How To: Plan a Garden

Energy & Sustainability Gardening

CRAFT: Bloom
This month at CRAFT we are focusing on the things that go Bloom! Gardening is one of the most rewarding crafts one can undertake. Sowing seeds, tending plants and harvesting their fruits and flowers is a way for us to feel connected to the earth and to our food sources. It also is a great outlet for designers and artists to step away from the computer and still be immersed in color and texture.
Now, if you follow my How-To-Tuesdays with any regularity, you know that I’m an instant gratification type. I love immediate rewards, and generally prefer to tackle projects that I can complete in a day or less. But, through my work with plants, I’ve learned to plan ahead and take my time. I’ve come to realize that my garden will never be “done.” Instead, it’s a perpetual work in progress that literally grows better and better each year.
Next week I am sharing my knowledge of planting as an in-depth Gardening 101 feature. So today I’m going to share my process for research, planning and record keeping. These tasks are crucial, and will help ensure success before you even break ground.

Do your Research
Every region has it’s own unique climate, with micro-climates. The United States Department of Agriculture developed a map of plant hardiness zones. The zones are based on historical minimum temperatures, maximum temperatures, and other factors including soil type, wind exposure, and humidity. Find your region, and then use your hardiness zone as a guide for you planting choices. Bonus points:Take your research to the next level by having a soil sample analyzed for mineral content and pH.
Map the Sun
Knowing your land is even more important than knowing your region. Your garden will have hot spots, cool spots, and windy spots. It is extremely important to map your yard and make note of the path of the sun. Each season the sun will make a new arc across the sky, and from month to month could dramatically change the light in your garden. Pay close attention to outlying trees that could unexpectedly cast shade on your plants that need sun. Try to take a moment every day to watch the sky.
Gather Supplies
There is a significant chance that you have more tools for working in the yard than you think. Dig through the garage, shed, basement and your storage before you head out to shop. The tools you need are simple: gloves, pots, hose, sprayers, spade, clippers. After a long winter these items need a dusting off. Check to make sure the blades in your clippers are sharp, and shake your gloves free from spiders that might have taken refuge. Getting organized and having your supplies together and at the ready will save you time.
Shop Local Nurseries
I love to window shop at nurseries. I trek around, and see what is in bloom, and who has the best specimens. My favorite is a roadside stand with natives and herbs that thrive in my woodland micro-climate. I really enjoy shopping, but consider my visits this time of year to be a sort of recon. I compare varities, available sizes and prices on plants from at least 3 different spots before I spend.
Keep Records
When you do start to pick up plants, be sure to take notes. I dig out my massive reference books and look everything up. I find that my different books have different pieces of information, and I focus on soaking up knowledge. Save the tags from your plants, and add them to a journal dedicated to your garden. Write the date you planted it, along with it’s growing habit and a short description. This information will prove invaluable to you in the years to come.

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