How to Plan a Family Garden

Many young families are attracted to new housing estates. They offer affordable, brand new houses with builders’ guarantees, banishing maintenance worries for a good few years.

They also offer the prospect of other young families to befriend, as well as conveniently placed facilities such as playgrounds, medical centres and shops.

Planners and builders of new estates often concentrate all their attention on the houses rather than their gardens. These tend to be left as small bare rectangles of either mud or grass. Although such spaces may look uninspiring they offer a wonderful opportunity to create something entirely suited to your family’s needs and personalities. Think of them as a blank canvas.

The first thing to do is to examine the soil. Once the hastily laid turf is peeled back, it usually reveals a rather unappealing mixture of rubble with the thinnest sprinkling of top-soil. So if your home is less than five years old, the first thing to do, before you rush out and buy lots of plants, is to set about improving the soil. This may involve buying and working in more topsoil. You should incorporate as much organic matter as possible to make the soil nutritious and ready to take plants.

Next look at the surroundings of the garden. There may be a busy road which you would like to screen off, or the garden may be overlooked by neighbours’ windows, making privacy a priority. There may also be vast expanses of bare wall or fence which could be improved with a clothing of climbers or painted in an attractive colour.

Assessing your family¡¯s need
Every family is different, with its own unique mix of personalities and requirements. So before you start any work on a garden have a good long think about your family, their likes and dislikes. Take time to examine your everyday domestic routines and your leisure time.

Are your home and garden always overflowing with your children and their friends? Do you enjoy entertaining? Are you quite an active person who cannot sit still for a minute, or are you always looking for the opportunity to relax with the papers and a cup often in a quiet corner?

Get everyone to make their own wish list. You may gel some highly impractical suggestions, but they will give you an idea of how each member of each family views the garden and how they would like to use it. You need to complete your list of family requirements before you can start planning their position in the garden.

Don¡¯t feel obliged to think in traditional terms: if nobody is bothered about a lawn, a vegetable patch or a flower bed. Then don¡¯t have one. You can always change your garden later when your family s requirements change.