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5 steps to plan your new garden before you start building it

 
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Planning Your New Garden

Spring is here and it is time to start a garden... right? Sure, but if you don't plan your garden you may make mistakes that make it harder for you to stay with it. And while I get wanting to dive into gardening, if you don't already have a garden it may be best to focus on planning the garden and wait to build the garden until late summer or early fall.

This week's blog post is all about planning your new garden and the steps that go into making a good plan including why spring is a great time to plan your garden.

The reason why spring is a great time to plan your garden is that this gives you time to prepare the land for the garden using methods that let you work with nature like sheet mulching. Methods like sheet mulching take time but result in great garden soil. If you plan your garden in spring, you can sheet mulch the garden area in summer/fall and then build your garden in late winter or early spring the following year.

But if you are in a rush then you can just do the work yourself instead of letting nature help you out.

So what are the steps to plan your garden? Here are my top 5:

1. Determine when to start building the new garden (We already talked a bit about this one).
2. Determine where to build the new garden.
3. Determine what type of garden beds you want to build.
4. Determine how big to make the garden.
5. Determine how to protect the garden from critters.

The blog post covers all 5 but in this post I'm going to focus on the 2nd step since we already covered the 1st.

Step 2 - Where to Build the New Garden



At the time I'm writing this post my new kitchen garden is close to being finished. So where did I put it?

This garden is just out my backdoor (the above picture of my new garden was taken from my back steps). Often it seems people put gardens in some corner of their backyard out of the way. So why did I put it so close to my backdoor?

The biggest reason is that anytime I go outside into my backyard area I will have to walk by the garden. This makes it really easy to harvest and maintain. Plus the middle open area of the garden will be used as an outdoor kitchen/gathering area. This makes the garden a core part of the daily life for my family and I.

But this also means that I will focus on growing vegetables in this garden that can be harvested continually instead of just all at once. I likely won't be growing corn or potatoes in this garden. Eventually, I will build another garden (or 2, or 3!) out further away. These gardens will have crops that I harvest all at once. Since I don't need to visit them every day to harvest I don't need them right out my backdoor.

So understanding what you want to grow is also important. The blog post assumes that you are wanting to plan a traditional backyard garden that focuses on vegetables like lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, green beans, etc. Vegetables that you harvest all the time. But if you are wanting to grow things like corn then consider putting the garden out further away from your house.

For more on figuring out how to layout your homestead and where to put everything make sure you check out my blog post all about permaculture zones which goes into this topic in much more detail.

Where did you put your garden? Is it close or far away from your house?

Are You Planning a New Garden?



I'm curious--how many of you are planning a new garden? If so what are you taking into account while planning your garden?

Please leave a comment here with your thoughts on these questions and if you are one of the first to leave a comment on here you might even get a surprise in the form of apples Also, the first person to leave a comment on the blog post (make sure to mention your permies user name) answering one of the questions from this post on permies will also get a piece of pie!

Don't forget to check out this week's blog post for more info on how to plan your new garden.

Thank you!
 
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Thanks for the tips! I am indeed planning my first garden at the moment. It will be relatively temporary, as I know I will be moving out of my parents' house within a few years and nobody will garden after me, but we have the space and resources so I'm giving it a go.

Contrary to your suggestion, I am planning and building in the early spring and hoping to grow during the same summer. I am in Southern Finland, the climate is between temperate and cold. I can only build in one spot, which will be at the back of the property, zone 2-3. It is well protected from wind (next to a forest to the north and a barn to the west) and even though there's a big birch tree blocking some sun in the south-east, it will hopefully receive enough sunlight. The spot was previously used to grow potatoes (in the ground, conventional style), but as my grandmother had no idea about soil life, crop rotation etc., the soil and yield became very poor. It is slightly sloped, so the back of the beds will be 40cm and the front 30cm. We get 40-75mm of rain each summer month, a total avg 200mm per summer. If I need to irrigate, there is a long hose from the barn (own well) and I can also collect rainwater from our house roof. The only animals that might visit are rodents, moles and rabbits, (excluding the obvious insects and birds etc.) but I'm hoping to live in peace with all of them without a fence.

I will contruct a raised bed from old planks found in the property to experiment with no-dig and mulching. (There will also be a hugelkultur in another location and a Ruth Stout No-Work behind the raised beds.) I created two quick SketchUp drawings to give you some idea, actual real-life photos will follow in a few weeks or so. The inverted S path shape works for the location and will make more sense irl.

Any further suggestions or questions? Did I forget something important? I'd be forever grateful for comments.
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Daron Williams
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Alex Vainio wrote:Thanks for the tips! I am indeed planning my first garden at the moment. It will be relatively temporary, as I know I will be moving out of my parents' house within a few years and nobody will garden after me, but we have the space and resources so I'm giving it a go.

