Metro-East Living

What does it take to plant an English garden?

Q: How can I plant an English garden in my yard without having tall grass and weeds and all the other stuff getting into it? That’s what my husband hates about them. An English garden that has different kinds of flowers and different heights — some four to five inches up to two to three feet. I would like to place one in each corner of the backyard by a fence. Husband is more into the Country Club and it would be on the west side of the house and it would really have no shade. I don’t know how much water it would require. I don’t have a hose that would reach that far, but I do have a sprinkler.

J.M. of Belleville

A: In the spring (around April 20) when the weather gets warm and the soil dries out as well, you could start by rototilling the areas where you want to place these English gardens with their boundaries. Then rake it out and level the soil out. Then place a woven weed barrier over this and hold it in place with bent ‘U’s’ from wire clothes hangers. Place these ‘U’s’ about every three feet around the edge of planting. This barrier will prevent seeds from falling into the garden and germinating and will also smother the seeds under this weed barrier and prevent sunlight, which is necessary for germination to begin.

Then select the plants that you would like to grow and they can be in all the heights that you like. Then use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ for the center of the placement of each plant. Fold the barriers out to make holes to hold your plants. Then place mulch such as oak bark over the barrier but remove any of this off the plants. . You will need to give these plants about one inch of water per week unless the weather gives it to the plants. Watering early in the morning will be the best time for watering so that any water drop will dry off quickly and not make your flower plants attractive to get diseases started on them.

It would help to place cloth material from the corners of the fence to provide some shade as this will be necessary since this will be on a western exposure which will be the harshest of the day.

About once a month you can water them with granular fertilize to keep the plants healthy.

In time you may want to add some smaller trees for shade for your plants as this gives more feeling of an English garden. A water feature will also add some extra atmosphere with a small bench to sit on and take an easy looking at your flowers as well as any other life that may move in.

Q: A friend of mine was moving some of her plants inside and noticed maybe a butterfly within the plants. Any way she could keep it alive?

S. B. of Belleville

A: First find a lid from an old jar and then place a solution of sugar water by adding a teaspoon full of sugar with water to the top of the lid. Place something colorful preferably yellow to give directions for the butterfly to find nourishment. Also place a small rock so the butterfly can land without falling into the water. Sprinkle just a little soil into this as butterflies also like a little mud for nourishment as well.

Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Department, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to

Things to do this week:

Check on garden tools to clean them up in all this spare time and then spray with silicon.