I find myself often attempting to describe garden planning from a purely logical DIY perspective, and failing. As much as I like to approach design with an overall organized and cohesive whole, it really is an emotionally driven thing. In our last house it took years, but I achieved the feeling I was searching for in the garden. It was private, lush, green, and vibrant. It felt like walking through a secret garden, dusk was a magical in-between time of twinkly lights and exotic floral fragrance. It was filled with a palette of colors, buzzing with bees and every kind of pollinator. Birds bathed in the the bath, hummingbirds swooped by our heads, mourning doves nested in hanging baskets. Kids played and ran and hid behind bushes or under the hammock, hands full of sticky raspberries. It was like a secret magical wonderland bursting with warm soil, sticky sweet fruit, and climbing vines.
So to this garden, where do you begin. We let it sit last summer other than some basic plantings to get the feel. It isn’t a tucked in moist rich secret garden up here. It is wide open, big sky, windswept, prairie grasses, bald eagles, stunning sunsets, starry nights. It is the singing of toads, the buzzing of grasshoppers. It is views for miles of pines, oaks, corn fields, silos and Epic. It is dry, sunny, windy, and alive. Yet I also know as more homes are built it will morph to more closely resemble mowed lawns, fences and afternoon shadows. So the big plan this year is to get a basic outline into which everything will be planted into over the years. We want rain barrels to help with watering up on this dry windy hilltop. We want fruit trees in the ground so that in a few years they will be there to not only give us apples and cherries, but also to give us some privacy and shade. We want some annuals to fill in all of the areas where the landscape plantings are still small and immature. We want to espalier more caning and vining fruit along the south side of the house. We want raised beds for some easy to water or cover spots for strawberries, greens, and delicate water lovers. We want some shade trees that will rustle and sway in the breeze.
In our last house we had some flowers, but without a lot of full sun, we really didn’t have a huge selection, not to mention our space was very limited. In this house we not only want fruiting trees, bushes and canes - we want herbs that can return every year. And I want a riot of color, fragrance, and color. I want mason bees and native pollinators buzzing. And as the sun goes down, I want my kids in the hammock inhaling the rich, exotic fragrances of thousands of flowers. I want bouquets on all of my tables. Annual flowers, and a LOT of them, is going to fill in the gaps until our garden is more established, giving us a magical, enchanting garden, somewhere to sit and walk and lie and enjoy. So with that in mind, we have a few plans.
The plan Home Garden 2016: 2-4 fruit trees, mason bees, an espalier infrastructure for the grapes/blackberries, 4-5 raised beds on south facing wall (medicinal herbs, tea herbs, cutting flower bed, greens), fruiting shade tree up front, flowering fruit bushes for future privacy as more homes built around us, a larger greenhouse for growing a lot more seedlings (got it last week - will put it together in spring!), 3-4 rain barrels, paths around raised beds, and possibly starting the integrated beds throughout yard for additional herb plantings. An attractive yet functional good sized composting system. This may not all be done this summer, but we have a master plan.
The plan Community Garden 2016: a greater variety of medicinal and tea herbs, bigger variety of flowers for cutting, remove all the duplicates from our CSA, add more unique vegetables to supplement CSA share. The community garden plot is just 20x20, so it is small enough to not be overwhelming, and big enough to grow a good variety of things intensively. It is very sunny and dry, so plants that don't need as much attention can go there, where the plants needing more water or care will be at home.
The big seed list. I decided to grow a nice big variety of cutting flowers, medicinal and tea herbs, culinary herbs, fruit, vegetables and greens this year. With more space in this house I can now grow more seedlings (and I now have 3 popup greenhouses). I figure if I start a lot of everything and have extra, I can sell my extras - it will be more rare or uncommon plants that won't be found at local nurseries, so the time/cost/effort of growing extras will be worth it and that way I know I will have enough for my own needs. I prefer to plant in integrated permaculture beds, and will have a lot of these integrated throughout the yard, but will also have a few raised beds where I can more easily control the climate and soil. Here is my list of seeds that I am growing this year.
2016 Seed List:
We have a CSA share with a local organic farm in the summer, so we don't need the more common vegetables. So for us, we plant the unusual varieties or things we always are short of. Plus of course extensive selection of tea, herbs, and flowers. And I am *excited* to have a big cutting garden this year so we can have bouquets inside and outside all summer long. With fragrance! I also plan to photograph all of the flowers and herbs this summer so that I can make prints. Big plans, I tell ya.
So this is my step 2. It sounds like a lot. So when I say the important thing about planning a garden is to go in small steps, adding a bit at a time, but into an overall grand design scheme, it may seem comical. But a lot of this list is to make the outline and base structure to get it going - and we will likely end up breaking some of that up over more than one season, depending on how it progresses. But this year we will have color, movement, beauty, fragrance, the buzzing of bees, a hammock surrounded by a riot of blooms, and places to walk through and experience, or sit and enjoy. One step at a time.
Next...seed starting time!
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, permaculturist, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.