Tuesday, February 03, 2009

organizing your garden design plans or holy crap this is a lot of information!

So you’re goal is to create a master plan aimed at helping you achieve all you’ve ever dreamed of in your beautiful, functional and edible landscape. And you’ve started collecting information. Maybe you’ve even signed up for a Garden Planning and Design class and suddenly you find yourself swimming in information. What are you to do?


Regardless of whether you’re planning a small outdoor project like a new deck or totally reimagining your entire landscape you’re more likely to be successful if you find a home for all your thoughts and ideas. You need a Landscape Project Book. (Sharon will be along shortly with a better name)


Personally I use a 3 ring binder. You can print out information from the Internet, you can tear out pages from a magazine while the receptionist at your dentist isn’t looking, you can sketch ideas on a napkin while waiting for your (always tardy) sister to meet you for lunch. And all of these items can get holes punched in them and they can live together in your 3 ring binder. You can use tabs to separate different sections least you find your photographs from that trip to Versailles butting heads with your Zen pictures of Ryoan-ji.



By the way I find it helpful to clip images of landscape features I admire. Perhaps they aren’t exactly what I imagine for my own yard but they have characteristics of what I’m hoping to achieve. Garden design is not about choosing a particular style or technique and superimposing it on land. It’s about deciding on the functions you’d like for your outdoor spaces to perform and the form best suited to the way in which you’d like to carry out those functions. Take this example.



This is an outdoor oven. I think this particular outdoor oven looks like Shrek’s severed head place on a pile of bricks only after a piano was dropped on it. However, I do really like the idea of having an outdoor oven and I want my future outdoor oven to have sculptural features in its final form. That is, I like the idea of an outdoor oven I could use to bake bread and pizza and plenty of other stuff (especially when it’s too hot here to think about baking inside in the middle of the day!) and this image helps to remind me that the oven need not be an ugly square blob. Or look like the head of a squashed cartoon character for that matter. I can mold the form of the oven to suit my tastes (I’m thinking giant chicken) as long as I can still create a functional outdoor oven. Design is a language. This Landscape Project Book will help you develop your particular dialect.


So back to the organization. I mentioned the 3 ring binder but others of you will have your own ideas for keeping this information together. A folder perhaps or a journal or even a box if you have actual materials you’d like to include if only for inspiration. Our house is full of rocks and seashells and other items that themselves help inform design decisions from time to time.


Of course in this day and age you can store a lot of this stuff on your computer. Perhaps you’re the kind of person who will use the google image search function to look for pictures of garden things you’re interested in and save them to a folder on your hard drive. I think this works fine with one caveat. If this is a long term project for you I would suggest a hard copy back up. If the only place you have that list of locally proven vegetable varietals or that do-it-yourself raised bed design guide and your hard drive melts you’ll be stuck starting from scratch. Then again if your house burns down your hard copy will go up in smoke too so I guess nothing’s really permanent (that’s your happy thought for the day) but seriously, at least consider a hard copy.


And I mentioned pictures of gardens you’ve visited and lists of how-to this or when-to that but your Landscape Project Book will also be a great place to keep records. Yes, you have to keep records! One of the ways to get better at gardening with increased speed is to keep a record of what you grow and how well you do from year to year. And I will tell you it’s also a very tough chore to keep up with for most people, me included.


At the beginning of the year I always have a great list of what I’m planting and when and how long before I can expect to harvest and by the end of the season I’m writing things down in pencil on the side of the potting table with hopes of later translating my chicken scratch into reliable records. If you have a single place to keep all your garden-related documents you are more likely to be successful at record keeping. Incidentally this is going to be something I really work at this year.



Make it a shoe box or a binder or one entire desk drawer but if you’re serious about planning your garden and being successful at implementing the myriad ideas out there on how to do this stuff fruitfully I highly recommend that you stop what you’re doing and find a home for all your garden-related stuff. Here a list of things to include:


  1. A site plan of your property with measurements
  2. The questions you answered about your garden expectations.
  3. 'Before' pictures of your land
  4. Images of garden stuff you like
  5. A working list of plants you’d like to/plan on growing
  6. Local and regional gardening information
  7. Records of pervious years in the garden
  8. A budget for your landscape
  9. Your timeline
  10. Zoning ordnances and regulations
  11. A garden wish list
  12. Old seed catalogs
  13. Names and contact info for local gardeners
  14. Others Stuff

4 comments:

homebrewlibrarian said...

I am *so* glad I started a garden journal last year. It was a major pain in the posterior to keep up with everything and sometimes the weather didn't cooperate (the day I transplanted a bunch of stuff was during light rain and the two open faced pages got quite wrinkled. Good thing I take notes with a pencil). It was very satisfying to look back and see just exactly when I started seeds or transplanted and also what the weather and temperature were on certain days. I'd forgotten we had snow in early April! I have rough sketches of where things were planted in bed and even remembered to put north arrows on the diagrams.

I also have the garden design for a class I took last year in organic gardening. It wasn't used exactly as it was presented but most of it was. I've been keeping that on top of the pile of stuff on the table. Guess I should punch holes in it and put it in a binder.

Once I get the yard all measured, that will get kept, too. Have to say that measuring in the gathering dark with temps in the single digits and a light breeze was not particularly comfortable. Wading through the snow didn't help either. But it will get done here in the next few days. Brrr.

Kerri in Anchorage, lat. 61, 4ish

Michelle Saleeba said...

Some great info here Aaron, i'm really enjoying this series of garden posts you and Sharon are publishing. Thanks.
We are in the planning stage of putting in a wood fired oven as it gets way too hot in summer to cook inside - the decapitated Shrek head is a bit of a shocker!:)
Here's a couple of other 'creative'
designs....

http://www.cobcottage.com/files/images/cb1-15-5.low.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ekn4wiQt_t0/SBXXKbSP9mI/AAAAAAAADGA/8dBYn18yWzk/s320/BreadOven.jpg

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Wow, what a perfect technique to create a master piece like that, this is perfect because that's exactly what I'm gonna do, start collecting information thanks because of the steps in here to reach it.m10m

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Regardless of whether you’re planning a small outdoor project like a new deck or totally reimagining your entire landscape you’re more likely to be successful if you find a home for all your thoughts and ideas.
Once I get the yard all measured, that will get kept, too. Have to say that measuring in the gathering dark with temps in the single digits and a light breeze was not particularly comfortable. Wading through the snow didn't help either. But it will get done here in the next few days.