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Assess your garden to pick right plants.

Before paying any visit to the garden centre or nursery, it is vital to spend some time assessing the type of garden you have, so that you can make an informed selection when picking your plants.

It's important to decide the location of each plant in your garden according to the amount of sun they require. If your garden is in full sunlight throughout most of the day, there is little point in trying to grow ferns and fatsias.

Similarly, if your garden is in shade all day, trying to grow desert plants such as agaves would give very disappointing results. However, if your garden is shady for say half a day, then you should be able to grow plants that prefer a semi-shady aspect or full shade, alongside the sun-loving varieties.

Increasing moisture content of soil manually or by introducing an automatic irrigation system are the options, with the negligible amount of rain that we have in Bahrain. Despite this, most gardens can grow quite a wide variety of plants with their proper assortment.

The two important things to find out when first assessing the soil in your garden is whether it is acidic or alkaline and what level of fertility it has to offer. Generally desert conditions tend to have alkaline soil. Such soil with a fairly neutral PH contains more calcium. Water leaches out quickly in such soil, thus the soil loses its calcium content and so tend towards the acidic range of PH.

Soil fertility is one area where growing conditions can definitely be altered. Although some plants need virtually no nutrients, other plants are very greedy indeed.

Another factor to consider is how much your garden is exposed to, or sheltered from the wind. If you live along Bahrain's coast, strong winds will probably be a regular feature. Although some plants can easily cope, others may not. But if yours is a garden with a sheltered courtyard, then the range of plants you can choose is greater. As a rough guide, the larger the leaves of the plant, the less likely it will be able to cope with strong gales.

You should take the above mentioned factors into account when assessing the suitability of your garden for cultivation of plants. Don't try too hard to fight nature, because nature usually wins in the end. That said, with a few slight changes to your garden, you can considerably improve your plants' chances of growing, without too much effort and expense.

When it comes to purchasing plants, knowing what type of garden you have in terms of shade, sun, available moisture, soil PH, and fertility will help you to choose plants tailored to your needs. However, there are a few considerations that require a bit of thought.

Do you want to create an instantaneous effect or are you prepared to wait? Do you have enough time to work on your garden or would you prefer a garden that would require minimal effort? Are you creating a garden with containers?

If you are the type of person who likes to watch plants grow, then you can choose tiny seedlings and gain satisfaction from nurturing the plants through to maturity. When buying smaller plants, the general temptation is to plant them close together. This is fine for few years, but gradually as plants grow, more and more will have to be thinned out or simply disposed.

Ideally they should all be planted with their eventual size in mind. The gaps between the tiny plants could be filled temporarily with rocks, decorative mulch or pots. On the other hand if you want to create an instant impressive display, then you will need to buy more mature specimens that will give rewarding results from day one.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Dec 3, 2009
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