So you’re interested in designing a place to grow your own food? Let’s do it! First, identify where you want your garden to be located. This can be your backyard, front yard, porch, balcony, or even your kitchen window sill. Anywhere that is conducive to plant life. Factors of space and place are some of the most crucial in deciding how/what your garden will become. How much sun do you have? What is your soil quality? How many square feet do you have? If you have little sun and poor soil, much more work will be required. But never fret, even asphalt blacktops can become lush green gardens with the proper steps.
Let’s begin with a short exercise. You will need a pen, paper, and a little bit of time. Ask yourself, “What am I hoping to gain from my (future) garden? And what is it I’m trying to achieve?” Your answer could be as simple as wanting the ability to pick fresh herbs for Sunday dinners or desiring a space for your kids to play. Whatever it may be, your answers to these questions will be the primary drivers for the design decisions you make. If it isn’t clear what you’re hoping to accomplish, it’s difficult to begin.
Once you’ve decided what your initial requirements will be, close your eyes and begin to imagine yourself walking and interacting with your newly rejuvenated garden. What do you see? Who’s there? What do you smell? Do not rush this process. Take your time and be thorough. Once you’ve completed your mental journey, quickly recall everything you’ve imagined on a piece of paper. It may sound something like this.. “I’m walking between the raised beds and 10 foot tall sunflowers tower on both sides of me. The bumblebees and wasps are flying from one flower to the next collecting nectar. I smell freshly decomposing wood chips with each step I take. I pick a ripe cherry tomato, close my eyes, and feel the tomato explode over every one of my taste buds. I walk over to my shaded bench in the corner and see that the grapes are beginning to form. I’m beyond excited to see what they taste like this year. I’m content”. Once you’ve completed writing, read back through what you’ve written and synthesize the important points you’ve made. In my example, the keywords are “pollinators, walkways, seating, shade, flavor, sensory, contentment.”
With your keywords set in place, begin to draw what you’ve seen. Even rough sketches are useful in beginning to develop your design. If you dont see yourself as much of an illustrator, here’s your perfect chance to begin practicing. Below is a rough example of a garden sketch.
Using these criteria, begin planning the physical elements of your design. Where will people walk and sit? Where will the plants be? Which plants will perform well in my USDA hardiness zone? Gardens are much more special when shared with other people. So think through how the people you love will want to interact with the space your creating. Where will they sit? What will they see? What will they taste? And how can your design decisions be conducive to social interaction?
Once a preliminary design is created, check the internet for visual inspiration. Pinterest is a great resource for garden ideas. Then, find out what materials are available in your local area. If you’re on a budget, utilize the free sections of Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to find resources.
Understand that garden designs are meant to be flexible, throw out crazy ideas to see if they stick, it might just be the unexpected that turns your garden into something truly special. Happy planting. 🙂