Saturday, May 3, 2014

Planning Your Garden

Thinking of starting a garden but don't know how to start? You start with a plan.

For me, choosing the location was easy. I knew exactly where my garden was going to be planted. Our Southern California home had a sand patch next to our parking area where our above ground pool once stood. It was a dead zone; sand 6 inches deep and heavily compacted by the weight of the water. The pool had been removed a few years before and the area looked like a scar in the yard. It begged for a garden.
Breaking ground, facing southeast
March 24, 2013
It took some planning to bring it together. I looked at lots of garden pictures online. Then I measured my available space and started drawing plans to scale.

Here are some thoughts on planning your garden.

You need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunshine for most vegetables. If you don't have a space with full sun, you might consider a salad garden of lettuce and spinach which will grow with less sun.

My beds run southeast-northwest because the space was already defined by the pavement. Many people believe it is best if beds run north south to maximize sun exposure. In general, you want to arrange your garden so that the tallest plants in the bed are on the north side so that they do not shade the other plants.

Consider your water source. The closer you are to your water source the easier it will be. How will you be watering? My first garden in my previous home was hand watered. It suffered due to my busy schedule. Living in this hot climate, regular watering is essential. Now I use soaker hoses connected to a battery-operated timer so I don't need a source of electricity to power the timer. A hose runs from the timer to the faucet. (You can see the timer and hoses in the final photo of this post.) I find this system works wonderfully in my garden. The soaker hoses limit water loss due to run-off and evaporation. This is critical in our area which is in a drought.

It is nice to have the garden close to the kitchen for meal prep. A clear path to the garden is especially nice as you might find yourself walking out there in the dark to get herbs, etc.

To fence or not? I have a dog so a fence was essential. Think about how you can use current hardscape to your advantage.

Chose a level area to avoid problems with water run-off.

Avoid planting your garden near a tree which can deplete the soil of nutrients.

Raised Beds
You can till the existing soil or build raised beds. There are many benefits of raised beds: they provide better drainage, allow cold soil to warm more rapidly in spring, they keep pathway weeds and gravel out of the garden, they reduce strain on the back during gardening, and they look nice. I chose raised beds.

Will you be feeding your family or the neighborhood? No family of 4 needs more than one zucchini plant. Trust me on that one. Consider starting small with a vision for expansion. It is amazing how much food can be grown in a small space, and you don't want to be overwhelmed by too large a plot.

My beds are 12 ft x 4 ft. I made them 4 ft wide so that I can reach to the middle of each bed from either side. This way I never need to step in the soil. I wanted the most square feet of garden bed and the least amount of space used for pathways, so my beds are long. I have 4 beds and room for 2 more. It seems like the perfect amount of space for us. It's more than enough food for a family of 4 and yet not too big to be daunting.

It is ideal to have access from all sides of the bed so that you don't have to step in the bed. My fences are removable so I can reach the beds from all sides and don't need a path between the pavement and the bed.

If you have more than one bed, the paths between them need to be wide enough to maneuver with a wheel barrel. Mine are 26 inches wide and that seems to be working well.
May 5, 2013
With some planning and work, in a few short months you can have this.
June 15, 2013
Let the planning begin!!

No comments:

Post a Comment