Create a natural garden yourself: planning, design and planting

Create a natural garden yourself: planning, design and planting

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Design and create a natural garden

A natural garden models the natural environment on site and does not fight it in order to create a pure art world. For this reason, plants that can only be preserved through easily soluble mineral fertilizers, soil exchange or constant watering are taboo, and secondly, we adapt the type of garden to the circumstances. There is a meadow garden in an open landscape, a forest garden at the edge of the forest, and a water garden in damp areas. A water garden is also a good choice if we are dealing with an infertile soil. Large plots of land make it possible to design several such mini biotopes: a pond landscape, a small forest and a flower pasture.

The forest garden

In a forest garden, the focus is on bushes and shrubs. As always in the natural garden, native plants should make up the majority. Often these settle on their own, check the condition of your property. If you take over a garden, or redesign a traditional but already overgrown garden, there will always be sprouts of the plants that have their habitat here.

You can fall back on the existing plants and help nature by buying the bushes and shrubs. Local shrubs can be purchased cheaply and are usually already a certain size.

Size, dominance and ambition

Three or four large trees or shrubs provide the right wind protection. If you are planting new plants, firstly pay attention to the size that the new ones can achieve, secondly whether they dominate visually and thirdly to their special requirements.

Trees that bear fruit are generally suitable, for example sweet cherry, mountain ash or hawthorn. Smaller trees and shrubs fit well in hedges, in garden corners or as a boundary in the rear area.

The range of native species is immense: hazel, sloe and willow are, so to speak, must. Hazel and sloe delight us in the first weeks of spring with kittens, sloe and hawthorn plunge the garden into white flowers.

Closed habitats

A "real" game garden is a closed habitat, because in nature plants cover every inch. If you "imitate" a forest clearing, thimble, aconite, mullein, spurge, woodruff or onion plants go well with it.

Mullein, aconite and thimble grow straight and vertical, creating a structure together with the bushes and ground cover.

Climbing plants create a mysterious atmosphere: the forest honeysuckle occurs wild in the woods and is also suitable for hedges. The grapevine is also part of a forest garden, but it needs limestone soil and should only be planted on thick trees.

Turnips have heart-shaped leaves that change color from green to red. Knotweed and wine quickly surround large trees.

If there are no large trees in your garden yet, concentrate on the undergrowth and exercise patience. If you wait a few years before planting the large trees, you can follow the natural phases in which a forest develops.

The floor

For a clearing, you can cut existing bushes back to the ground. Now you can locate ground cover plants. As a mulch, you should use a mixture of leaf litter and chopped tree bark. This roughly corresponds to the humus of a "real forest", and they ensure that woodlice, beetles and insects find a home.

If there is rotting wood in your garden, do not dispose of it completely. It provides moisture and provides an excellent basis for lichens, fungi and mosses. Ferns love to settle here and you can plant them.

A forest floor is covered with deciduous and liver moss, the more shady and humid the more the mosses grow. The herb layer lies above it, followed by shrubs and bushes and finally the trees.

Take this structure as a model and your garden will look harmonious. You should cover the ground with flowering and leafy plants.

What grows on the ground is also related to the large trees. For example, an oak tree rises straight up and creates an umbrella. Their deep roots do not compete with the small shrubs and the herb layer that is rooted close to the surface.

In the course of the year, forest cabbage and celandine bloom first in the herb layer, then wood anemones, Günsel and wild garlic come (if the soil is moist). Tip: If you have a swamp bed or a garden pond, plant wild garlic near the riparian zone. Violets, primroses and rabbit bells follow in April.

Small trees

A large forest garden is almost a small forest. In an allotment garden, we have to pay much more attention to the garden character, that is, to human intervention. We should not plant large forest trees: when they are fully grown, there is not much left of the garden.

The top layer of forest should rather take small trees or larger shrubs. For small forest gardens there are, for example, hornbeam and viburnum, but also mountain ash, sloe, maple, birch, sapwood or linden.

Hawthorn, elderberry, wild service tree, privet, holly or currant complete the system.

Under these small trees, a lot more plants of the herb layer develop, because they are slimmer and do not have a leaf canopy that is as closed as, for example, chestnuts. The more tree species they plant, the more different the relationship between light and shadow, and the more diverse the flora on the ground will develop. You can let newly planted tree seedlings grow into each other like you do in nature.

With the shrubs you should take into account the different requirements; they can allow species that are naturally here to spread. For example, hazel likes loam soils, viburnum prefers moisture and shade, as does the buckthorn and the decaying tree, boxwood, bird cherry, male blood, privet, yew and juniper.

If the trees used as shrubs become too large, they can cut back massively. This does not damage the trees and many ecologically valuable biotopes have only been created through such interventions - for example, orchards or pollarded willows. Climbing plants quickly create a forest character because they green the “bare” trees.

With evergreens, your garden looks like a green forest all year round, even if the deciduous trees shed their leaves. The variety of indigenous plants is great: yew, ivy and holly are available in countless variants.

Create the edge of the forest

Willowherb, foxglove and mullein, silver leaf, ferns or carnations fit on the edge of their trees. Depending on your taste, you can create atmosphere with slate slabs, strikingly shaped roots or a rustic garden bench.

A tip: A plant with a delicate structure should stand in front of a densely leafy one, ground cover plants like ivy look good in front of plants that grow tall.

"Forest edge" is also the best solution for "problem areas". This can be a barren wall or an ugly garden house facade that overgrows ivy, or the neighbor's tree that protrudes over the fence and overshadows their garden.