Contrary to your suggestion, I am planning and building in the early spring and hoping to grow during the same summer. I am in Southern Finland, the climate is between temperate and cold. I can only build in one spot, which will be at the back of the property, zone 2-3. It is well protected from wind (next to a forest to the north and a barn to the west) and even though there's a big birch tree blocking some sun in the south-east, it will hopefully receive enough sunlight. The spot was previously used to grow potatoes (in the ground, conventional style), but as my grandmother had no idea about soil life, crop rotation etc., the soil and yield became very poor. It is slightly sloped, so the back of the beds will be 40cm and the front 30cm. We get 40-75mm of rain each summer month, a total avg 200mm per summer. If I need to irrigate, there is a long hose from the barn (own well) and I can also collect rainwater from our house roof. The only animals that might visit are rodents, moles and rabbits, (excluding the obvious insects and birds etc.) but I'm hoping to live in peace with all of them without a fence.

I will contruct a raised bed from old planks found in the property to experiment with no-dig and mulching. (There will also be a hugelkultur in another location and a Ruth Stout No-Work behind the raised beds.) I created two quick SketchUp drawings to give you some idea, actual real-life photos will follow in a few weeks or so. The inverted S path shape works for the location and will make more sense irl.

Any further suggestions or questions? Did I forget something important? I'd be forever grateful for comments.



Thanks for the comment!

Yeah, I get the doing it all in the spring. I did not follow my own advice and I'm doing the same thing as you right now. Though I did figure out the location and size a while back. Really that advice is for someone who is not rushed and is willing to wait. It is the approach that requires less work but more time so it is not right for everyone or in all situations.

It sounds like you have it planed out really well. My main suggestion for you is to not plant things that will need daily attention since your garden is located in your zone 2-3. I would focus on vegetables that only need harvested say once a week. You might also consider perennial vegetables--especially since you will be leaving and these crops could keep going even without much if any care. Perennial herbs might be a good addition too for that same reason.

Self-seeding vegetables could also be a good choice.

But if you have a lot of spare time and it is not too big of a challenge going out to the garden area on a regular basis then that opens up more options for you in terms of planting.

I have blog posts on my site all about perennial vegetables, and one on self-seeding vegetables that you might find helpful.

Good luck and I'm happy to answer any additional questions!
 
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Thanks for the timely topic. I am starting a new garden this year and your post has some good things to think about. Planning my garden I started with prepping for 2 years mainly because the land was raw and was covered in BlackBerry bushes. I needed to clear them out and to collect materials for raised beds. My beds will about 18 inches high. The lumber pile I posted is from a local sawmill and is incense cedar.


My property has a good slope so even though it is about 100 feet from the house, my planned garden is in a fairly level spot and is near my spring and my well. Also it is within my 2 acre deer fenced area. Deer are prolific here, We have about 10 come through on a daily basis so I reserved the other 3 acres for them and other wildlife.

I have been been making my own compost from using my neighbors goat manure and straw. I have about 2.5 cubic yards including the one pictured that I started 3 months ago. Finished my cold frame and have seedlings started. The ground is still too wet to get my tractor down to the new garden area for some additional leveling.

This will be my first garden in this area so I started a boatload of seedlings to see what will work best in this climate and soil. Very Hot and very dry summers with wet, 53” of precipitation all in 6 months.

I plan on 5 feet between the raised beds so I can fit my garden tractor or wheelbarrow without a problem and I have the luxury of plenty of land.

Oh, I also have 2 composting Urban wormbags for making AACT. I never got around to posting how I fabricated mine. But that is for another day.


Good blog
Thanks
JackT



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Daron Williams
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Jack Tassoni wrote:Thanks for the timely topic. I am starting a new garden this year and your post has some good things to think about. Planning my garden I started with prepping for 2 years mainly because the land was raw and was covered in BlackBerry bushes. I needed to clear them out and to collect materials for raised beds. My beds will about 18 inches high. The lumber pile I posted is from a local sawmill and is incense cedar.


My property has a good slope so even though it is about 100 feet from the house, my planned garden is in a fairly level spot and is near my spring and my well. Also it is within my 2 acre deer fenced area. Deer are prolific here, We have about 10 come through on a daily basis so I reserved the other 3 acres for them and other wildlife.

I have been been making my own compost from using my neighbors goat manure and straw. I have about 2.5 cubic yards including the one pictured that I started 3 months ago. Finished my cold frame and have seedlings started. The ground is still too wet to get my tractor down to the new garden area for some additional leveling.

This will be my first garden in this area so I started a boatload of seedlings to see what will work best in this climate and soil. Very Hot and very dry summers with wet, 53” of precipitation all in 6 months.

I plan on 5 feet between the raised beds so I can fit my garden tractor or wheelbarrow without a problem and I have the luxury of plenty of land.

Oh, I also have 2 composting Urban wormbags for making AACT. I never got around to posting how I fabricated mine. But that is for another day.


Good blog
Thanks
JackT



Thank you! Your setup sounds great and thanks for sharing the pictures. From your description it sounds like putting the garden a bit further from your house makes a lot of sense. Good to hear about the deer fence--the deer are very prolific here too =/

I hope you share your Urban wormbags for making AACT--I would be interesting in seeing that! If you make a post about it please post a link to your thread here so I don't miss it.

Thanks again for the comment!
 
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