How to design your garden

Tips and ideas for designing your garden: 

Every garden is different. Each one has a set of variables that are determined by the terrain, geographic location, and the gardener’s goals. As such, what works for one gardener, won’t necessarily work for all. Proper planning is essential for having a successful harvest.
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My first attempt at gardening was a tremendous disaster. I organized my garden for what was most convenient for me rather than what was best for my garden. I decided that the most convenient place to grow my garden was inbetween the house and a large tree, which also happened to be the one place that got the least amount of sunshine. It just so happens my favorite vegetable are tomatoes.  Unsurprisingly, my tomato plants failed to mature, but I learned a valuable lesson.

Keep the sun in mind: I put a lot of thought into how to optimize sunlight when I organize my garden. For example, the southern part of a structure will get the most amount of sunshine. Keeping this in mind, if you grow your tomatoes on the southern side of your garden they will get the most amount of sunshine. However, tomato and pea plants grow big and grow high. This means that they will shade the plants behind them.  As such, I grow my tomato and peas on the north side of the garden. They get a lot of sunlight, but don’t shade any of the other vegetables. I also make sure that my vegetable rows face north to south so they get the best distribution of light.

Use your terrain to your advantage: Gardening can be as easy or as complicated at you want to make it. Part of making gardening easier is using the layout of your property to your advantage. For example, the eastern part of my yard is boarded by a public road that gets a decent amount of traffic. It is also boarded by a metal fence. A few years ago I bought a some pea plants and decided to plant them along the fence. The pea plants used the fence to grow higher and also created a hedge that provided more privacy.

Spread out: There are advantages and disadvantaged to growing everything in one spot. The major advantage is that a garden is easier to manage if everything is planted in designated area. However, there may be other great places on your property that you can utilize. For example, plants such as blueberries that don’t need a lot of attention can be planted throughout your property and will come back year after year. I love to plant corn along the edge of the property line. Corn grows tall so you have to be mindful that it doesn’t shade your garden. With that said, it acts as a great buffer and helps give you privacy.

Start small: A lot of people make the mistake of making their garden too big. They inevitably fall farther and farther behind until their garden looks like a jungle and they are completely demoralized and turned off from gardening all together.

Companion planting: Some plants grow well together, while others don’t. One of the most important things to consider is that some pants grow faster than others. Plants such as spinach and lettuce can grow quickly and shade smaller slower growing vegetables such as carrots. As such, it’s important to keep in mind that some plants will need more room than others. Some plants grow high, while others grow wide.

Don’t plant all at once: Some plants take longer to grow than others. For example, tomatoes take much longer to grow and mature than something such as lettuce. As such, you need to start them sooner by growing them indoors and transplanting them outside when the weather is warmer and more favorable. You can also buy them from a nursery and plant them at home.

Growing season: Every area has a different growing season depending on the climate. I live at a high elevation in Washington State.  Because of this my growing season is significantly shorter than Southern states or even areas that are a few miles away, but at a lower elevation.  I have to start many of my plants indoors. If I don’t, they won’t fully mature by the time our first frost rolls through.

Keep a garden journal: Keeping a garden journal is on of the most important things you can do. Write down what time of year you planting certain vegetables, what vegetables you planted and which ones you wish you planted more/less of. Write down your thoughts and mistakes. It’s not easy to try and think back a year ago and remember everything you wished you had done differently. Keeping a garden journal insures that you improve on your successes and learn from your mistakes.

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