Art Knapp Articles
Mapping Out Your Gardenin Outdoor Living
Whether you are planting a large garden on an acre of land, a medium sized plot in a community garden or tiny apartment balcony, it is important to map out your garden to determine where the plants will grow before planting and sowing. Mapping also is a great way to document what was grown in the garden each year so you can track what was successful and what needs to be replaced. This can be done with a piece of paper and colorful pencil crayons or digitally laid out on a computer. Start with the dimensions of growing space, and then note the position of the sunlight as it moves across the space. Indicate where the compost and water sources are and any other large landmarks such as bird baths, garden sheds, greenhouses or large trees that might impact the space with regard to convenience for easy of use or if they cause shade. Then determine how many seeds or young plants you will need based on the space you have to work with. Refer to the seed packages for spacing requirements of mature plants to avoid over crowding. Color-coding your map will help give you an idea of the over all look of the mature garden. Depending on what you plant and when, you can effectively get multiple harvests of produce or multiple displays of flowers during the Spring, Summer and Fall growing season.
Mapping out your vegetable garden will maximize the amount of food that can be grown in the space and makes it easier to plan crop rotation in following years. It is never a good idea to continually plant the same type of produce in the same space each year as it depletes the vitamin and minerals from the soil and puts the plants at risk for insects and diseases. The benefits to planting produce from the same family such as Brassica, Solanceae, Legume, Allium, Asteraceae, Apiaceae and Curbit mean they will require the same growing conditions for moisture, nutrients, soil PH and sunlight exposure. Tall plants or those on trellis need to be at the North end of the garden, along the back or sides to avoid casting shade on smaller plants. Companion planting will reduce or eliminate the need for chemical pesticides. For instance, plant marigolds next to potatoes because the insects that feed on potato plants dislike the scent of the marigolds. Rather than always planting in rows, consider planting in a “quilt” formation, meaning squares of the same vegetable. This packs the most amount of plants into the space and makes it easier to harvest and reduces the need to weed the produce or mulch the rows.
The best way to map out flowerbeds is with a harmonious display utilizing different floral combinations in a variety of colors, shapes, textures and heights. Just like a veggie garden, the amount of exposure to sunlight is an important consideration. Use the dark foliage of plants like Hosta, Fern, Boxwood and the dark leaves of Rose bushes as a backdrop for colorful showy displays in the middle and front of the garden bed. Group clusters of the same type of flower together in odd numbers (3 or 5) for striking visual impact. Instead of dirt between the plants try a soft ground cover of low-level plants such as thyme, sweet woodruff, hen & chicks or Platt’s Black Brass Buttons. Alternatively, ornamental cover materials of bark mulch, bark nuggets, landscape lava rocks or river stones work well to fill in spaces between plants, keep weeds at bay and retain soil moisture during hot weather. The end result is a mapped garden that is well planned out and enjoyed all season long.