So you wanna Garden eh?

Why hello and good morning dear reader.  Today’s post is about Planning your Garden.  You may be thinking, “Yeah I want a little garden, but I don’t need to plan the thing out!  You buy a plant and stick it in the dirt – how much more can there be?“  Fair enough… but when your flowers never bloom and the Geraniums you got from Grandma burn to a crisp in the front yard, you’ll be asking, “Why did this happen? Am I a failure?  Should I have gone to Business School?”  The purpose of planning ahead, is to avert these tragedies, and side step the scapegoating and guilty shoulder shrugging.  Now grab a pencil, read along, and jot a few things down.


Decide first, what type of garden you want to have.  In a moment we’ll assess compromises, but before that, think of what you want out of this thing, what purpose is it going to serve?  Are you trying to grow food for yourself?  Keep up with the neighbors?  Impress potential mates?  There are a shit-load of decisions involved here, but keeping this in mind throughout this process is going to help you come out with something you really enjoy.  Also ask yourself these questions:

  • Vegetables:  Which ones?  Maybe you’d like to grow some simple herbs for Cocktails and cooking the special sauce?  Write a little list of things you’d be cool with growing and actually eating.
  • Flowers:  What colors or sizes?  Write a little bit about what you’re expecting – flowers all summer long?  or is Spring color more important for you? (Tulips and Daffodils)
  • Foliage (think little palm trees):  want to turn your backyard into a tropical jungle?  Should they be tall?  or multi-colored?  maybe a quiet forest under-story for reading and squirrel watching?

What do you want it to look like when you gaze out at your garden?  (maybe you don’t care – that’s totally valid)  You should come up with some basic answers for this, which sounds obvious but if you don’t have this clear, you’ll easily stray from the path after decision fatigue sets in.  Here’s what your answer might sound like, “I want to have flowers in the front of the house – a row of low blue flowers and then maybe shrubs or bushes and some taller foliage plants in the back?”  Just a loose idea of what it is and/or what it looks like.  


Ok, second; You may have already considered this in the last step, but decide where you can garden.  Location, Location, Location.  If you want to grow Tomatoes, you’ll have a very tough time doing so in a shaded plot, however a woodland garden of Hostas and Columbine might do quite well there.  Take note of the space, how big is it?  Get a rough measurement so you actually know how long or deep the space is.  How many hours of sun does it get?  Morning Sun (5am-noon)?  Evening Sun (4pm-8pm)?  Write these things down for reference later!



As an example, note this plot as it stands in March.  Straight on, full sun, tons of space and great access for working –  a perfect plot for growing Vegetables!  If you wanted to have a prairie meadow of wild flowers and switchgrass, the plants would do well but might look a bit silly confined in this landscaping.  The example is a hair extreme and only you know what you want it to look like, but try to match your site to your vision.  Truth be told – this site is only half planted with vegetables in the summer, these gardeners like flowers too.  So that right-hand terrace you can see below, has a peony, lilies, poppies, yarrow, echinacea and some other odds and ends.  Ultimately, you get to decide what goes in your garden, regardless of what others think or say.


Third; determine how much time you can spend maintaining this garden during the week.  Will you have an hour each week?  Maybe 20 minutes each day!?  Be honest.  It’s a real bummer to watch helplessly as your garden is overcome with weeds because, like the ancient roman empire, it was too ambitious and unable to be maintained or governed properly.  All gardens require maintenance.  You will need to get your hands dirty after the initial planting.  Don’t fool yourself on this one.


OK, now we sort of know where, what, and how.  From here you get to the fun part, picking your plants!  This process goes like this: look through plant or seed catalogs, hop online or go to your local nursery and check out some plants.  With each one you consider, note the following:  How tall will it get?  How much space does it need?  I know it’s tempting to cram plants together when they’re small seedlings, but respect who that seedling will grow into!  Does it want sun/part sun/shade?  Does it flower?  When does it flower (April-May is very different than June-September)?  Does it need a lot of water?  Will it come back next year?  If you plant your entire garden with perennials, you won’t have to buy plants next year – but of course, you’ll still need to do your maintenance work.
Now you have your plan and perhaps know exactly what you’ll be growing!  (If you’re starting Seeds, do your research and wise up on the hows and whens!)  Gardening is a ‘get-your-hands-dirty’ type of hobby, but as you now know, it is best when proper time is spent with paper, pencil, and a focused mind.

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