Posted by Phytopath on Mar 30, 2010
Why plan a garden, productive or otherwise?
You do not have to make a plan prior to planting out your garden. It could just evolve and change as your taste changes, but there are definite advantages to planning the garden or brainstorming with the family to find out individual expectations of how the garden will be used.
How many people are in the household? Are there any pets? Does anyone in the family have allergies? Do the pets have plant allergies? How much time can you allocate for gardening and maintenance per week? And the list goes on…..
With a little bit of prior planning, the plants in the garden could grow healthier, meaning they are less likely to suffer from insect attack or fungal diseases. A good example is the correct sighting of a nasturtium plant to lure cabbage moth away from the cabbages.
A productive garden could mean different things to different people but in my mind, if the garden gives me pleasure in any way, be it shade on a hot sunny day, shelter for birdlife, flowers to smell or fruit and vegetables to eat, then it is producing happy moments for me.
The first task for a new garden would be to test the soil.
Texture, structure, pH, drainage, infiltration rates and wettability are all simple tests that can be performed by the home gardener (Details in a future post).
Once you have an idea of your soil type, and its ability to support plant life, then take note of where the sunny and shady spots are, in the garden. Remember that the angle of the sun will change throughout the year as well, so some spots that used to be in shade over one season, may be in the sun next season, and are there any neighbouring trees or buildings that might change the micro-climate of your yard?
If you have pets, especially dogs, where do they run when you open the back door and let them out? That may not be a good place to position the vegetable or flower bed unless you can fence it off.
What about planting aromatic herbs or flowers near windows so you can appreciate their fragrance. But don’t plant too many together or their individual perfume will be lost. Or plant insect repellent herbs near doors and around entertainment areas.
The garden does not have to be lawn in the front yard with a few flowers, a square of lawn in the backyard with a few more flowers and the garden shed, and the vegetable patch out of site. Plants can be mixed harmoniously so that fruit trees, berries, vines, flowers and vegetables all grow happily together. This is often the case with companion planting.
Some fruit and nut trees produce a beautiful show of flowers prior to setting fruit and some of the flowers grown for aesthetic purposes are actually edible. Vegetables come in many shapes, colours and textures and add to the overall appeal of the garden, so don’t hide them, but be proud of your ability to grow home grown tasty produce.
If you like a bit of formality in the garden, why not use thyme, hyssop, chives, lavender or rosemary as a clipped hedge for bordering paths instead of the usual English box. And perhaps at the end of each row you could allow the chosen hedge plant to grow a bit taller and prune it into a pyramid or ball shape. All of the pruning’s could be dried for later use or made into products like herbal ointments or cosmetics or added to food preserves for additional flavour.
If you like a more informal approach, try using parsley as a filler plant in the flower garden or oregano as a ground cover anywhere in the garden.
If you have an area for garbage bins, compost heaps, spare plant pots and a potting bench, perhaps you might like to screen them off by erecting a trellis and planting an edible climber or espalier an edible tree.
Or maybe you would like to grow some plants from a warmer climate that would not normally grow in your area – then how about changing the micro-climate to create warmth. A few well placed paving bricks and stone walls, or even a water feature, may do the trick.
So with some careful planning and a bit of creativity, almost anything can be achieved.
Share some of your achievements.