material that may provide seasonal blooms or foliage color we can recreate the look of the Japanese garden.

Now the next thing taken in consideration in a Japanese garden are the ornaments or Tenkebutsu. Stone lanterns are, for westerners, a typical impression of Japanese gardens.Stone lanterns are not important components of the Japanese garden. The reason is that ornaments are subjected to the garden's design. Lanterns, stupas, and basins are just architectural complements added when a point of visual interest is necessary to the design.

A good way to finish yor garden design could be a well-placed lantern. The three main styles (although with many variations) are: The Kasuga style lantern, is a very formal one featuring a stone base. In the Oribe style lantern, unlike the Kasuga style, the pedestal is underneath the ground. The Yukimi or Snow-Viewing lantern is set on short legs instead of a pedestal. Consider the formality of your garden setting to choose the appropiate lantern.

When possible, elements from outside the garden can be included in it. For instance, you can work a far away mountain including the scenery in your design, framing it with the stones and plants existing in the garden.
The borrowed scenery (shakkei in Japanese) can be: Far (as in a far away mountain); near (a tree just outside the fence); High (an element seen above the fence) or low (like a component seen below a fence or through a window in the fence).

As much as it is perceived to contradict our sense of enclosure, it reminds us of how all things are interconnected.

The feel of your garden
The Japanese garden is a subtle place full of contradictions and imperatives. Where firmly established rules are broken with other rules. If you meet the Buddha on the road, you must kill him is a Zen paradox that recommends not to stick so tightly to rules, and the same goes for Japanese gardens.

When building a Japanese garden, don't get too attached to traditions that hold little meaning for you. It would have no function to recreate a Buddhist saints garden. This also applies to trying to remember the meaning of stone placements, as this method is no longer used in Japan, or even in the United States, due to the lack of meaning for us in the modern world.

That's why we have selected a few gardening suggestions that do hold relevance and integrate them into a garden. These three ideas on gardening will give direction to achieve perfect results.

The overall setting of the garden should always be right for the location, not the other way around.

The stones should be placed first, next the trees, and then the shrubs.

Get used to the concepts of shin, gyo, and so. This is of great help to start working on the garden.

Have in mind that the real Japanese gardens are the traditional ones in Japan. What we can do in America is to shape a garden in the Japanese style. Rikyu once said about the perfect Roji: "Thick green moss, all pure and sunny warm". In other words, techniques are not as important as the feeling you evoke in your garden. Said in other way, the feeling is more important than techniques.

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