The first step to planting your vegetable garden or flower garden should be to make a master garden plan for your property. Without it, you are randomly ‘shooting in the dark’ and are very likely to have regrets about some of your choices. Worse, you may have to remove or replant some of your most expensive trees or shrubs. A garden plan, for all it seems a chore, is the way to not have to do this. This is how a garden for beginners should be initiated. So, why not take these first weeks of the new year, and plan the whole garden out?
Step One: Draw It All To Scale
First and most important, draw your lot and house outline to scale on graph paper. This seems like a lot of trouble to go to, maybe even a silly place to begin, but you can’t plant where a building already is. And remember that over the course of the next several years you will probably spend several thousand dollars on your landscape. Is it worth getting it right, in a written garden plan, the first time?
This plan is your baseline, always open to modification. But it is more than worth having an original garden plan on paper so you can see where you were heading and what you were thinking at the beginning and where you want to go next.
Make several copies-graph paper is hard to erase. Also, you will likely want to try several different arrangements or ideas. To have these several different ideas in front of you all at one time, to chose pieces from, makes it easy.
Step Two: Begin the Plan with Lists
Once you have the outline of your property and house, make a list of indoor/outdoor activities you will use your home and outdoors for. Remember any children in the house will grow and as they do, their needs will change. Same is true for the adults.
Next, make a list of areas those activities will use, i.e. a patio for cooking outside, a porch for sitting in the rainstorm, a lawn for wiffle ball, a vegetable garden area, bird feeders, etc. Remember to include any trash receptacles, clothes lines, compost heaps, rain barrels, etc. This may sound like a lot of extra trouble, but they have to be accounted for.
Now, make a list of all the different trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables you wish you could grow. Never mind that you can’t possibly get them all on your property! For now you get to dream all you want-on paper!
Step Three: Place the Places and Plants
Next, keeping those activities and places in mind, draw the places on your drawn-to-scale garden plan. Some of them have to be in certain places, others can be moved around. Again, don’t be afraid to do some wild things at this stage. Remember, it doesn’t cost anything so far! This allows you to brainstorm without getting too bogged down in details. Alternately, draw them to scale, cut them out and re-arrange them as often as you wish. When you get what you want, then draw them on your graph paper plan.
With the places drawn in and the activities in mind, now add the different plants you want to plant. Begin with trees and shrubs, the big, permanent ‘bones’, the structure of the landscape. Keep in mind the leaf size, texture and color and any bloom color, as well as the size of the tree or shrub itself. These give the overall look and mark the major points of the design. They are also the most costly to put in and to move if you change your mind. Also, remember to draw them to their mature size, even though they will not start out that big when you plant them. Again, you can use cutouts to re-arrange the plantings until you get what you want, and then draw them on.
After you get this skeleton done, add the perennials to flesh out the look. Finally add in beds for annuals, for the changing variety of colors and textures they bring to the plan.
And there you have it! A long-term garden plan that will guide you for years to come. There is more that this to do—checking drainage, soil structure, how the neighbors plantings affect yours. But now, you have a place to begin with your own lawn and garden plan. Now, go to it!