Garden Planning: Site Designs

There is certainly not a one size fits all site design for every garden. Maybe you just have a few what you thought were dead spaces between pine trees, or a small plot in the back of your apartment. Don't stress; there is a garden design for you. If you're planning to sow seeds directly into the ground, consider first your hardiness zone and do a couple of soil tests to determine the type of soil you are working with this could effect your site plan.


POTAGER (french style kitchen garden)

The Site: Small scale + full sun. Choose an area close to the kitchen since you will often be stepping away while you cook to pull fresh veggies and herbs. Potager gardens are traditionally kept very tidy with cleared mulched or paved lanes for walking and plant cultivation. We encourage laying down Dutch clover for durable soil nourishing walking paths. What the heck is full sun? Full sun means 6-8 hrs. of sunlight exposure each day. 

Plant Suggestions: Plants should be veggies and herbs you use the most often in the kitchen. What do you like to cook with every week? Also consider planting quick or multiple harvest vegetables like lettuces, scallions, radishes, sweet peas, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers and herbs. Save slower growing and larger harvest vegtables like squash and corn for a larger growing area.





The Site: Small roof top or patio + full to partial sun. 

Plant Suggestions: We suggest planting small polycultures or companion plants in larger pots and small individual herbs. Basil planted alongside a tomato plant will produce rich tasting fruit, while including some bee balm to attract pollinators. Greens of all varieties love to be planted alongside herbs. We suggest big pots of kale and rosemary and sage, or individual pots of fresh herbs. 






The Site: Acidic soil with shade: perhaps you have a few pine trees dropping pine needles near by adding more acid to your soil. Maybe you thought this area was a dead garden space.
(Most garden plants thrive at a pH between 6 and 7.5, acidic soil has a PH below 7, you can get cheap soil tests at just about any garden center.)

Plant Suggestions: Blueberry bushes or their close sisters serviceberries/Juneberries alongside ostrich ferns (maybe you will get edible fidleheads next year?). Remember they need lots of water. Try planting some onions or leaks and don’t forget the garlic in the fall. Use this area to try to attract your pollinators to benefit the rest of your garden spaces. Try planting coral bells or bleeding hearts. 





The Site: Works well in most site conditions - full sun, partial sun/partial shade and full shade. The amount of sunlight and shade will dictate the types of edible plants used in the garden bed. This garden bed design is geared towards efficient use of space and as such works well in urban areas where growing space is usually at a premium. Keyhole beds maximize the amount of planting space while minimizing the amount of pathways while using a similar amount of total square feet compared to a conventional rectilinear raised bed or row crops.  

Plant Suggestions: Full sun keyhole beds can contain sun-loving annuals such as tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and basil while full shade beds can contain shade-loving annuals such as cabbage, kale, and most other leafy greens.

Test out your garden designs after it snows!

I know a lot of folks get the grumbles when it snows, but nowadays I get a bit giddy.

Why? You're probably shuddering... well because it dawned on me in early December that your yard + fresh snow = giant etcha-sketch (hey, 80's babies). 

If you're a gardener, you've probably drawn a few designs, wondering which one is best... This one! No wait... that one! Aw crap, maybe this one?
Yep. I get it... all too well. So let's make the most of the snow while it's here and draw something in it like a crazy person.

Here's what to do:

  1. Pick an area you've got your eye on
  2. Walk out the design, 'sketch' out the boarders and pathways first. Think the bones of your space.
  3. Mound up excess snow on garden 'beds'. Move around as desired.
  4. Take pictures so you can print out your design and draw over the top of it with details (like tipi trellis, tomato cages, bird baths, etc.)
  5. Repeat when it snows again! (or shovel the back and start all over again)

Keep in mind that the sun will be in a different location for you in the summer than it is now. For a fancy internet trick, use Sun Calc to plug in your address and calculate where the sun will be during different times of the year. It's pretttttty sweet, and very helpful.

4 ways this helps with the design:

  1. You can see the full scale
    Meaning fewer surprises in the spring if the math you applied to your grid paper is off... like mine tends to be. Plus you can walk around your design as though it's real. Yep, you'll look nuts but you'll have a better understanding of how the design will flow, the space that will be available for maintenance and if the scale is appropriate for your skills & time commitment. Better to start small and scale up than start too big and feel overwhelmed. 

  2. You can try out several designs
    It's ok if you haven't picked the perfect design yet. In fact, get rid of that idea all together. There is no perfect design, just the right design for you and spoiler alert - it's going to change! Probably a little bit every season. 

  3. You will see the nuances of your property
    Observation is key in installing any new garden. The way water may flow through your property, or how the sun moves through your space will impact your design (even if you don't want it to). If you ignore these things you may have to battle them, but if you keep them front of mind, you'll work together in harmony beautifully (most of the time). 

  4. You will see animal and people tracks
    How animals and people use the space is also key. Winter is a great time to spot animal tracks you wouldn't normally see in the summer. Didn't know about the bunny's nest under your deck? Or the squirrels living in that hollowed out tree?  Spend some time in the snow and look around. What has created pathways, and where do they lead? Don't forget about dogs, kids, neighbors and mail-people, all create unique paths which will impact your garden after instal.


Most importantly, have fun! And share your designs with us if you find one you like.

xoxo | cc