It is best to use ferns in the shade, they also grow on walls if there is a thin layer of humus. These include striped fern, bladder fern, spot fern and deer tongue.


To plant a hedge, you should above all plant densely. Regular pruning gives you a compressed thicket, for example with dog rose, buckthorn, privet, snowball or holly.

Tips for a beautiful flower meadow

Every monotonous lawn can be turned into a flower. You can also alternately leave the lawn and meadow standing by regularly mowing one part and not another.

Flower meadows are ideal for nutrient-poor soils. Instead of scattering tons of fertilizer here, you can also use the existing soil.

If you are not in a hurry, you can let nature run its course. Just don't mow a corner and see which wild flowers are growing. You can remove plants that are too dominant, such as dandelions, and you should also ensure that blackberries do not spread.

Typical species that come by themselves are daisies, honorary awards, piglet herbs or horn clover. You can also buy seed mixtures from these meadow flowers and thus promote the natural flower meadow.

Once the flower meadow has established itself, mow only once a month or even twice a year. The cutting height should be eight centimeters, and you don't mow in June.

To sow, remove the grassy surface with a rake. They sow in autumn.

In natural nurseries you can get grown plants or seed mixtures. For a meadow, the following are suitable: meadow daisy, knapweed, cuckoo flower, sand bell, cowslip, plantain, red clover, sorrel, brownelle, cuckoo flower and musk mallow.

Create and design water gardens

You can create water gardens in various forms, as a pond, as a swamp or bog bed, at a stream that flows through your property.

It takes effort to create a large garden pond with tarp or clay. But there are plenty of simple alternatives and their creativity is in demand: from old cattle troughs to mortar tanks to buckets and barrels, you can use countless containers in which the water builds up.

It is best not to place the pond under deciduous trees. First, a sunny pond is better than a shady one; second, gases develop from the foliage when it rots in the water, which in turn is harmful to many living things.

In a small pond, you should put the pond plants in containers, for example in wooden boxes or wicker baskets. They fill their interior with earth and cow dung.

Aquatic plants that grow deep below are particularly suitable for larger areas of water. They include water lilies, pondweed and hedgehog flasks.

The swamp bed

A swamp occurs when the water overflows again and again at one point. Marshes are damp, but without an open water surface. Very decorative plants such as the marsh marigold, the irises or the yellow loosestrife grow here.

The bog bed

If your natural garden has acid soil, a bog bed is possible. Typical plants that you can also find in nurseries are swamp root, leg breaker, king fern or butterwort, which is easy to grow from seeds.

Acid soils tolerate black birch, buckthorn, yew, gray willow, forest pine, aspen, goat willow, privet or elder.

Heather also loves acidic soil. You can plant heather around the moor bed. The best way to plant the young herbs together is to develop them best. The Glockenheide feels right at home on the moist moor bed.

Book tip on plants, animals, minerals, microorganisms and fungi

"Nature - The visual encyclopedia of plants, animals, minerals, microorganisms and fungi" from Dorling Kindersley Verlag ( is ideal if you really want to know everything about the relationships between soil, light and heat, water , Rocks and living things. It shouldn't be in your pocket, but in the bookshelf of your gazebo, because it weighs several kilograms. The visual encyclopedia not only shows examples from all groups of rocks and living things in excellent photographs, it also goes from the origin of the earth to the requirements of life to the inconspicuous microbes via fungi and plants to the living things we commonly call Perceive animals - and that with over 5000 species, which are presented in the portrait

The texts are written in a scientific as well as accessible way. Overviews show the subgroups and the page numbers, particularly interesting pages are presented on special pages.

It starts with the living earth, the evolution of life to the individual life forms, minerals, rocks and fossils, via microorganisms, plants and fungi to animals. Despite the sheer mass of shapes, the individual species are presented in the portrait, so that their characteristic properties become clear. It is far too much to read from the first to the last page. This is a unique reference work.
If you have a question about a plant in your garden, how you can classify it, what your relatives are or what habitat it comes from, just look up this encyclopedia.

Before the individual rocks and living beings are treated, an introductory chapter explains in detail why life could arise on earth - from the layers of the earth with their extremely hot metal core, a liquid outer core, a hot mantle and the brittle crust.
This is followed by the sun and moon, the solar energy without which life would not be possible, as it gives light and warmth and thus creates climate zones. Since the solar energy is distributed unevenly, the amount of light and heat fluctuate and thus the living conditions.

It deals with the sensitive atmosphere of the earth with its thin ozone layer, which absorbs the ultraviolet light, gases in the atmosphere and the water balance.
“Die Natur” discusses the different types of rock from scratch, from igneous rocks that were originally melted to metamorphic rocks and sedimentary rocks. This is already about the inorganic foundations of life.
The next topics are the active earth, i.e. plate tectonics, mountains and volcanoes, weathering and erosion, soil formation and landslides, climate changes, climatic cycles, warm and ice ages.

In the extremely extensive chapters on the plants of the world, the photos that show the typical blossoms of lupine, red clover or broom, for example, in flowering plants, and the leaves in trees and bushes such as buckthorn or the real fig should be emphasized. The clarity of the encyclopedia is crucial for natural gardeners. All in all, a standard work of enormous volume that deserves a permanent place on the bookshelf.

Nature / The visual encyclopedia of plants, animals, minerals, microorganisms and fungi. Dorling Kindersley ISBN 978-3-8310-1986-1

(Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Literature and internet sources:
Violet Stevenson: The Natural Garden. Munich 1995.

Author and source information

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